While other categories may be struggling to sustain sales in the current market, sugar confectionery continues to flourish. In the wholesale and convenience channel sugar confectionery is worth £622m and growing 1.8% year on year, according to Nestlé Confectionery.

These findings are supported by confectionery cash & carry Hancocks. “The past 12 months have seen solid sales growth in sugar confectionery at Hancocks, and as we serve more than 28,000 businesses across the group with wholesale confectionery that tends to confirm a positive picture to back up market statistics,” says purchasing director Jonathan Summerley.

Winning over mums with edu-chew-cation

A number of sugar confectioners are latching on to the idea that by adding a little educational fun to the mix, they can make their products more permissible for kids and their parents.

Mondelez International is appealing to families with the recent launch of Maynards Discovery Patch Animals, which features fun facts or quizzes on the back of pack. There is also a Maynards Discovery Patch app, which you can unlock by scanning the pack, giving families an opportunity to discover even more through an augmented reality experience.

The brand has been on TV since May as part of a £3m UK media investment for this year, which includes cinema, video on demand, out of home, digital, and in-store activity.

Senior brand manager for candy at Mondelez International Zoe Cashin-Howe says: “We’re hoping to drive penetration among families. Mums have told us that they think the product will be great for the whole family - they think it’s a really different product and love that it helps them spend more quality time together while developing their children’s learning and creativity.”

Perfetti Van Melle is also encouraging kids to learn as they chew. This summer sees the introduction of Fruittella Fruit Letters, whereby the outer wrappers of Fruittella sticks are rebranded with the Fruit Letters logo and the individual chew wrappers will each be printed with a letter.

“This playful product will allow consumers to make their own words and phrases either by themselves or with friends,” says brand manager David Leal. “Kids will be challenged to find them all and make their favourite combinations!”

The Fruittella Fruit Letters activity will run across the entire range. The brand will have a new website, social media activity and a TV advertising campaign to support this launch, as well as sampling activity across comic and magazine titles.

And as we head towards midsummer, the good news looks set to continue. “It’s known that as we move into the warmer months, sales of sugar confectionery can see some encouraging spikes,” he says. “While someone might have created a scientific theory that if the temperature goes above x°C you can expect your sales to rise by y%, I think it is safer to use your own judgement! The fact remains that warm weather is usually good news for sugar confectionery”.

Oldies but goodies

One trend that isn’t going anywhere is retro. Last year, Hancocks carried out a nationwide survey of 206 customers, which included general stores, convenience stores and confectionery retailers. Some 75% of those taking part in the Hancocks survey agreed that the retro confectionery trend is as strong as ever and is likely to grow.

Whether your customers are aged 18 or 80, it seems no one can get enough of the sweets they enjoyed as children. Grant Scrimgeour, manager of Premier at the Union in Dundee, has witnessed demand for retro. “A third of our sweets section is made up of sugar confectionery. Many of our customers are students and they tend to like retro products, such as Lovehearts, Parma Violets and Millions. They want the sweets they used to have as kids.”

Wilf Hardman of Newsmart, Bolton, also sells plenty of retro sweets. “We have a yellow Swizzels display tray with lots of retro sweets - Lovehearts, Refreshers, Parma Violets, 5p Vimto Lollies and 10p Haribo bags. They’re good to have as impulse lines as if people have 30p or 40p change they’ll often treat themselves.” He finds that traditional boiled sweets sell well, too. “We sell loose boiled sweets: cola bottles, rhubarb & custard and strawberries & cream are all popular.”

Old fashioned sweets do a roaring trade at BW News in Bridgwater, Somerset. “We seem to have a much older age range than your standard store, so we sell lots of boiled sweets and Sports Mix,” says owner Chris Englefield.

“We have loads of bus and coach stops outside, so elderly people like to come in and stock up for the journey. Dolly Mixtures and barley sugars do well and I’m currently trying to get rhubarb & custard boiled sweets as that’s what I had when I was a kid and I think they’ll do well.”

Sweets from yesteryear sell equally well at The Store in Badminton, Acton Turville in Gloucestershire. “The older generation like old fashioned sweets such as humbugs and rhubarb & custard,” says shop assistant Rachel Nicholls. “We have pear drops and Army & Navy sweets in 2.5kg jars, too. I think their appeal is probably to do with childhood memories.”

