The news that popcorn has become Britain’s fastest-growing grocery product boosted by its perceived health benefits – low calorie, high fibre and gluten-free – could lead to even better product development and category growth.

That’s the message from category and shopper management specialist Bridgethorne after figures were published showing popcorn sales up more than 10% this year, to £152m. Data from Euromonitor reports that Britons now consume twice as much popcorn as any other European nation, with only Americans eating more. Gourmet brands offering flavours including goats’ cheese, teriyaki, and gin and tonic, have been performing particularly well as a time when sales crisps have declined for a third year running.

“The current momentum behind popcorn as an accessible snack, in part prompted by its perceived health benefits compared with other comparable snacks has helped propel sales,” explains Caryn Gillan, Director of Category & Insights at Bridgethorne.

“There is nothing to suggest that this approach to healthy eating is going to slow down and suppliers and retailers could further exploit this trend through the development of new formats and products. But to take advantage of the trend suppliers must, as part of their approach to category management, demonstrate they understand and are able to meet both the shopper demand and the retailer’s expectations.”

This, says Gillan, means suppliers developing optimal ranging solutions in order to stay relevant and present.

“Retailers are continually looking for leaner, stronger ranges that reflect and meet changing shopper demand and deliver choice but in the most business efficient manner. Many suppliers, though, still don’t realise that reviewing their ranges is one of their best chances to positively influence their working relationship with retailer so that both can benefit from delivering more accurately what the shopper is looking for.”

But, says Gillan, not enough suppliers either understand effective category management or have the skills in-house to influence the account decision process, to increase or optimise shelf space for their products or enable them to build and interpret the information that will give them a competitive edge in their retailer relationships.

“As part of their approach to category management, suppliers need to understand how their range functions as part of its category. This includes whether their products, new or existing, are something for which a shopper would deliberately shop for or whether it is an impulse purchase. Then it is about analysing the range in the context of its category in terms of the shopper and consumer requirements and the competition.”

Bridgethorne says it uses its 15 years of Range Review experience to work with retailers and suppliers across different categories to ensure they maximise opportunities within the range review process. According to the company, it helps retailers optimise range and space and helps manufacturers gain an internal view of their brand and own label opportunities. Bridgethorne uses its software-based best practice tools and processes to provide a platform from which to launch new products, defend current and gain new listings, and increase distribution on lines where merited.