Consumers are still in love with sweets, despite the media reports 
slamming sugar, and there’s no let up in innovation or price promos

In recent years, tabloid headlines such as ‘Sugar is the new tobacco’ have left a bitter taste in the mouths of sweet-toothed consumers and convenience retailers alike. It would not have taken a huge leap of the imagination to envisage a mass boycott of sugar confectionery as shoppers search for healthier options.

But don’t go replacing your Haribo with haricot any time soon. While soft drinks have been under extreme public scrutiny, it seems the debate on sugar has had minimal impact on confectionery. Within the symbol and independent convenience channel total sugar is worth more than £230m, with latest data highlighting a slight year-on-year decline in value sales at -1.6% and volume at -0.1% (IRI MAT 52 weeks ending 27 March 2016).

“Everyone still wants sweets,” says Sunita Kanji, who describes her sugar confectionery sales at her Salford Family Shopper in Little Hulton as “phenomenal”.

Unlike some products in the media spotlight, consumers understand that confectionery products are a treat, claims Haribo, which has a 30.3% volume share of sugar within the convenience channel, growing 3.3% in value and 5% in volume sales year on year (IRI MAT 52 weeks ending 27 March 2016).

Haribo joins the party with Carnival range

Starmix and Tangfastics Frenzy Carnival sweets have hit shelves in time for summer sales.

Filled with exotic flavours and colours, the new lines build on the success of Frenzy Editions, which helped to grow both Haribo brands by 10% when they launched for 
a limited time in 
2015 (IRI marketplace to May-Sept 2015).

Haribo Starmix Frenzy Carnival includes a blue banana-flavoured bear; a mango-flavoured green 
egg; and a purple and green, lime & mango flavoured ring.

A lemon & lime flavoured cherry and a grapefruit & pineapple flavoured bottle are among the new flavours that feature in Haribo Tangfastics Frenzy Carnival.

A 220g bag carries a £1 pricemark.

“This is supported by the fact that consumers have more choice than ever; not just from the variety of products, but also from the pack sizes and formats that are available,” says trade marketing co-ordinator Lisa Rice. “These factors are helping consumers to make informed decisions about the products that are right for them.”

Topps brand manager Sarah Strassheim feels that consumers know where they stand with sweets. “With sugar confectionery it’s clear what they’re getting, but what’s more of a concern is the hidden sugar in other products. Our research shows that the biggest concern is soft drinks.”

Perfetti Van Melle trade marketing manager Mark Roberts takes a similar stance. “Shoppers have always known that there is sugar in confectionery, unlike other products which may have surprising sugar content levels or masquerade as healthier options,” he says.

Kevin Brawn, sales development manager at Bobby’s Foods, agrees: “Sugar awareness hasn’t affected us. We’re not hiding anything – if you want something sweet, you’re going to have it.”

Mintel’s findings reflect the industry’s view. “The high sugar content of sweets has always been well understood by shoppers, and the view that there is a place for treats in a balanced diet has likely helped to protect the market,” says Anita Winther, food and drink analyst at Mintel. “A relatively high 42% of users state that the healthiness of sweets does not concern them.”

But while sweets overall are faring well, Cloetta’s research – conducted by IRI – shows that within the total sugar confectionery market, single adult sugar lines are in serious decline, down 14% in value, while bags are up 2.8% and kids’ sweets are up 1.4%. “Bags form the biggest growing part of sugar confectionery, representing 41%, and are driving growth,” says commercial manager Bev Rushbrook.

Innovative Bites, which recently acquired Bonds Confectionery, urges retailers to ensure that larger peg bags or pouches are a part of their offering. “We are seeing sales shifting from singles towards sharing bags,” says brand & marketing manager Haris Deane. “Traditional sweet lines are doing very well as chocolate bags can be deemed very expensive when off promotion.”

Sunita says that bags of Maynards Bassetts Sports Mix, Wine Gums and Jelly Babies are big sellers. Since joining forces at the beginning of the year, the Maynards Bassetts masterbrand has received a £4m cash injection from Mondelez International and has been advertised during a number of primetime shows.

Nick Parker, manager at St Mary’s Gate Stone Spar Store in Manchester, also reports strong sales of sharing formats. “Haribo go down very well on a Friday and Saturday night – people come in to the store on their way home from a night out and fill their boots with Tangfastics, Starmix and Supermix bags,” he says.

