Confectionery: There are numerous choices amid the volatility

In supermarkets, the diverse category of confectionery has been affected by volatility. Consumers camped at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak and then subsided as fears about the supply problem related to the pandemic stabilized.

As always, price has been a driver of confectionery sales, according to key players, especially given the financial constraints that have come to the fore during the pandemic crisis. But that does not mean that there is no way to avoid the price in the interests of “premiumization”, innovation, nostalgia, normalcy and sustainability.

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According to Brooke Olliver-Burnside, food and grocery advisor for IRI, chocolate blocks were a clear winner in supermarkets while sugar confectionery sales overall slowed.

She tells Retail World that supermarket stocks started to appear, with February and March growth numbers outpacing what is normally seen in confectionery during the year.

However, with the stabilization of supply fears about coronavirus, purchases of confectionery also stabilized.

She adds that supermarket retailers have been filling gaps on the shelves with products to encourage touchpoints with consumers, with confectionery a familiar sight amid cleaning products.

"Price is undoubtedly an avid motivator," she said. "However, there is a relaxation here when it comes to tastier formats and nostalgia for certain products.

"In nostalgia, people reach for old favorites or revised versions of old favorites, especially when they feel vulnerable or in times of crisis like now."

Coronavirus aside, she says emerging trends that are being felt in broader snacks and confectionery include health, sustainability, and premiumization.

"Premiumization is about people looking to the next level when it comes to self-medication," said Ms. Olliver-Burnside. "However, there has been a shift in the confectionery industry as it is seen as a way for people to treat themselves, but it is also a luxury."

"This concern about pricing in the premium range has led people to step into a more general area that is where the core ranges are located."

According to Nielsen, as unemployment rises and economic and business forecasts decline, two types of consumers emerge.

There are people who are relatively unaffected by health problems or loss of income and have an unchanged or even more discretionary income because they cannot spend on food, entertainment, travel, etc. outside the home. In contrast, a second group of consumers have their incomes and expenses have been cut or curtailed significantly due to unemployment, vacation or other Covid-19 related challenges.

Both Mr. Verstraten and Ms. Olliver-Burnside point out that promoting the message of “Stay Home and Treat Yourself” in this time of restraint is a marketing tool that could be powerful.

"The confectionery category really has an opportunity to play in the realm of the escapism associated with goodies because at this point in time people are looking for comfort, safety and normalcy," said Ms. Olliver-Burnside.

"And we found that chocolate bites and chocolate bags work very well in this category as they are good for portion control, especially in scenarios where parents work remotely and have their children at home."

As a result of the coronavirus restrictions, people have become more comfortable shopping online, says Ms. Olliver-Burnside, and they are keen to see if products are made from Australia.

Read more about the latest confectionery trends in the August issue of Retail World.

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