Appeal of Candy Spans All Ages
By Angela Altass
Candy and convenience go hand in hand. “From childhood memories of buying gum at your neighbourhood convenience store to the pleasure of buying candy as an adult, the appeal of candy spans all ages,” says Jennifer Vincent, senior manager, global communications, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.
Convenience stores need a selection of confectionery products that appeal to children as well as adults, says Vincent.
“Confection is not only important on its own, it also pairs well with other categories and can easily help build the basket when the customer comes in for a beverage or other item,” says Vincent. “Confection is a treat for customers looking for a small indulgence and it is a category that makes people smile.”
Customers look for their favourite candies that they have enjoyed over the years, however they will also venture to try new flavours, new products and new formats, notes Vincent.
“Like other categories, it is important to provide innovation as it fuels category growth and we continue to delight and make it easier for our customers,” says Vincent. “While brand recognition is important, quality and value are just as important. Our Couche-Tard/Circle K private brand candies continue to grow in popularity and we ensure that our quality is equal, or better, than the national brands while providing the customer with value. Customers remain cost conscious and are looking for quality products so that is what we aim to deliver with our private brand candies.”
Confectionery is by nature an impulse item so it continues to be important for the convenience channel where consumption is primarily immediate and purchases unplanned, says Matt Schnarr, founder and chief customer officer, AWAKE Chocolate.
“While the largest categories in C & G are tobacco and lottery, they are not necessarily relevant to all consumers,” notes Schnarr. “Confectionery, along with snacks and beverages, has appeal where lottery and tobacco may not.”
Which confectionery items are increasing in popularity depends on cohort and channel, notes Schnarr, “but we are seeing our portion control sizes grow faster than our full sixed bars.”
Beyond the historically steady items, many consumers are looking for portion control, lower calories or products that deliver additional value or functional benefits, says Schnarr, noting a shift towards low sugar, keto certified products that still taste great and do not deliver as many calories.
“The biggest brands have been the biggest brands for decades,” states Schnarr. “New formats and flavours by these same brands generally cannibalize their existing sales or trade between the top SKUs. To truly grow the channel, retailers must look for differentiated products that bring in new customers or occasions. AWAKE can help fill this void through value added functionality and portion control formats that can be purchased as basket builders rather than in lieu of something else.”
AWAKE recently launched a Caramel Chocolate Changemaker product that is fortified with the caffeine equivalent of half a cup of coffee. The portion control Caramel Changemaker Bites are 80 calories.
“The Caramel Changemaker item is our top SKU in the U.S.A. and we are very happy to be finally bringing it home to Canada,” states Schnarr.
The pandemic significantly increased confectionery consumption but sales are starting to return to pre-pandemic levels, says David Scholtens, co-owner and president, Scholtens Candy Incorporated.
“What we are dealing with now, along with similar companies to ourselves, is struggles with supply issues, labour issues and associated costs of transportation, packaging and product,” states Scholtens. “Everything is going up, up, up. This is happening across every industry and we are not immune to it.”
Consumers are looking for ingenuity; something a little different in their candy selections. Freeze dried candies are gaining fame and popularity among consumers and Scholtens Candy is considering including them in their future offerings.
“Freeze dried candy is going viral,” says Scholtens. “A lot of candy stores that have it are completely sold out. We’re contemplating becoming the first nation-wide distributor to carry freeze dried candies.”
Gummy candies have become a huge market, says Scholtens, noting that a lot of gummy manufacturers are supplying the infused market.
“We’re not really a player in that market,” says Scholtens. “There are a lot of concerns from our ownership group that an infused gummy could get into the hands of a child.”
Scholtens advises convenience retailers to work closely with their local supplier representatives when it comes to choosing the right confectionery items for their stores.
“Use the sales data that we provide based on region when it comes to which items to have in your display racks because what sells in Moncton, New Brunswick is different from what sells in Vancouver, British Columbia,” says Scholtens. “Our history tracking system will recommend which items sell in your area so listen to your sales rep’s recommendations for items to carry in your store. Then, your sales are fully guaranteed. If you don’t follow our recommendations, then we can’t give you a credit when those items don’t sell.”
Confectionery is incredibly important for the convenience channel, says Scholtens, noting that it is a strong industry that continues to grow.
“Convenience stores are dealing with razor thin margins on a lot of their products,” he notes. “It’s really confectionery, snacks, and beverages that makes them the money they need to survive. Other items might bring people into the store but it’s the healthy margins of 30-40 per cent that keeps the lights on. We are a value supplier. Value for customers is the main thing that we provide. We have a great mix between quality and value. Our Cottage Country brand is a value option that still provides the quality you deserve.”
Chocolate continues to be a repertoire category with various formats playing different roles, whether for an immediate emotional boost to satisfy a craving or a way of connecting through social or holiday occasions, says Mike Zepp, category and shopper development manager, confectionery, Nestle Canada Inc.
“Chocolate is extremely important to a convenience retailer,” notes Zepp. “Shoppers crave the category and purchase it on impulse. Having the shopper’s favourite chocolate brands, like KitKat, Aero, Coffee Crisp or Smarties, placed in highly visible locations around the store, help with basket building purchases. Chocolate continues to rank as one of the highest snacking categories in regard to household penetration, impulsivity and purchase frequency.”
The occasion of grazing is increasing in consumers’ daily habits as people look to make everyday tasks more enjoyable by integrating chocolate as an accompaniment to those events, says Zepp.
Consumer at home behaviours that were developed over the pandemic are expected to remain and chocolate continues to be a big part of these moments, says Zepp.
Confectionery retains a place of importance on the shelves of retailers across the country as consumers continue to seek the solace of a treat that carries them through their daily tasks and routines.