The Path to Purchase for Candy & Snacks Is Changing

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The Path to Purchase for Candy & Snacks Is Changing

By Danielle Romano - 06/11/2019
salty snacks

CHICAGO — With consumers snacking multiple times a day with no limitations as to what they constitute as a "snack," and purchasing their snacks from multiple sources, the industry is in the midst of a revolution — one that won't be short-lived, according to two IRI experts.

During an Eye-Opener Session at the recent 2019 Sweets and Snacks Expo, Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader, client insights, IRI, noted that today's snackers are multidimensional and have different intentions for snacking.

The traditional paths to purchase — planned and impulse — are still important. However, there are two additional paths on their way to prominence: on-demand and experiential.

"The average consumer still snacks 2.7 times per day, and snacking three-plus times a day has increased in the last four years. … This is good news for people in this room," Lyons Wyatt pointed out during the session entitled "State of the Industry: Snacks Rule Center Store."

Consumers' increase in snacking, as well as them choosing the four different pathways to purchase them, is resulting in multiple trends. Chief among them: holistic health progression.

"We've seen solid increases for products that boast relevant claims, such as functional and dietary. Fifty-seven percent of consumers want snacks that contain vitamins and minerals, while 49 percent view snacks as an important part of their eating plan," Lyons Wyatt said. "If these products aren’t a part of your set, please make it so they are."

Another trip-driver trend is snackers' desire for plant-based options. This segment has experienced 19-percent dollar sales growth and a 20-percent increase in unit sales to $188 million in sales, thanks to these items' tailwind and mobility, the IRI executive noted.

Still, at their core, snack buyers remain committed to three key attributes when it comes to what snack(s) they'll purchase:

  1. Flavor: A whopping 89 percent of consumers want a snack with a flavor they prefer, while 92 percent seek out products with a taste they enjoy.
  • Packaging: A product's packaging not only says a lot about the brand that manufactured it, but also about the retailer who carries it. Product packaging communicates to consumers what they’re looking for in snacks, such as transparency and sustainability, as well as a brand story.
  • InfluencersMore than a quarter of consumers (37 percent) are influenced at checkout by product assortment, signage, price and available offers through a retailer's loyalty or rewards program.

movement in confectionery

candy snacker

Along with the snacking industry, the confectionery business is experiencing its own set of changes. 

With sales rising to $25.5 billion and accounting for 3 percent of all sales across the store, confectionery is a "powerhouse," according to Larry Levin, executive vice president, consumer and shopper marketing, IRI, who presented the "State of the Market: Confectionery" session at this year's Sweets and Snacks Expo. 

In 2018, confectionery dollar sales were up 1.2 percent, while volume experienced a small uptick of 0.7 percent. Units, however, were down slightly by 1.5 percent due to an increase in share-pack purchases.

Three key confectionery themes emerged last year: experiential (think indulgent, sensorial and exciting), expectation (think flavor, texture and familiarity) and simplicity (think healthy, convenient and natural). Driven by these themes, 2018 was defined by expansive growth in confectionery products that highlighted such attributes as:

  • Non-GMO Project verified — Still a trendy consumer demand, Non-GMO Project verified products jumped 20 percent in sales to $149 million, including $111 million in chocolate products and $38 million in non-chocolate products.
  • Organic — Maintaining its stability as a core driver in confections, organic products were up 12.8 percent to $79 million in sales last year.
  • Gluten free — As the most prolific consumer-demand attribute in confections, gluten free products accounted for $469 million in chocolate sales and $317 million in non-chocolate sales in 2018.
  • Fair trade — As the fastest-growing attribute among confectionery consumers, fair trade products grew 11 percent in sales year over year to $192 million, and has experienced nearly 70 percent growth since 2015.

"Across generations, sustainability is also becoming increasingly important, and confectionery products such as natural and organic stand out as sustainable practices and cues," Levin noted. "Sustainable products have driven significant dollars and are projected to continue. In fact, 41 percent of Gen Z and millennials seek retailers who carry sustainable products."

Based in Chicago, IRI is a market research firm providing clients with consumer, shopper and retail market intelligence and analysis focused on the consumer packaged goods industry.

The 2019 Sweets and Snacks Expo, hosted by the National Confectioners Association, took place May 21-23 at Chicago’s McCormick Place West.

About the Author

Danielle Romano

Danielle Romano

Danielle Romano is Associate Managing Editor of Convenience Store News. Read More