Demand for traditional confections is so strong at Jai Singh’s Premier store in Sheffield that when the tobacco display ban comes into place next year, he is planning to use the display space behind his counter for old fashioned confections. “We’re bringing back jars of sweets,” he says. “We used to have them in my parents’ store and we had them here when we bought the shop, but replaced them with hanging bags because counting out individual sweets meant the queues were too long and it was irritating the waiting customers.

“At the moment, though, with the way confectionery is going, we’re going to bring them back. Sales have absolutely rocketed in the past six months.”

Rather than counting out sweets for every customer, Jai plans to prepare a few bags of each sweet in advance to avoid slowing down service. “We’re going to keep three lots of pre-bagged sweets in each jar, priced at 50p or 60p, to save time.”

He believes that the offer will appeal to all ages. “Both older people and children want to buy retro sweets - rainbow dust, choclick and Yorkshire Mix - products you can’t get in a hanging bag. People miss the sweets they used to get when they were younger.”

Bev Seymour, trade marketing manager at Cloetta UK, which makes Chewits, concurs that long-established sweets are a big sales driver. “Nostalgia remains an important emotional driver with older consumers. They are more likely to pick up a confectionery treat that they remember from their own childhood, either for themselves, or for their children or grandchildren.”

Haribo’s research highlights that consumers often acquire their taste for confectionery at a young age and carry it through their life stages. “As such, we are starting to see popular children’s countline or pick and mix items which you usually find in your local independents, migrate to their own bags to fit with the consumption habits of an older consumer profile,” says marketing manager Katy Clark. “We supported this trend in 2012 with the launch of Favourites and more recently through the launch of the Haribo Rainbow range.”

Bag a bargain

Indeed, while there is a strong following from those who wish to buy from a range of loose sweets, another big proportion of shoppers enjoy the convenience of grabbing a bag of sweets on-the-go, agrees Hancocks. “The bag might be a treat for the children or the family as a whole, or perhaps a way of grazing across a number of days,” says Summerley. “Whatever the usage occasion, sales of bagged sweets continue to thrive and all types of retailer can cash in on the growth.”

And if there’s one thing guaranteed to boost sales of this already popular format, it’s a round pound flash. “The heavenly price point for bagged sweets continues to be £1,” adds Summerley. “Shoppers consider this to be a notable value point and an acceptable price for an impulsive treat. Haribo has done extremely well with bags positioned at this price point while our own share bag range has provided a competitive offering at £1 for many years now.”

Adding to Hancocks’ current selection of 22 Kingswaybags, 13 new £1 pricemarked varieties are about to launch, including: Fizzy Bubble Bottles; strawberry, toffee and sour blue raspberry Bon Bons; Foam Bananas and Shrimps; Sherbet Lemons; and Porky Pigs.

Football mad

With the World Cup in full swing, retailers need to be taking advantage of the opportunity to increase sales with some football-themed goodies.

“Seasonality is always a great opportunity in the confectionery market and the summer season offers strong potential for sugar confectionery,” says Hancocks purchasing director Jonathan Summerley.

The cash & carry has released a £1 football lolly, which comes complete with its own whistle.

Swizzels Matlow is getting in on the action with a Football Fever variety bag (rrp £1) inspired by the World Cup. The bag contains classic sweets with a football twist. Products include: Drumsticks in football kits; Fruity Pops football lollies; Double Lolly referees; Refreshers football scarves; and new Football Fever Fizzies, which resemble fizzy Lovehearts and are printed with football-themed messages, which were chosen by fans of the brand on Facebook.

Brand manager Claire Lee says: “We wanted to create a themed bag that the whole family can enjoy together during the football frenzy.”

Haribo’s Football Mix is also making an appearance in limited-edition red and white packaging. Football Mix is packed with themed shapes and was a popular choice with consumers during the last World Cup football celebrations 
in 2010, with its sales topping £3m.

Sister brand Maoam is tapping into the World Cup mania, too, with a limited-edition bag of Pinballs inspired by the colours and flavours of Brazil. Maoam Pinballs Tropical comes in pineapple and lime flavours and is available in a 180g bag with a round pound pricemark.

Maoam marketing manager Hayley Johnson says: “Maoam Pinballs is already one of the fastest growing treats within the category, so taking inspiration from Brazil and the summer of football that lies ahead, we wanted to offer fans a new flavour twist.”

