Candy industry experts report confectionery sales are faring better than figures in other retail food markets, with US shoppers snapping up nearly $34bn worth of sweet treats annually.
Larry Wilson, vice president of customer relations for the National Confectioners Association, told ConfectioneryNews candy and snacks are enjoying sales success at retail, with Sweets and Snacks exhibitors leading the way.
“There is about $75bn worth of business under the Sweets and Snacks roof,” he said.
Confectionery and snacks are growing at a faster pace than other retail food categories, he added.
“Snacks are growing 4.5% annually, and candy is growing 2.5%; the center store is growing less than 2%,” he said. “It’s 10% of retail sales, but 20% of the growth."
Private and premium
Wilson said consumers remain loyal to confectionery brands. However, private-label producers are striving to narrow the gap—particularly in the premium side.
“Manufacturers are pursuing brands in the aisle by bringing new levels of indulgence with imported chocolates, novel flavor combinations, and so forth,” he said.
While shoppers are scouring the candy aisle for high-end treats, Wilson said, they also want bargains. A powerful force in the market is the “savvy shopper”—one who reads labels, and looks for good deals across the grocery aisles—and candy/snack manufacturers should bear her more-bang-for-your-buck mentality.
“Value is the new normal,” he said.
Larry Levin, executive vice president at market insight outfit IRI, told CN candy and snack makers can draw in savvy shoppers with personalized messaging that appeals to individuals, rather than the herd.
“One single message doesn’t always fit everyone,” he said. “You want to figure out how to personalize that message to make sure you’re maximizing your opportunity to win consumers over.”
Shopper-centric marketing that reaches consumers on multiple levels, from electronic media to the in-store experience, is critical, Levin said. Digital marketing provides a wealth of opportunities to engage a shopper on her level and create the types of emotional connections that can increase the likelihood of purchase.
Cost and value
Wilson said cost might be a top factor motivating candy and snack shoppers, but it is not the only thing motivating consumers to put items in their cart.
“Competition for the shopping dollar has never been more significant than it is today,” he said. “Price is an important factor, but health and wellness, emotional connection, and other factors are also ways to connect and inspire purchase,” he said.
Levin told CN product innovation is crucial to the candy and snack industry.
“New product innovation is what brings excitement to the world,” he said.
According to Wilson, the candy and snacks market could be helped by improving the in-store experience, an effort that requires input from brand owners, packaging firms, retail teams, and others along the supply chain. He told CN consumer research indicates shoppers find candy to be fun, but the candy aisle is somewhat lacking.
“Many shoppers said the candy aisle inspired as much passion in them as the bread aisle,” he said. “You need to think like a shopper—go out and look at stores, and ask yourself, ‘Am I bringing the kind of excitement that would invite me as a shopper?’"