Haribo is also the top seller at Londis Yealmpton in Plymouth, Devon, along with Rowntrees Randoms, Maynards Bassetts Wine Gums, Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles, and Skittles. “We have a big selection of hanging bags,” says assistant manager Peter Wickett. “We sell two cases of each a week.”

Anita Nye, store manager at Premier Eldred Drive, Kent, also raves about bags. “Hanging bags are our most successful confectionery pack format,” she says. “The 50p Haribo bags are on at three for £1 at the moment so they’re in our promotional area and doing well.”

Roberts supports the notion that hanging bags are a winning format. “According to recent research, sharing at home represents 56% of the occasion market,” he says. The firm claims its bags are growing 6% in the total market. “We invested more than £1.5m in the brand in 2015, and we see the sharing category as a major area for growth in 2016,” he adds.

Swizzels has been taking full advantage of the trend, producing soft Bon Bon versions of its Drumstick and Refreshers sweets in sharing bags. After nine months the products are the fastest-growing brands within the Bon Bon category (IRI Total Market value data to 31 January 2016), the firm claims.

The company’s Squashies bags are also performing well, with sales up 22% year on year (IRI). At present, Drumstick Original Squashies 145g is the fastest growing £1 PMP within sugar confectionery, claims Swizzels.

“Swizzels Squashies have been so successful since they were first launched that we are launching two new flavours to the range this August,” adds sales director Mark Walker. Drumstick sour cherry & apple and Drumstick bubblegum will be available in 160g bags with a £1 flash.

Pricemarking plays a key role

Pricing is a major purchasing driver in sugar confectionery, states Anita. “Whenever we can, we get pricemarked stuff so that customers think they’re getting a better deal. Our pricemarked pound bags of Haribo Tangfastics and Starmix fly out the door. We have a secondary school near us and the kids will come in the morning and buy two or three packs.”

Sunita is also a fan of pricemarked packs (PMPs). “PMPs are very good. A lot of our hanging bags are £1. I try to stick to that price point if I can. You can still make good margins on pricemarked goods and the customer thinks they’re getting a good deal. We make 22-25% on sugar confectionery. When you get greedy, that’s when you lose sales.”

Peter has also witnessed the advantage of PMPs. “When we get PMPs of sweets they go well, but we tend to mix and match,” he says. “We don’t have everything pricemarked so we can make higher margins. On average, we make 35% profit margins on our sweets.”

Pricemarking isn’t just effective for hanging bags, notes Anita. “We never used to have pricemarked mints, but when Trebor did them we got them in and they did really well – even though they were only 5p less than normal.”

Discounted prices can be effective, too. “We had Haribo Starmix and Tangfastics on half price and they went really well,” recalls Peter.

Nick has also seen success with discounted sugar confectionery. “Haribo bags are normally priced at £1.25 and we’ll get through two cases of each line a week, but they were on offer for a pound recently and all sold out. They’re going to go on sale at 60p in a few weeks and we’re expecting demand to be high. We’ll order between seven and 10 cases of each variety.”

He reports that own-brand sweets are also a hit. “We have a big range of Spar Wine Gums, Fruit Gums, Hard Gums and Jelly Babies, all in £1 bags. When you see something priced at £1, it appeals.”

Multipacks also work well when sold at a pound pricepoint. “We sell multipacks of Fruit Gums and Chewits for a pound,” says Anita. “Sometimes the school kids buy them and then share them out. Adults tend to buy the hanging bags for themselves, or as a treat for the kids, but if a child has a pound they’d rather get three rolls of sweets, rather than one bag.”

Multibuys are another useful pricing mechanic. “We have some products, such as Fruit Pastilles and Trebor Soft Mints, on offer at two for a pound,” says Sunita. “With Family Shopper, we get a lot of long-term deals. You do see people pick up two [when they were originally planning to buy just one] because it’s cheaper. And we have Happy Shopper bags of sweets priced at 59p, or two for a pound. We have them on a bay at the front facing the tills.”

The pound price point remains a winner, adds Rushbrook. “Chewits pricemarked formats – bags and multipacks – are hugely important to our range. The pound pricemark is particularly strong. Chewits offers Chewmix and Xtreme Chewmix PMPs for £1, an extension of the larger Chewmix bags.”

Deane concurs: “Price will always be a key factor in the buying process. PMPs give consumers confidence – our £1 PMPs work especially well in the larger 150g bags. Our smaller 50g bags which are pricemarked at three for £1 offer the customer great value for money, portion control, and the element of pick ‘n’ mix with up to 50 different varieties to choose from.”

