The Candy Aisle: Do shopper’s attitudes line up with retail trends?

The Candy Aisle: Do shopper’s attitudes line up with retail trends?

September 2, 2015

By Jenn Ellek, National Confectioners Association

Most shoppers see a balanced lifestyle and diet as a shared responsibility — though one that starts and stops with themselves, according to86 percent of consumers. They also assign some of that shared responsibility to food manufacturers and food retailers, according to the most recent shopper survey by the National Confections Association. 

In line with the evolving role of food retailers in becoming a trusted source of food and health information, consumers also see greater retailer responsibility now (at 42 percent) than they did five or ten years ago. And who better to help consumers with their quest for healthy living and eating than retail dietitians?

When it comes to confectionery and the diet, shoppers primary strategy is moderation, not elimination. Eighty-four percent of shoppers agree with the statement that chocolate and candy are a great little treat to reward themselves. 

Government data finds that most shoppers already eat confectionery in moderation, which makes up just 2-3 percent of daily calories. In addition to moderating consumption, shoppers apply other tactics as well. The survey of 1,400 shoppers found that some will also look for better-for-you alternatives. Here are some examples:

  • 70% of shoppers at least sometimes purchase dark instead of milk chocolate.
  • 57% purchase dark chocolate with a very high cocoa percentage for wellness reasons.
  • 48% buy chocolate or candy presented in smaller portion sizes, such as fun size, bites or minis.
  •  41% purchase chocolate with nuts of fruits. 

And actual sales figures back up each of these trends. For instance, over 2014, dark chocolate sales grew by more than 9 percent and chocolate with hazelnuts grew 14 percent. Likewise, the  bagged mini versions of branded products are showing very high growth in the U.S. and around the globe. Consumers in Western Europe and North America, in particular, are looking for products that are sharable in re-sealable packs or smaller packs that help with portion control. Many of the leading chocolate manufacturers have launched mini bagged varieties of their countline brands in order to tap into the sharing trend, including Nestlé, Mondelez, Mars and The Hershey Company. For consumers, they provide a great way to enjoy a little treat and for retailers, they command a higher unit price because of their larger size. 

Shoppers also like to be well informed when making their confectionery choices. For example, 58 percent find front-of-pack labeling beneficial. But shoppers also readily admit that they do not have all the details when it comes to chocolate and candy. For instance, relative to the health benefits of dark chocolate, 7 percent say they haven't heard much of anything about this; 44 percent are aware there are benefits but not sure what they are; and 50 percent say they are fully familiar with the benefits. With a 98 percent household penetration on chocolate confectionery, this may be an excellent area of education for retail dietitians. Likewise, the benefits of chewing sugar free gum may be another area of focus. 

For even more insights, “lunch n’ learn” with us most Wednesdays now through September 30 as we host complimentary virtual learning webinars addressing the shoppers insights and confectionery industry’s trends and opportunities.  

You can learn more by visiting

Source: National Confectioners Association, Sweet Insights Shopper research among 1400 shoppers, February 2015.