indulging new demographics

Research by Mars Snackfood U.S. shows retailers can attract a broader base of consumers with an emphasis on new and premium products.

The female customer today makes approximately 85% of allconsumer purchases, so it’s no wonder that convenience storeowners are among the many retailers eager to cater to thisemerging customer base.

Traditionally focused on male consumers ages 16 to 35, conveniencestores are looking for ways to attract female consumersto their stores, and adjusting their product offerings is one wayto do that.

“Introducing a premium chocolate segment is a great way toattract female consumers into convenience stores,” said Larry Lupo,vice president, small outlets for Mars Snackfood U.S. “Mars has hadtremendous success with its premium chocolate brand, DOVE, in conveniencestores, almost tripling its distribution in these outlets.”

This turn toward the indulgence isn’t just a passing fad. Datashows that the growth of the premium chocolate segment is outpacingthat of the total chocolate segment making premium chocolatea larger contributor to overall chocolate category sales. And leadingthe growth of the premium chocolate segment is Mars’ DOVE brand.

As the top premium chocolate brand, DOVE aims to provide theultimate indulgent experience. Targeted primarily to women, DOVEkeeps expanding its product line to continue generating excitementin the category. In 2007, the DOVE brand introduced severalnew products in 2007, including Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolatewith Almonds, Extra Dark, DOVE Origins and Flavored Caramels. DOVEBeautiful and Vitalize will be introduced in early 2008.

Premium Outlook
And as the demand for premium chocolate continuesto rise, convenience store owners have an opportunity toprovide consumers—especially females—with the premium chocolateproducts they’re seeking.

Mars Snackfood recently partnered with Sorensen and Associatesto deliver a research study that yielded several unique insights.Among these insights, researchers found that although consumersdo not typically expect to find premium candy at a conveniencestore, most shoppers are not price sensitive with their candy purchases.Therefore, a higher-priced candy item positioned in locationsto drive impulse purchasing may be acceptable.

The research also suggests that convenience store owners canbenefit from eliminating SK Us with low sales/profit, therefore, reducingthe number of SK Us they offer. This freed-up space could be allocatedto high-producingitems and to testout unique conceptsthat provideincremental salesopportunities, suchas a premium chocolatesegment.

But researchers also found that more than one-third of thosewho shop the current candy aisle in convenience stores walk awaywithout making a purchase, which could significantly influence thesuccess of a premium segment in the convenience store shelf set.Many potential purchases are abandoned because shoppers can’tfind the desired candy item.

In fact, researchers found that nearly 50% of non-purchasers saidthere was too much variety on the shelf. Customers indicated thattoo many choices made a buying decision too difficult. However, thereality has more to do with the organization of the set than it doeswith an overwhelming selection. There is an opportunity to increasecandy sales with a new, innovative shelf set.

The research team created a new shelf set, called VerticalVantage, which was compared to traditional candy aisles. TheVertical Vantage shelf set aligns categories vertically, recognizing thatcategory and type are primary elements in the purchase decision.Candy items are grouped by key segments and items are brandblocked within each segment. The new set enables consumersto shop an entire category without traveling the length of theaisle to do so.

The Vertical Vantage display was shown to improve shop-abilityamong non-purchasers. It not only increased overall candy categorysales more than 5%, it also increased sales on the top SK Us by 5 to 8%.By a 28-point improvement margin, non-purchasers found the newVertical Vantage easier to shop than the current shelf set. They indicatedit is easier to find the desired brand or flavor, and it is less likelyto offer too much variety.

“There’s no doubt about it—the buying power of the femaleconsumer is growing, as is the premium chocolate segment,” saidLupo. “Convenience store owners have an opportunity to drivetheir own sales growth, while catering to a new demographic, allwhile providing consumers with the ‘ultimate’ indulgent experienceof premium chocolate.”

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