United States / Analyst Insights
US vs. Canadian Snack Food Industries
by IBISWorld
May 14 2015

When chips are divided into separate categories such as potato chips, corn chips and other, nuts and seeds emerge as the most popular snack consumed in the United States. The nuts and seeds segment includes raw, roasted and salted peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds. Nut butter, primarily peanut butter, is also included in this segment. Demand for nuts and seeds has surged due to the wider variety of products and the heavy marketing toward the health benefits of nuts. More producers are also offering snacks in small or single-portion packages, appealing to the calorie-conscious consumer.

American consumers also love their potato and tortilla chips. Sales of potato chips have been aided by a growing number of flavors, as well as more low-sodium and small-portion varieties. Tortilla chip sales are continuing to increase as well, through the popularity of appetizers such as nachos and dips including salsa and guacamole. Other types of chips have also made their way into the market, including vegetable chips, which are typically made of peas and kale extract and advertised as more nutritious than traditional chips.

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When it comes to snacks, Canadians have some unique tastes. Much like the United States, nuts, potato chips and tortilla chips are the most popular snacks consumed. However, some chips come in flavors unique to Canada, such as ketchup and “all-dressed” flavors, which are unavailable or uncommon in the US market. Canadians are also avid consumers of BBQ-flavored hickory sticks and vegetable-based snacks including pea, bean and parsnip chips.

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While consumer tastes may differ, industries within the food and beverage production sector are strikingly similar, exhibiting strong growth and rising concentration. Pepsi Company is the largest producer in both countries, generating about $1.00 in every $3.00 spent on snacks in both the United States and Canada. Its Frito-Lay North American segment produces household brand names including Lay’s, Fritos, Doritos and Cheetos. The company also often launches new products in the Canadian market as a trial before launching them in the United States. For example, the company launched Doritos Roulette, which contains a few spicy chips in each bag to have eaters guessing and then reaching for water, in Canada last summer. A limited edition of the product hit US stores in early May and will likely benefit from the publicity it previously generated in Canada and on Canadian social media.