Chocolate Sweetens Confectionery Sales

As the economy sputtered through 2010, confections emerged as the indulgence of choice for price-sensitive customers. The confections segment enjoyed a banner year with total chocolate sales increasing 6.89% to $2.1 billion. Units sold increased 6.3% to 1.78 billion. The average price held steady at $1.18, according to SymphonyIRI Group, for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 26, 2010.

Chocolate bar sales under 3.5 ounces also had a strong year, jumping 9.29% to $1.82. Units sold grew 7.8% to 1.6 billion. The average price was up two cents to $1.14. Meanwhile, overall non-chocolate confections rose 2.6% to $1.54 billion, primarily on the strength of licorice (up 11.2%) and sugar-free diet candy (up 33.44%), SymphonyIRI Group reported.

Mixed results were reported for the gum category. Overall gum sales dropped 1.14% to $1.3 billion. Units sold slipped 3.86% to 998 million. Sugarless gum, however, had a slight sales increase of 0.84% to $1.09 billion.
Although “the economy continues to negatively influence certain shopping behaviors, one category’s bubble refuses to pop,” Chicago-based research house Mintel International reported. Mintel noted that the gum, mints and breath fresheners market has seen sales growing through the recession, increasing more than 10% since 2007, and it is expected to continue this strong growth rate through 2014.

Sweet Indulgence
“Although this market is not entirely recession proof, gum, mints and breath fresheners are faring well due to their low price points and the feeling that consumers are getting a small treat,” said Bill Patterson, senior analyst at Mintel.

Consumer participants in Mintel’s confections survey suggested functionality is key in the gum category. Nearly 50% of those surveyed cited packaging that reseals better or is easier to open as being most important. Forty-three percent of customers reported they like to try new brands or flavors, and 13% want new brands or flavors “because they have yet to find one they love.”

“In recent years, gum and mint manufacturers have placed an emphasis on the health-delivering benefits of their products,” said Patterson. “Gum has long been associated with this approach, but has become even more so by providing more functional benefits like whitening teeth, strengthening teeth and overall oral hygiene. Mints have followed suit by enhancing their products with antioxidants, green tea and other health-promoting ingredients.”

For 2011, the National Confectioners Association (NCA) predicted that leading new product trends include:
• Chocolate-covered. Look for more chocolate-covered varieties like M&M’S Pretzel Chocolate Candies or Peeps chocolate-covered Pumpkin Peeps.
• Dark and dreamy. Dark chocolate has been increasing in popularity. This year look for Kit Kat Dark from The Hershey Co. and a dark chocolate covering for NECCO’s new Clark Bar Dark.
• Healthier ingredients. Consumer focus on natural, wholesome ingredients has not gone unnoticed by the confectionery industry. Honey is emerging as a popular sweetening ingredient.

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