While the current recession has slowed down sales of everything from cars to organic groceries, people seem happy to keep shelling out for chocolate, and convenience store owners couldn’t happier.
Chocolate is one of the more recession-resilient food sectors. With consumers eating out less and eating at home more, there is evidence that they are still allowing themselves the occasional indulgence—and chocolate is a relatively inexpensive indulgence.
According to the 70 chocolate buyers participating in Convenience Store Decisions’ 2010 Brand Preference Study, the top performers in the chocolate category are Hershey’s and Mars. Honorable mention went to Nestlé and Ghirardelli.
The category represents significant sales opportunities. Jenn Ellek, director of trade communications and marketing for the National Confectioners Association’s (NCA), said last year chocolate sales totaled more than $402 million, excluding Wal-Mart. Of the three confectionery market segments, chocolate made up about 56% of all of the confectionery industry’s $29 billion annual U.S. sales.
However, 14% of the buyers of chocolate candy, or 10 key people, reported no sales presentations from chocolate candy suppliers in the last two months. In fact, 43% of buyers reported less than three presentations from the nine companies in the market.
While customers have a proclivity for all things chocolate, manufacturers need to more competitive with their products because there’s only so much money in consumers’ pockets these days.
“Our mini premium section within our main confection planogram has been successful,” said Andrew Baird, vice president of marketing and merchandising for BP’s ampm stores. The company also tested a healthy premium set in some locations, but it didn’t resonate with the value-minded customers.