Wrigley has seen great results from its £1 PMPs. The firm added four additional Skittles and Starburst hanging bags with a £1 price flash last summer. “We have seen an increase in sales of 49% in our PMP hanging bags since the launch of our latest PMP lines,” reports confections marketing manager Dan Newell.

In addition to keen pricing, a strong product location is crucial to category sales. Rushbrook says: “Placing products next to the counter or magazines and newspapers where there is longer dwelling time is a clever technique to drive sales. As confectionery is an impulse buy, offers can spur customers on to purchase multiple items as well as attracting them to the fixture.”

Nick keeps his products near the counter. “The sweets are next to the till. On the bottom shelf we have Wine Gums, Fruit Pastilles and Jelly Babies, and we have bags on the top shelf.” He claims that this location helps to encourage impulse sales. “People often grab a bag of sweets while they’re queuing.”

Andrew Kaye, who owns Lowther Mini Market in Penrith, Cumbria, likes to keep his sweets near the till, too. “We have about 3.5 metres of confectionery, with a third dedicated to sugar. We stock a lot of £1 pricemarked hanging bags, displayed alongside the rest of the confectionery a couple of metres from the till.”

Peter opts to separate bags from the main confectionery fixture in order to ensure that the category doesn’t get overlooked. “In the main confectionery aisle, we have two metres of sugar products,” he says. “Hanging bags are on the end of a bay at the store entrance.”

Multi-siting can be a useful tool for ensuring good visibility, claims Mintel. “Some 39% of adults buy sweets after seeing them in-store,” says Winther. “This highlights the need to drive visibility in other sections to encourage purchases, such as tie-ups with products associated with evenings in.”

At Family Shopper Little Hulton, the main sugar confectionery is in the second aisle, while hanging bags are displayed under the counter, which is three tills wide. “I believe strongly in multiple facings so every bag has three facings,” says Sunita. “It makes the fixture stand out more and looks clean.

“I’ve been in shops where they have facings of everything and they try to squeeze in too much; it just looks messy. I don’t like everything cluttered by the till. It gets confusing for the customer, plus if you try to stock too many products, things can go out of date.”

In addition, hanging bags are displayed throughout the store next to complementary categories. “We try to link products together by displaying them near to one another, so we have sugar confectionery all around the store on clip-strips – they’re by the soft drinks, magazines, wine, and crisps,” explains Sunita. “The secondary sitings sell better than the ones under the counter.”

Grab attention

Cloetta agrees that taking confectionery out of the main fixture can help to capture consumers’ attention. “If you have multiple products and POS material with the same theme across different categories, position them together to maximise sales,” advises Rushbrook. “POS can be used to attract customers to the fixture and these can include fun themes to fit the seasonal events throughout the year, providing party inspiration.”

Big Night In is a key consumption occasion for sugar confectionery, according to Wrigley. “With 47% of consumers spending less money on out-of-home entertainment and 50% eating out less, the Big Night In remains a key sales opportunity, as consumers are more conscious of their spending,” says Newell. “Remember to focus on products that are ideal for sharing, such as Starburst Tear and Share pouches, which are great as they are individually-wrapped and offer a variety of flavours. Building a clear display that communicates the Big Night In occasion will also draw shoppers into the fixture and cross-category promotions will encourage incremental purchases.”

Retailers must also put some thought into their kids’ confectionery offering, says Cloetta. “Children’s sugar confectionery is a key player in the category, valued at £344m. It represents a third of the market and shows the importance of children as consumers,” says Rushbrook.

Topps suggests children’s confectionery should have a dedicated area. “Kids have a lot of purchasing and pester power, so kids’ confectionery shouldn’t be hidden away on the bottom shelf,” says Strassheim. “We’ve seen that kids respond well to having a destination for kid’s confectionery such as a kids’ corner, so our advice is to seek to create a specific kids confectionery area, putting all the kids’ sweets together to create impact and give variety.”

Deane encourages retailers to make the most of display stands. “Retailers can create a ‘kids’ theatre’ using Bonds display stands and/or our POS on fixtures,” he suggests. “When we manage this area for customers, subtle but consistent changes mean the fixture remains interesting, innovative and repeatedly draws consumers back.”

Bobby’s Foods also supplies children’s confectionery displays. “Our POS helps to increase sales, because it makes it more attractive and draws people’s interest,” Brawn says. “Sometimes you go into a store and because a retailer is there 24/7 they become blinkered and don’t see the advantages of displaying products like this. You can typically make 25% profit on our products and it’s all sale or return.”

