What Consumers Want C-Stores to Know About Their Candy & Snack Preferences

Sweets & Snacks Expo starts with a slew of stats, whole new holiday

By 
Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

Super Bowl Snacks Candy NCA IRI (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Gas Stations)

CHICAGO -- “The consumer is more in charge than ever before,” said Larry Levin during the opening keynote of the 2015 Sweets & Snacks Expo. “They are starting the dialogues, not brands.”

So what does the consumer want convenience stores to know about their candy and snack preferences? That “value for the money doesn’t mean cheap; it means ‘make my life better’,” said Levin, executive vice president of industry insights for IRI, Chicago. That mid-size brands are getting a disproportionate amount of their money, and that 49% of growth is from the millennial market—so be sure you’re meeting their needs.

Levin presented a whirlwind state of the industry to attendees in the minutes before the show floor opened on Tuesday, exploring what’s up and down across candy and snacks, and introducing a new holiday that all retailers should add to their seasonal strategies.

The confection industry delivered 2.8% growth last year, with 1.9% growth from the top four manufacturers and 5.7% from other national brands—giving the latter group a 0.7% share gain.

“Consumers don’t buy products because it’s a small or large company,” said Levin, so what are the smaller companies doing in terms of innovation, flavors or packaging to entice the shopper to pick them?

The snack side, like candy, saw disproportionate growth from mid-market companies. The top four snack manufacturers saw 2.3% growth while the other national brands saw 7.3% growth—leading to a 1.1% share gain. Dried meat snacks were the top growth contributor; nutritional health bars, ready-to-eat popcorn and apple chips also had a strong year.

When it comes to channel domination, mass merchants and dollar stores are driving disproportionate candy growth, while convenience stores and dollar stores are seeing strong growth on the snack side. Levin emphasized the ever-increasing strength and importance of c-stores in the snacking category, particularly for inducing trial.

On the seasonal front, Halloween experienced a 5.7% sales increase in 2014, while the holiday season faced pricing pressure and only gained 1.0% growth. Valentine’s Day was down 0.2% thanks to bad weather across the country.

Levin also encouraged manufacturers and retailers to add another season to their mix: Super Bowl. The two weeks around the Super Bowl generated $1.5 billion in snack sales and $767 million in candy sales—that’s a 4.8% jump for snacks and 4.7% increase for candy. Potato and tortilla chips are naturally strong during this time period, but mints, gum, gummy candy, pretzels and bars also performed well.

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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