A successful snack manufacturer with a strong line in contract packing, united snacks has been busy developing new formats and healthier formulas

The process of removing all allergens and reducing the salt levels in its flavourings. This is being done incrementally, in order to avoid consumers noticing a significant change to the taste of the products.

Another gap in the market identified by United Snacks is products for younger children.
“There’s not much in the snack aisle for very young children,” says Peter Fletcher. “As a result, we’re releasing a new multi-pack called ‘Seb and friends’ – Seb is a lion character, inspired by my godson, who is called Sebastian Lyon. These don’t contain any allergens, gluten, artificial flavourings or colourings and are aimed at the parents of younger children who are health conscious and want to be more aware of what their children are eating.”

A third-generation family business, United Snacks is today run by Peter Fletcher, his father Peter Fletcher Snr and his sister Charley. The company has grown steadily over the years and now has 26 staff working out of its site in Widnes in Cheshire.

As well as more than 30 years of experience in extrusion, the company has the storage and machinery required to manufacture and pack extruded snack products.
One of its earliest products was Thingies, sold in a 5p bag – these are still available today as 10p single packs. Happy Snacks have been on the market for around 15 years and Oooo’s were added to the suite of products as a single and multi-pack more recently.

Growth in the contract packing side of the business has also been a major factor in its success; this includes producing licenced packs with widely recognised characters.
For companies looking to broaden their snack range, United Snacks can offer the expertise and

While potato crisps and baked snacks are a familiar sight on retail shelves, United Snacks has built up extensive experience in the manufacture of extruded corn snacks. These include signature brands – Thingies, Oooo’s and Happy Snacks – as well as a wide range of licenced character products and other brands created for its contract packing division.

“The bulk of our product ranges are multi-packs,” says Commercial Director, Peter Fletcher. “We currently have six multi-packs, with two more to come over the next six months. It shows the growing trend of people wanting value for money, and we aim to provide this with the wide choice of flavours and sizes within our ranges.”

With Halloween on the horizon, snack producers across the UK are gearing up with themed packs aimed specifically at the Trick or Treat market – and United Snacks is no exception.

Historically, shoppers purchasing treats to hand out at Halloween tend to go for bags of sweets, but United Snacks feels there’s potential for promoting other kinds of snacks. A special pack of Oooo’s is being launched for the Halloween market and both Oooo’s and Happy Snacks will be getting a seasonal makeover for Christmas, with themed, branded multi-packs: a 9 x 18g bag multi- pack for Oooo’s and an 18 x 8g multi-pack for Happy Snacks.

A growing trend in snacking is consumer demand for healthier options. While snacking is often considered a permissible treat, many people are looking more closely at the ingredients list on the back of snack packs, especially if the treat is destined for their children’s packed lunch.

“Health is a big trend in snacking and there is a growing interest in corn snacks, as an alternative to crisps,” says Peter Fletcher. “We are starting to see a shift, with more companies wanting their own core snack line of corn products. We’re currently looking at a variety of ingredients, like sweet potatoes, grains, lentils and vegetables, as well as corn. There’s a trend for increasing the protein content of snacks and we’re looking to provide solutions to meet this requirement by trialling new ideas.”

Having started including wholegrain corn in all of its products, United Snacks is also in
the machinery for outsourcing, along with all the associated cost benefits.

“We’re always looking for contract packaging opportunities,” says Peter Fletcher. “A lot of customers who come to us already have a route to market and an established customer base but without the equipment to produce the kind of snacks we make. We can bridge the gap for them.”

Over the past 12 months, the business has invested heavily in new machinery, installing a new multi- pack packing line and bringing in high-speed packing machines from Italy, to increase the speed of production and capacity.

These include a ZC1 machine – an accurate combined weigher- bagger from Leeds-based Italian
company PFM Packing Machinery, originally purchased to allow United Snacks to take on a contract packing request from a large company that didn’t have the facility to make corn snacks but wanted to enter the market.

Both of our new machine lines offer carefully controlled weights at fast speeds, but it also minimises packaging waste – good for costs and for the environment. “You have so much more control over the machine that you barely waste even a couple of bags worth of packaging,” says Peter Fletcher. “We haven’t had a single problem since we installed it.”
The other benefit of the machine is that previously all packs were filled volumetrically but now there’s the option of producing weighed packs of all sizes.

With the new multi-packs of Thingies and Oooo’s hitting the right price point for pound shops and other retail outlets, and offering great value for the consumer, United Snacks is remaining competitive in a crowded market.
The commitment to producing healthier options, both in its own brand snacks and in its contract packing activities, is an important step in responding to the healthier snacking trend, and focusing on creating healthier products aimed at the younger market is also expected to reap rewards moving forwards.