There's £400m of potential snack sales being lost every year through pubs, but Lesley Foottit has some ideas to help boost sales.
Gone are the days when consumers were just looking for a bag of peanuts or a packet of crisps to accompany their pint or glass of wine.
The quality of pub food has improved so much that customers now expect much more from their bar snacks. Research by McCain Foodservice claims that publicans are missing out on a potential windfall of £400m by not having good enough side and snack offers.
The company's Profit on a Plate research shows pub caterers could add around £8,000 to their bottom line by improving these offers.
Managing director of Cumbria-based Hawkshead Brewery Alex Brodie offers a beer tapas menu at the brewery's beer hall. "The philosophy behind it was to tackle Britain's lamentable tradition of eating without beer, and drinking without food," says Brodie, who has enlisted Michelin-starred chef Steven Doherty, who worked at Le Gavroche and is now a consultant chef, to develop the menu. The emphasis of the menu is on delicious, quality, inexpensive small meals.
He adds: "We are trying to create the attitude in drinkers of superior bar snacks." The dishes cost from £1 to £3, although there are more expensive main meals available too.
There are usually up to 24 changing tapas dishes on the menu, such as a duck and filo pastry parcel; a rare roast beef open sandwich with horseradish and beetroot chutney;
individual Yorkshire puddings filled with slow-cooked beef, Hawkshead Red Ale with horseradish cream; and Higginsons pork pie with beer mustard.
London bar operator Geronimo Inns has just opened its newest bar — the Surprise, in Chelsea — with a similar ethos. The pub serves only small British-inspired dishes costing up to £6.
A spokesman says: "Geronimo Inns is always looking for new and fresh ideas to roll into pubs. This was an idea it felt would suit boys and girls, allowing everyone to taste a number of dishes in one sitting rather than being confined to the usual one choice. It's also a nice new way of presenting British food." Dishes include a British cured meat board (£6); tinned sardines in tomato sauce and toast (£3.50); and shepherd's pie with hogget shoulder (£4.95).
If you are after something more simple, then chips, wedges and combos are a popular snack to offer. McCain has launched sweet potato fries and also offers mozzarella melters and chilli cheese bites, which are a simple, but profitable idea for menus.
Potato supplier Aviko also believes that the bar snacks and casual-dining market is set to expand in 2011.
Its AppetizZzers range includes breaded or battered onion rings; Jalapeño snacks; mozzarella fingers; spicy chicken sticks; squid strips; and spicy potato wedges. The wedges are gluten-free and non-fried, meaning they are healthier than the average potato snack. Aviko recommends serving on a sharing plate with dips.
Lamb Weston offers products including sweet potato fries and Britain's Pride chips.
Moy Park Foodservice has launched six products to add interest to pub snack menus, including Mediterranean crunchies; cracked black pepper and sea salt potato skins;
cauliflower cheese bites; and crunchy chicken pops.
Marketing manager Jayne Hall says consumers are becoming more adventurous and need an alternative to chips.
Plusfood offers chicken tikka bites, which take inspiration from the UK's favourite Indian food. They are made with chicken breast and crunchy poppadom flakes and can be oven-cooked for nine minutes before serving. Serving ideas include a trio of Indian snacks with minty yoghurt, spicy tomato & mango chutney or as part of a lime & chilli salad.
The Authentic Food Company offers lentil and spinach bhajis; butternut squash pakoras; vegetable samosas and sweet potato bhajis, which are ideal spicy snacks.
Daloon's range of ethnic snack products comprise sag aloo bites; vegetable dal samosas; chicken tikka crackers, green Thai chicken curry crackers and vegetable sweet chilli mini spring rolls.
Add value with crisps
Crisps can be used to add value to main dishes, says Glennans' vegetable crisps chef ambassador Mathew Shropshall.
He has created dishes for Glennans that are ideal for summer snacking, including Niçoise salad with pan-fried trout, pea shoots, capers and olives sprinkled with the
brand's vegetable crisps.
The flavours provide visual appeal that go with any healthy starter or snack, including purple beetroot, yellow and orange sweet potato and parsnip crisps. Richard Thompson, brand manager for Glennans, advises li-censees to keep up with trends and competitors. Being flexible with menu options and eating times could also pull in extra punters, resulting in extra profit, he says.
According to on-trade research consultants him!, more than 30% of purchases are made on impulse when consumers go to the bar. This means that products must be either visible or on posters or prominent menus on the bar.
"Eye level is buy level," says Nick Stuart, commercial manager of United Biscuits (UB), whose brands include McCoy's crisps, Mini Cheddars, KP Nuts and Phileas Fogg. But although many consumers are looking for more adventurous snacks, a huge proportion still enjoy crisps and nuts.
"Snacking is an area that many publicans struggle to capitalise on," says Stuart. "The bagged snacks category continues to be one of the most dynamic in the total snacking market, and is stimulated and grown by new product development and regular advertising support."
He says publicans commonly make the mistake of stocking snacks that provide a big margin, but are not popular or fail to display or communicate their offer well.
New innovations from UB include the saturated fat in McCoy's being reduced by 30% at the beginning of 2011. It has also cut saturated fat in Twiglets by 60%.
Pipers Crisps provides licensees with a real point of difference. The snacks can't be found in supermarkets — just in delicatessens, farm shops, independent re-tailers and more than 1,650 pubs and bars.
Flavours include West Country Cheddar & onion; sea salt & Somerset cider vinegar; sea salt & Indian black pepper; Anglesey sea salt; Norfolk bloody Mary; and Biggleswade sweet chilli.
Pipers is offering six lucky Publican's Morning Advertiser readers the chance to win six cases of Pipers Crisps. To enter, email your name, the name and address of your organisation and your phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 6 May.
The humble peanut is a pub-snack stalwart. Big D is helping keep pub peanut offers fresh with the launch of a new flavour — salt 'n' malt.
The range includes salted, dry roasted and chilli peanuts, cashews, mixed nuts and pork scratchings.
Big D has also released royal wedding-branded packs , with a limited-edition wedding backing card.
For licensees wanting to offer something beyond the peanut why not offer smoked almonds, chilli nuts or wasabi, available from companies such as Nibblers?
Drinks supplier Halewood International and Sun Valley offer a range of Crabbie's nuts.
Flavours include Crabbie's luxury ginger spiced dry roasted peanuts and cashews and Crabbie's luxury nut mix with lime pickle flavour & crystallised ginger pieces.
Olives remain a great appetiser that people love to nibble on before a meal. Oloves has introduced its award-winning olives in hanging PoS strips for pubs in two flavours.
Green olives marinated in basil and garlic and green olives in a vinaigrette dressing are available.
The 50-calorie 30g packs are suitable for vegetarians and vegans and recommended for sale at between 79p and £1.
There is scope to tailor snack menus to the pub's region. The Kings Head, at Barmby-on-the-Marsh, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, has lighter bites and