Organic Growth?

Retailers think healthy at CSP snack and candy roundtable

Published in CSP Daily News

LAS VEGAS -- Do as I say, not as I do may very well be the mantra for consumers and their snacking habits, as retailers attending CSP's Snacks & Candy Category Roundtable discovered while examining statistics and sharing in-field experiences.

Attendees reviewed studies that show consumers say they want to eat healthy, but in fact, the numbers run contrary in obesity rates and what consumers think are healthy foods (ice cream, for example, made the list). Gun-shy from jumping into the Atkins and South Beach Diet crazes of the past couple years, many [image-nocss] of the dozen retailers and 17 suppliers present at the annual roundtable felt more cautious about recent trends to healthier and organic foods.

John Phillips (pictured), merchandise manager for Wallis Cos., Cuba, Mo., said his company had committed a large amount of shelf space to diet-craze products and has since pulled back. But the experience has not deterred him from offering healthier opportunities. As an industry, he felt convenience stores can and should offer healthier options, but to properly execute the concept, retailers have to do more than just cut nutrition bars into the category set.

We have to change the mindset of the consumer, Phillips said. We have to let them know that we do have healthy [options] in the store. We can really get into bananas, apples, fresh salads and bowls of fruitand the stuff we sell typically has high margins.

Addressing the growth of nutrition products, Patrick Cornacchiulo, marketing director for sports and diet for US Nutrition Inc., Ronkonkoma, N.Y., said the issue was all about getting down [to the proper] selection. What happened last yearis that people over SKUed' and are now getting back to what the category should be.

Healthy snack bars rated the highest in growth for the category of snacks, according to a CSP Daily News poll conducted this month. Out of 171 retailer responses, 30% named healthy snack bars the fastest-growing category, with meat snacks (24%) in second. According to Mintel International, Chicago, sales of nutrition and energy bars at c-stores rose 60%.

One of the emerging trends retailers in attendance were mindful of was providing organic products. Those present had many concerns. One of the challenges with organic [products] is just what is or what makes a product organic? said Nick Ramos, merchandise manager, Town & Country Food Stores, San Angelo, Texas. And is it truly a value perceived by the customer? Perception is reality to the customer. What truly defines a product as organic?

Many nuances exist. For instance, organic products are different from products made with organic ingredients. Kennith Fries (pictured), president of TNT Marketing Inc., Arlington, Texas, said definitions can include products that have no artificial ingredients or were grown without pesticides. But I don't think consumers know the difference, he said.

Nancy Brown, category manager for Mac's Convenience Stores Inc., Calgary, Alberta, said she had even seen organic gummy bears. I don't know if it's made from organic ingredients, but these are the kinds of products we're seeing, she said.

In addition to data from CSP polls and Mintel, attendees reviewed sales and consumer trend data from Information Resources Inc., Chicago, and NPD Group, Houston.

[Also pictured: Dave Fleisher, director of trade development, Cadbury Adams.]