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With snacking on the rise among all consumers, especially a certain highly coveted and well-publicized demographic, it’s safe to say that candy and salty/savory snacks will continue to loom large on the American food landscape, but these mainstay items are adapting in response to shopper and retailer needs.
Chief among these needs are innovative product formulation and presentation.
“Due to increased health awareness and education, more and more consumers are seeking clean-label products made with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives,” notes Eric Van Der Wal, VP of marketing at Clearview Foods, the better-for-you snack division of Charlotte, N.C.-based Snyder’s-Lance Inc. “Gluten-free, organic and products made with non-GMO ingredients are becoming particularly popular.”
“We are seeing more emphasis on the nutrition value, ingredients and smaller serving sizes in candy and snacks,” asserts Rob Auerbach, president of Louisville, Ky.-based CandyRific, a maker of licensed novelty products. “It’s in perfect harmony with what is going on in the mainstream grocery.”
Although Nielsen figures for the 52 weeks ending March 11 show overall candy dollar sales down 0.2 percent, the $5.3 billion category’s chocolate candy miniatures segment is a bright spot, with dollar sales gains of 4.3 percent.
Larry Lupo, VP of sales for grocery, convenience and drug channels at Hackettstown, N.J.-based Mars Chocolate North America, agrees that small is big. “The bite-sized category is projected to grow as treating becomes more prevalent, especially with Millennial,” he says, citing Kantar research. “Shoppers are looking for bite-sized treats that are easy to consume and offer portion control in a portable, resealable format.”
New to the company’s U.S. lineup are Maltesers, the No. 1 bite-sized candy in the United Kingdom, according to Mars. Portion control is also addressed by the company’s 100 Calorie Sticks for Snickers, Twix, Milky Way and Dove Chocolate.
The packaging of some of Mars’ signature brands has evolved as well. “The stand-up pouch format drives both dollar and unit sales, so we’re converting our laydown bags to a redesigned stand-up pouch format for M&M’s Brand Candies, Snickers Bites and Twix Bites,” explains Lupo. “This makes it easier for retailers to promote and merchandise across brands, plus it improves the shopping experience for consumers.” Referencing information from Mars’ recent path-to-purchase study, he adds, “Candy is currently ranked last in ease of shopping, and [stand-up pouches] will enable shoppers to find items faster.”
In the “snackfection” space consisting of items with attributes of both candy and snacks, Mars has augmented its gluten-free Goodnessknows snack square line combining fruit, whole nuts and dark chocolate with three new flavors, Blueberry & Almond, Mixed Berry & Almond, and Strawberry & Peanut, which Lupo observes “reflect the most popular flavors in the top berries in the country”