The Confection Direction

Manufacturers strike big with shareable, snackable treats

Steve Dwyer, CSP Reporter

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Reilly Musser likes the customer approval rating that “hand-to-mouth” confection products—resealable, shareable pouches of unwrapped, bite-sized sweets—have received in the Rotten Robbie convenience stores she oversees in the San Francisco Bay Area.

There were big innovations in the confection segment this year, but not every retailer was able to ride the wave to strong sales. Musser, category manager for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Robinson Oil, which has 18 traditional c-stores and a few kiosk-type locations, likes the upside of the bite-sized trend. But the retailer needs more to stem volume declines in her stores this past year—losses in part due to a still-recovering economy. Oh, and the freefall that the gum category experienced didn’t help matters either.

“Our candy sales were down this year after a decade of annualized growth,” says Musser. “We’ve done the customer research and look forward to new offers in the nonchocolate segment in early 2014. Because our stores run smaller, peg-bag varieties in the nonchocolate segment is our sweet spot and offer customers good value. When we get it balanced, we can restore category growth.”

The silver lining for retailers such as Musser is that while a failing economy necessitated a cutback on indulgences, more people are consuming mini-meals throughout the day—and confection has landed squarely on their hunger radars. The third meal of the day is no longer dinner but the first snack after “lunch,” and offerings such as Kit Kat Minis or Snickers Bites are on the menu.

Innovation in the candy category is also reflected in the release of exotic flavors, novelty candy, nostalgic/retro sweets and rich and indulgent offers. Some of these niche flavor trends lack mainstream appeal, and that’s where bite-size resealables enter the scene—providing convenient, immediate consumption for our clockless society.


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