Storck is also taking advantage of the trend towards £1 bags, with a range of pricemarked packs across its Werther’s Original range. “Pricemarked packs (PMPs) represent good added value to consumers and are particularly important in the impulse environment,” says sales director Andy Mutton. “Research demonstrates that 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product in a pricemarked pack format.”

Anjali Karpal, who owns Essential Convenience Store and Anjalika in West Sussex, has certainly noticed PMPs performing well in her shops. “Our £1 pricemarked sharing bags are selling really well. Hanging bags of Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles, Haribo Starmix and Tangfastics, Maynard’s Wine Gums, Vimto Bon Bons and Bassetts Jelly Babies are flying out. We have kids buying them on the way to school and old people buying them, too.”

Demand is equally strong at Grant’s store. “We do very well in share bags. They are pricemarked at £1 so customers can buy with confidence knowing that they are getting the manufacturer’s price. I tend to load up on pricemarked packs when they are on promotion. A lot of it comes down to having the space to stock them. Students are savvy shoppers these days - once upon a time they’d buy anything you had on the shelf, but now they look at the prices. Generally, the magic £1 seems to work.”

Seymour agrees that pricemarking is a big sales driver within sugar confectionery. “For retailers, PMPs are critical in achieving positive price perceptions in store, with 94% of consumers saying they would buy a PMP confectionery multipack if available from a c-store and 48% of people believing PMPs would encourage them to switch from a preferred brand to a different brand.”

Confectionery distributor Bobby’s Foods has also tapped into PMPs. “All of our products are in pricemarked packaging,” says marketing executive Chris Smith. “This is beneficial for consumers as they can get quality products at the same price no matter which store they go into.”

Hitesh Kapuria uses his pricemarked sharing bags to ensure his Sweet Time store in Watford can rival the local pound shops. “We have 5m of hanging bags. They go well, but it depends on what offers the pound shops have on as there are six in our area. I sell pricemarked packs to remain competitive. Our fastest sellers are hanging bags of Haribo Tangfastics and Starmix. Maynards Sour Patch Kids and Sports Mix sell well, too, whereas Maoam sweets are a little slower.”

Sour power

Another big trend that retailers across the UK are witnessing is growing demand for sour sweets.

“Children love trying tangy sweets,” says Anjali. “I’ve read about them daring each other to eat them; it’s an adventure for them. They think that adults wouldn’t be able to deal with the sourness, so it’s cool to have a pack.

“Maynards Sour Patch do well for us and Brain Lickers are very popular. Kids go mad for them and they’ll spend all their pocket money on them!”

Grant has also seen success with sour sweets. “The market I am supplying likes stimulation on their tongues, so sour sweets such as Sour Strawbs do well,” he says. “Haribo Tangfastics are our biggest seller. Even in the Easter holidays when the students weren’t here we sold 200 packs of Tangfastics, and when the students are here you can double, triple and even quadruple that. Maynards Sour Patch Kids are similar to Tangfastics, but I’m not sure that they’re as sour. They are on promotion at the moment at two bags for £1.50. They’re selling okay, but they are still being outsold by Tangfastics 20 to one. I couldn’t do without Haribo - it’s one of my biggest lines.”

It’s a similar story at Newsmart. “The £1 Haribo Tangfastics bags are big sellers with youths,” says Wilf. “They seem to be drawn to the tangy and sour flavours. It’s a real trend among that age group.”

Tangfastics has experienced strong sales UK-wide, with latest data highlighting year-on-year growth of 13%, states Haribo’s Clark.

“Sour continues to be a key trend within the market. Last year sales of Haribo Tangfastics soared and with consumer demand for sour sweets showing no sign of wavering, Haribo will be extending its winning formula to the marshmallows category. As the brand is growing at 33% with its Chamallows range it makes sense to place some focus on this category.”

This summer Haribo will introduce Tangfastics Chamallows, a mallow with a Tangfastics coating delivering a ‘burst of tangy flavour’.

Taking the fruit route

Fruit flavours are big business within sugar confectionery and in recent months there has been an influx of products boasting complementary flavours, rather than the full fruit bowl.

“Tic Tac has always been at the forefront of this category with its lime and orange variant. However, new flavours cherry passion and strawberry fields have achieved huge growth in the past two years and now account for 32% of total Tic Tac sales,” says Ferrero customer development director Levi Boorer.

Strawberry Fields, which features sweet and sour strawberry candy, delivered £3.9m in its first year, becoming the most successful NPD in pocket confectionery in 2012/2013 and is experiencing strong volume and value growth (+33%).

