How Omnichannel Retailers Can Use Brand Equity on Snacking As A Competitive Advantage

As products move from the end of the aisle to the internet of things, retailers and manufacturers need to change their thinking, says Emily Mescher, Managing Director of Harris Insights & Analytics. At the National Confectioners Association’s Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, Mescher stressed the importance of ecommerce to the snacking industry and why industry leaders need to devise new strategies to engage consumers online.

In today’s connected commerce, consumers are presented with a multitude of products, there are over 30,000 products in a typical grocery store, and a continuous stream of new innovations.  With so many groups vying for customer attention, your brand’s equity is all the more important. It’s what differentiates you from all the competition on the shelf and it gives consumers a mental short cut to think of you during snacking occasions.

The importance and influence of brand equity on purchasing varies by brand and by category.  Social, societal and cultural changes continue to create brand building opportunities for manufacturers and retailers to innovate around evolving consumer needs and to align marketing with today’s media consumption.

Snack brands with the highest equity, by region

The 30th annual Harris Poll EquiTrend syndicated brand equity study includes 3000 brands and covers 28 snacking categories.  Brand perceptions and preferences can vary based on a number of factors, including geography.  Our January 2018 brand equity by region list includes more fruits, vegetables, nuts and cheeses, when compared to six months ago, and also contains many sweet and salty favorites.  

East South Midwest West
Ritz Crackers M&M’s Hershey’s Chocolate Bar Halos Mandarin Oranges
Hershey’s Chocolate Bar Ritz Crackers Kraft Cheese Tillamook Cheese
Planters Nuts Hershey’s Chocolate Bar M&M’s Peanut Chocolate Candy M&M’s Peanut Chocolate Candy
Oreo Cookies Oreo Cookies Oreo Cookies Ritz Crackers
M&M’s Peanut Chocolate Candy M&M’s Peanut Chocolate Candy Kit Kat Sargento Shredded Cheese
Hershey’s Kisses Chocolate Candy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Ritz Crackers Sargento Cheese
Kit Kat Hershey’s Kisses Chocolate Candy Sargento Shredded Cheese Nature Sweet Cherub Tomatoes
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Sargento Shredded Cheese Green Giant Fresh Vegetables Blue Diamond Almonds
Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies Kit Kat Cheez-It Crackers Hershey’s Kisses Chocolate Candy
Sargento Cheese Green Giant Fresh Vegetables Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Hershey’s Chocolate Bar


Halos appearing at the top of the west coast list is a perfect example of a trend that has become mainstream… Halos offer consumers convenient, portable, healthy snacking.  Clean labels are also driving sales today and we expect greater scrutiny around quality, freshness, and clean ingredients in the years to come.

How can I build momentum and grow my brand?

Keeping your brand relevant with the people with the most purchasing power is important, so is monitoring the current and changing taste of the younger, growing consumer segments.  Brand momentum is an important metric to monitor and is a good indicator of future growth, the majority of the brands with strong momentum see sales and equity gains in the years to follow.

Kids still like candy!  Gen Z have their eye on some fun candy brands, while Boomers are a little more practical, and list cheese, fruit and chips as brands ‘on the way up’.  Many of the top brands among Millennials are relatively new to the market and embrace values the 73 million millennials hold – socially conscious, entrepreneurial spirit, simple ingredients.

Gen Z Millennial Gen X Boomers
Sour Punch Straws Candy Horizon Organic Cookies Zingers Snack Cake Jarslberg Cheese
Fruit by the Foot thinkThin Bars Ready Pac Fresh Produce Sunkist Fresh Produce
Kellogg’s Fruity Snacks Siggi’s Yogurt Suzy Qs Snack Cakes Ritz Crackerfuls Sandwich Crackers
Peeps Marshmallow Candy Chef’s Cut Meat Snacks Chiquita Fresh Produce utz Chips
Fruit Roll-Ups Muller Yogurt Bumble Bee Sensations Tuna Medleys Peter Pan Peanut Butter
Jelly Belly Candy Oscar Mayer P3 Austin Sandwich Cookies Kraft Natural Slices
Hostess Mini Muffins Simple Mills Crackers Jolly Time Popcorn Wise Potato Chips
HEATH Toffee Bar Clif Kid ZBAR Turkey Hill Ice Cream Mission Tortilla Chips
Mike & Ike Candy Hillshire Snacking Tastykake Doughnuts Heluva Good! Dips
Oatmeal Creme Pies Zebra Cakes Lucerne Dairy Farms Cheese Cadbury Chocolate


Brand building implications for manufacturers and retailers

  • Communicate your values and create a personal connection. Consumers are buying from brands they admire. This is especially true of millennials, who now have $200 billion buying power. Millennials and Gen Z, are looking for companies to lead, in a socially conscious way, so find a way to build connections with these digital natives, because they are passionate about brands… just fewer and more likely smaller brands than in the past.
  • Win the trip and win the snacking occasions! Think about whether on-demand, personalized, or subscription based services are right for you and examine ways your brand can align with consumer values and become an auto-pilot choice for your audience.
  • Be mindful, pay attention to consumer needs. Anything you can do to make consumers lives easier, healthier and more enjoyable will be rewarded.  Embrace the blurring boundary between meal and snack.  Understand snacking occasions, current pain points and the wide variety of substitutions outside traditional category definitions, including quick serve restaurants.