The Confection Direction
Manufacturers strike big with shareable, snackable treats
Chicago-based research firm IRI painted the picture of the new snacking paradigm consumers have embarked upon by referencing a group of consumers called “Opportunists” who emphasize price, value, portability and convenience over nutrition. Sales of chocolate candy among Opportunists grew nearly 16% this past year, led by Reese’s Minis and Hershey’s Brookside Chocolate, which landed on IRI’s Pacesetters list of top-selling new products for confections.
“We are inveterate snackers, and confectioners have upped the ante on quicker consumption values. The facility to snack has been made far easier,” says Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insights, food & drink for Chicago-based Mintel.
Since 2008, 20% of total confection launches have been portable/sharable varieties. “It’s a trend that’s not going away,” says Jenn Ellek, director of trade marketing and communications for Washington, D.C.-based National Confectioners Association (NCA). “These products eliminate the chore of unwrapping, but also bite-size increments allow consumers to eat less per occasion.”
As part of its mission to stress true innovation over just another new flavor, several winning launches from The Hershey Co. include Kit Kat Minis and Jolly Rancher Bites, now offered in a soft and chewy formulation. The product creates a synergy with Jolly Rancher hard candy to expand frequency usage. Coming soon is Hershey’s York Minis.
Building on the successful introduction last spring of Snickers Bites and Milky Way Bites, Mars Chocolate North America plans to launch three new flavors of unwrapped, bite-sized treats in stand-up pouches: Twix Bites (launching next April), 3 Musketeers Bites (launching in January) and Milky Way Simply Caramel Bites (also launching in January).
Adding muscle to the indulgent-confection segment is the aforementioned Brookside, which adds a touch of wellness with dark-chocolate-covered superfruits such as pomegranate and açaí. While c-stores were not an immediate target for the Brookside brand, Hershey is in the process of rolling out new 3-ounce “impulse packs” to better fit the channel.
In fact, to optimize retail channel growth, including c-stores, Hershey’s uses its Global Customer Insights Center, where retailers can go to tour and discover customized merchandising solutions, as well as to collaborate with the company on category strategy.
It’s this scale of retailer collaboration that might have been instrumental in the impending launch of Lancaster, which will roll out in January, and represents Hershey’s first new brand launch in three decades.
Lancaster culminates a research initiative into consumer tastes and the global confectionery market. Individually wrapped, the soft candy comes in three flavors—caramel, vanilla and raspberry—and is perceived to fill a need for a quality caramel variety in the candy aisle, according to the company.
Overall in North America, Hershey’s emphasis appears to be grounded in strategic, incremental and what the confectioner calls “sticky” innovation to guide new product development. This is seen with hand-to-mouth through “Bites” (for non-chocolate products) and “Minis” (for chocolate lines), as well as seasonal offers, as seen with s’mores.
Meanwhile, consumers’ desires for out-of-the-ordinary and nostalgic flavors is evident with birthday-cake-flavored M&M’s. “Products like M&M’s Birthday Cake are a hot trend right now,” says Larry Lupo, vice president of sales, convenience and drug channels for Mars Chocolate North America, Hackettstown, N.J. “It offers what we call ‘colorful fun.’ We think it will be a big hit, and clearly people are excited about it.”