A dedicated children’s area can also maximise pocket money sales from a key audience, adds Cloetta. “Be aware of the height of the shelves in this fixture, allow children to shop independently,” advises Rushbrook.

Kids make a beeline for the confectionery aisle at Family Shopper Little Hulton. “We have two schools close by so lots of kids come here,” says Sunita. “They know where to look straight away as we have confectionery sectioned into premium, adults, bargains, and kids’ products. The kids sweets need to be low level so that they can pick them up.

“Within kids’ confectionery, we’ll have the 10p products together and all the three for £1 items near one another. It makes it easier to shop.”

Mints drive sugar-free activity

Despite the sugar debate having had minimal impact on sugar confectionery sales, Mintel claims that there is a big opportunity for sugar-free sweets.

“Consumers’ openness to sugar-free variants and positive views of alternatives to refined sugar suggests these as potential areas to explore,” says food and drink analyst Anita Winther. “A high trust in sugar-free sweets is implied by the fact that 53% of sweet eaters see sugar-free sweets as suitable for children. This stands in stark contrast to the low availability of sugar-free variants.”

However, a number of mint manufacturers have risen to the occasion. Nestlé Confectionery has just launched Polo Sugar Free Extra Strong. “Sugar-free mints are growing in popularity, with Polo Sugar Free singles up 2.8% and worth £4.6m,” says Polo brand manager Laura Steer.

Perfetti Van Melle has also seen success with sugar-free lines. “We are driving the sugar-free market, growing 14% over the past two years,” says trade marketing manager Mark Roberts. “Smint is a key brand for us in this category holding 31% share of the sugar-free mints category, but we also have sugar-free Chupa Chups lollipops and are introducing Mentos Nowmints in two new flavours: menthol and sweet mint.”

Nowmints come in a premium metal tin with a flip-top feature, which makes them easy to open and close.

Wrigley has also increased its on-the-go sugar-free offering with the reformulation of Doublemint gum and the addition of sugar-free mints. The Doublemint portfolio comprises a 28g single roll pack, a three-roll multipack, a 70-piece re-sealable bottle and a 115g sharing bag. Supported with a £2m investment in 2016, the launch provides consumers with a selection of peppermint products in portable and discreet packs.

Chewits, Fruittella, Fruit Gums and Fruit Pastilles all do well, she notes. “Millions also sell well, and so do Vimto and Refresher chew bars. Haribo products are popular, too. Kids love the Rainbow Twists.”

Anita has a separate section for her kids’ confectionery. “At the front of store, opposite the tills, we have a kids’ section with 10p Haribo, 5p chews, Kinder Eggs and blue razz shots,” she says.

She observes that unusual – and seemingly unpalatable – flavours tend to capture children’s imaginations. “We sell Jelly Belly Bean Boozled jelly beans, which have strange flavours such as dog food, vomit and smelly socks – they absolutely fly out. The kids like to play Russian roulette with them,” she says.

“Kids love sour stuff like Toxic Waste and Tangfastics, too. They’re not just trying it as a one-off either – they come back for more.”

Peter has witnessed a similar trend at his store. “Brain Lickers are popular – the more weird and wonderful and disgusting, the better. Kids love anything sour and they tend to be gluttons for punishment and come back to buy more.”

Innovative Bites’ Deane reports strong sales of sour lines. “Sour flavours are growing. We continue to extend our offering in this area with lines such as our Bonds Sour Watermelon Slices and our new range of WarHeads confectionery, available in a variety of sour intensities and packaging formats. Our new Sour Mallow Clouds are also performing well.”

Mentos targets younger consumers with Shakies

Perfetti Van Melle (PVM) has introduced a multipack of its Mentos Shakies chews containing four rolls. Each pack contains Strawberry Milk, Banana Milk and Peach Milk flavoured Mentos and is being targeted at a younger audience.

Brand manager Claire Powley says: “Mentos has seen major growth in recent years (up 15.1%). This new launch is part of a wider strategy to add breadth to our high-performing Mentos candy range, and provides shoppers with an innovative product.

“Our singles packs which launched earlier in the year have proved a hit and their differentiation from other products is already bringing new consumers into the category. With shoppers increasingly curious and experimental in the confectionery aisle, the new multipack will allow consumers to trial the Shakie flavours and further boost sales of Mentos.”

With research showing that almost a third of confectionery purchases are being made on impulse and influenced in-store, grabbing shoppers’ attention with highly-visible display units is crucial. PVM is encouraging retailers to make use of its POS material and stock Shakies alongside other fruit candy.

