Taste for Candy

Shareable packaging, seasonal and unique flavor trends sweeten the category.

By  Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Special Projects Coordinator

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As another Sweets &Snacks Expo approaches, a few larger trends are shaping the chocolate, nonchocolate, gum and mints categories in the coming year.

From a macro level, the quest for more natural formulations—which is already transforming the snacks and beverage categories—will begin to filter down into candy, according to Marcia Mogelonsky, global market analyst for Mintel International, Chicago.

“Everyone is so worried about food ingredients and food supply now; there’s a move to make sure these products are as naturally flavored, colored and presented as possible,” says Mogelonsky. “That’s a really great thing for the industry, a really sad thing for kids: Your mouth won’t turn blue anymore.”

This turn, analysts suggest, presents a conundrum for candy manufacturers.“There is a real problem of how to develop products for kids,” she says. “Do you shy away from it and only develop natural products that don’t have any ‘wow’ factor for kids?”

In addition, making the products healthier can bring them in closer competition with snacks, such as the fuzzy area between fruit snacks and some gummicandies. Indeed, according to Mintel research, candy consumption, while up among adults and teens, is down among children ages 6 to 11.

For adults, the natural, low-calorie sweetener stevia is working its way into more candy, starting with dark chocolate, which has enough heft that it can mask any aftertaste, Mogelonsky says. It is just one way manufacturers are making candy a more acceptable treat.

“Health-conscious shoppers avoid certain aisles in store: baked goods, snacks, candy, soda and ice cream,” says Tricia Bowles, manager of division &brand affairs for Nestlé USA’s Confections& Snacks Division. “However, all players in the category work hard to make it permissible.” Nestlé has introduced its Skinny Cow Divine filled chocolates, which have 130 calories per serving. And The Hershey Co.’s Simple Pleasures line contains 30% less fat than the average leading milk chocolates.

On a micro level, expect to see manufacturers tailor products to consumer preferences for value, form and flavor in 2013. Following is a roundup of how this dynamic is already playing out among the category’s largest players.

What’s SUP?

As consumers remain conscious of their budgets and waistlines, candy manufacturers are tweaking packaging and form to meet both of these trends.

Value-seeking shoppers are grabbing larger, resealable bags of candy, both in chocolate and no chocolate items, says Cassandra Matos, confections and snacks category manager for McLane Co. Inc., Temple, Texas.

“It’s important to look at bagged candy and at the potential (for retailers) to add some of those stand-up, larger-sized resealable candy bagged items—like a larger M&M’s or Hershey’s Drops, Starbursts, Skittles or SweeTarts—to gain those consumers,” she says.

“There is an increased emphasis on ‘share ability,’ especially in packs like king or peg,” and more emphasis on portion control, says Bowles. Nestlé’s SweeTarts Gummies are now available in king and stand-up bag packs, Butterfinger Bites are now offered in a king pack, and SweetartJelly beans in peg and stand-up bags.

Translating a consumer trend into a sustainable product is a process, however.“It’s important to develop new products that are based on meaningful consumer insights and then effectively activated in-market in ways that get new products quickly into consumers’ hands,” says Jeff Beckman, spokesperson for The Hershey Co., Hershey, Pa.

For example, consider Reese’s Minis King Size. “This product fi t the emerging consumer trend of convenient, on-the-go, hand-to-mouth consumption of confectionery, “says Beckman, pointing out that it provided incremental growth for the overall Reese’s brand king-size business in the c-store channel.

On the execution side, c-store retailers who had the new Hershey’s RoloMinis set in their stores and on display with merchandising at the point of purchase on day one of the product launch achieved a much higher share of sales, as much as a 45% increase over the average, says Beckman. Another key was properly forecasting demand and ensuring product was not out of stock in the first 12 weeks of the launch.

In 2013, Mars is addressing the appeal of unwrapped, bite-sized chocolate with resealable bags of Snickers Bites, Milky Way Bites, M&M’s Snack Mix, M&M’s and Dove Milk Chocolate-Covered Raisins and Peanuts.“These bags offer convenience and portability, and they are easier to share,” says Larry Lupo, vice president of sales, convenience & drug channels, for Mars Chocolate North America, Hackettstown, N.J., via email.

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