NATIONAL REPORT — Despite pandemic-driven changes in shopping, working and social routines, there’s been at least one meaningful constant: confectionery remains a strong and important category among Americans.
Chocolate accounted for the largest share and highest growth percentage in 2020, with its strong performance rooted in continued high household penetration. Although nonchocolate candy saw less engagement early on in the pandemic, the segment strongly rebounded late in the year.
The National Confectioners Association’s (NCA) second-annual Sweet Insights:State of Treating 2021 report revealed that confectionery overall rang up $36.7 billion in sales in 2020. Nonchocolate accounted for 30 percent of sales, or $11.5 billion, representing 2.9 percent growth over 2019. Chocolate accounted for 58 percent of sales, or $21.9 billion, representing 4.2 percent growth year over year.
The nonchocolate consumer sought moments of comfort and nostalgia during an unprecedented time, noted Jim Dodge, vice president of convenience for Mars Wrigley.
“People were increasingly drawn to confectionery for at-home consumption, as well as for on-the-go occasions like road trips or local getaways, and they turned to trusted brands they love and grew up with to satisfy this need,” Dodge told Convenience Store News. “That said, we know consumers are still looking to indulge and they want to do it in new and adventurous ways. The nonchocolate consumer, in particular, is still looking to use confections during moments that matter, seeking trusted brands and products that are ingrained in family traditions.”
Lance Smith, vice president of industry affairs and customer strategy for The Promotion In Motion Cos. Inc., which is known for such brands as Welch’s Fruit Snacks, Original Gummi FunMix and Sour Jacks Mouth Puckering Candy, says there are several characteristics of nonchocolate consumers that helped bolster the segment’s growth in 2020.
One trait in particular is that these consumers are variety seekers who love exploring new products or brands, and who look to snacks as a source of fun.
“Those purchasing chocolate tend to be looking for an individual, premium treat or reward, and [are] now more focused than ever on healthier benefits that chocolate provides — especially dark chocolate. Conversely, purchasers of nonchocolate candy, especially chewy, are looking for a fun experience that will challenge their taste buds with new and interesting flavors and textures,” Smith explained.
Product attributes that are resonating currently with nonchocolate consumers are innovation in flavor profiles, preferred textures and forms, chewing preferences, and variety in the same package.
“Many brands are bringing new product innovation to the market that represent mashups of different forms, flavors and textures, as well as combinations of flavors,” Smith said.
Promotional Best Practices
During the COVID-19 pandemic, convenience store industry performance fluctuated because of reduced mobility, but nonchocolate candy continued to show positive growth aided by the shift in c-store dayparts that moved purchases away from the morning to more indulgent occasions in the afternoon and evening. The channel, as a result, saw nonchocolate dollar sales increase by 4.4 percent, the State of Treating 2021 report uncovered.
On the other hand, nonchocolate candy suffered at the front end due to socially distant checkout procedures and less impulse buying. With shoppers rushing to get in and out of the store – and without contact – it has become increasingly important for c-store retailers to make time spent in the checkout zone and in the confectionery aisle seamless and effective experiences.
According to Dodge of Mars Wrigley, whose nonchocolate brands include Lifesavers, Skittles and Starburst, a few ways in which c-store operators can drive impulse buying are:
Merchandising power fruity confectionery brands together in vertical blocks in-aisle to help shoppers easily navigate the shelf, and ultimately drive impulse;
Shelve larger-pack types, like share or family, over singles to offer consumers easy opportunities to trade up to a larger size and stock up;
Remodel the merchandising flow in the store based on time of day and the reasons shoppers need fruity confections; and
Repeat placements of power categories, including fruity confections, throughout the checkout queue, merchandising them with other “must-have” high-impulse items.