Swizzels has recently increased its sour offering. “We have introduced a Refreshers sour apple chew bar with an added kick that will keep up with consumer demand for sour flavours,” says Walker. The pricemarked bar is available in a 60-count shelf-ready pack, and is the latest addition to Swizzels’ ‘flashback to 10p’ range, which has grown by 23% in the last year.

Meanwhile, when it comes to flavour, blue raspberry, or ‘ras’, is causing a stir in kids’ confectionery. “Blue raspberry continues to be a popular emerging flavour. This has led to us developing a range of products under the Bonds brand including the popular blue raspberry Bon Bons in various pack formats, to blue raspberry Creme Pencils,” says Deane.

The flavour is a hit at Anita’s store. “We do a pack of 30p blue razz Candy Balls from Bobby’s Foods, which sell well,” she says. “People buy two or three packs at a time.”

Bobby’s has also extended its blue raspberry options. “It’s such a popular flavour that we’ve incorporated it into Jumbo Jawbreakers,” says Brawn. It has also introduced a blue razz Bpop pricemarked at 69p. “The blue razz flavour turns your tongue blue, which has really caught on with kids,” adds Brawn.

Strassheim states that children are willing to part with more money if they feel the product offers something extra. “The price value equation will always be important, but that doesn’t mean that only cheap products are selling,” she says.

“There’s definitely a segment under 50p where kids are looking to buy volume and variety, but beyond 50p they’re looking for added-value products. We are seeing a trend towards more products which kids can engage with, such as our Juicy Drop Pop which combines liquid candy and hard candy, or Baby Bottle Pop with dextrose powder and hard candy.”

Rowntrees brands on TV in multimillion campaign

Nestlé Confectionery has embarked on a £5.6m Rowntrees campaign to support Fruit Pastilles, Fruit Gums, Randoms, Jelly Tots and Tooty Frooties. This is the highest value media support for Rowntrees since the launch of Randoms in 2009, and will feature new TV advertising as well as video on demand and digital advertising, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The new TV ad focuses on the imaginary factory worlds in which Rowntrees sweets are made and will be on TV screens from July to October. It is estimated the campaign will reach 85% of the population.

The masterbrand approach was first adopted by Rowntrees in 2015 with the brand’s sponsorship of the 9pm film on Film4. This has shown positive results in terms of brand equity measures and also uplifts in performance of sub-brands Tooty Frooties and Fruit Gums, which have not had advertising support for more than 20 years.

In addition, the masterbrand’s hanging bags have now moved to a sharing pouch format. The move provides many benefits to both consumers and retailers. For consumers, the sharing pouches are easy to open, they can be resealed using the on-pouch sticker and the bags themselves can stand, which makes it easier for sharing with friends and family. The perception of quality of the product is also higher based on the change in format and the new matte finish to the packaging, claims Nestlé.

What’s more, the standing bags are designed to generate better on-shelf visibility, increasing trial and repeat purchases.

For a limited time only the Rowntrees Randoms sharing pouch has moved from 120g to 150g while retaining its £1 pricemark. The pouch will also feature a ‘25% extra’ flash on pack.

Another way to add interest to the kids’ fixture is to stock licensed products. “Retailers should focus on brands that are putting investment behind their products to keep them relevant and interesting to consumers,” says Strassheim. “Every year Bazooka Candy Brands ties in with a key kid’s movie, which this summer will be Secret Life of Pets, with all our packaging featuring characters from the movie.”

Whether it’s a 5p chew or a gondola end of pound bags, Perfetti reminds retailers that visibility is crucial. “Our independent research goes as far as to suggest that 80% of confectionery purchases are influenced in store, and more than 30% of those purchases are purely impulse driven,” says Roberts. So by focusing not only your main sugar confectionery display, but also the opportunity for secondary sitings and a dedicated children’s area, retailers can guarantee sweet sugar confectionery sales.

Get clever with merchandising

Make more of your sugar confectionery with these words of wisdom from Bev Rushbrook, commercial manager for Cloetta:

Always give new products prominent space alongside simple signage to make customers aware of what’s new in store

Where possible, multi-face your bestselling products. This helps to ensure availability of key products and makes it easier for shoppers to find what they are looking for

Ensure you are stocking products that offer consumers something different to your competitors in terms of flavour or format

Position PMPs and other value promotional products together, even if from multiple categories. Ensure they are in a prominent position

Always have a dedicated kids’ fixture which includes different formats, flavours and price points to help drive sales.