“Some 49% of Strawberry Fields consumers do not buy any other Tic Tac flavours, while 47% of Cherry Passion shoppers buy only Cherry Passion, so it’s crucial that retailers stock the full Tic Tac range of five flavours
 in order to cater for all shoppers’ tastes,” notes Boorer.

The firm recently launched Tic Tac Apple Burst, comprising sweet and sour apple flavours, which it is supporting with a £2m marketing investment.

Perfetti Van Melle’s Mentos brand has also tapped into the demand for more foccused flavours. “Mentos Fruit countlines are outstripping market growth to record a 4.7% rise in value sales year on year,” says Mentos brand manager Claire Powley. “Mentos Strawberry Mix, launched in 2013, has grown the Mentos fruit portfolio incrementally without cannibalising existing sales of Mentos Fruit rolls or Mentos Rainbow rolls.”

Also taking a more channelled approach to fruit flavours is Wrigley. Packs of its Starburst FaveReds combine strawberry, raspberry, cherry and red apple flavours are available in a 45g stick and 192g pouch. Wrigley confections business unit director Matt Austin says: “The launch is expected to deliver incremental sales to the confectionery category and is already a proven success in markets such as the US, where Starburst FaveReds has delivered outstanding results and is currently the second best-selling SKU in the range.”

In addition, the firm recently launched Skittles Wild Berry featuring raspberry, strawberry, wild cherry, berry punch and melon berry flavours, a product which is targeted at consumers in their mid-twenties.

Another recent launch into the sours market is Bobby’s Foods’ Blue Razz Shots. “The increased orders we are receiving from convenience stores is very positive,” says the firm’s Chris Smith. “Since the launch, there have been 850,000 packets of Blue Razz Shots sold into the convenience sector - that equates to 29 tonnes of sour candy balls circulating around the UK in just a few months. That’s slightly more than the weight of four adult African elephants!”

Cloetta has also seen jumbo success with sour flavours. “Consumers respond well to flavour and sensory confectionery, which means that our sour products - Chewits Xtreme sour apple and tutti frutti - are performing well and their growth is set to continue,” says Seymour. As a result, the firm has just released new Xtreme sour pineapple (rrp 37p).

“Sour products are a key growth sector, currently worth £11.2m and growing at 12%. The growth is ahead of overall chewy fruit sweets, and share has increased to 8%, demonstrating that sours are a top choice with consumers,” she adds. “Our Xtreme products attract an older audience (11- to 14-year-olds) in comparison to our Chewits stick packs which are favoured by a younger demographic (5- to 10-year-olds). This would suggest that the sugar confectionery sector is evolving for an older audience while still maintaining a core younger audience.”

Nestlé Confectionery has also been targeting an older market with its Rowntree’s Randoms Sweet n Sour bags, which contain foamy sweets, sour jellies and super-sour liquid-filled sweets. The sweets, which are available in impulse and sharing formats, target Random’s core market of 18- to 24-year-olds.

“Sours is a segment of the market that has seen consistent growth over the past five years,” says Nestlé UK & Ireland senior corporate communications manager James Maxton. “A large proportion of this growth has been incremental to fruit sugar confectionery, with about one-third of purchases of sour confectionery being in addition to a consumer’s repertoire.”

It pays to display

Once you have all the key trends covered, then of course it is vital that they are displayed correctly, in accordance with your individual customer base. “I have four full shelves of children’s sweets as we are near a high school,” says Anjali. “The fixture is close to the counter so we can keep an eye on it, but also it’s easy to promote them from there. Word has spread that we have a good range.”

Retailers who have dedicated kids’ fixtures which work should then consider maximising pocket money sales, notes Seymour. “Arranging the fixture or area further by price allows children to understand which products they can afford. Retailers should also be aware of the height of the shelves and the overall fixture, so that children can shop it independently.”

Meanwhile, Chris is reaping the benefits of having recently revamped his offering. “Our store is only 490sq ft, but as part of our latest refit we’ve doubled the amount of hanging bags we sell and we’re about to triple it. The sweets used to be set back further before, but now they are opposite the till so they’re the first thing you see when you come in the store and are more likely to be picked up when people are queuing. I’m hoping to get a 12-13% increase as a result of repositioning them.”

A little creativity can also go a long way, notes Hancocks. “The more fun you have with your sugar confectionery, the greater the impact on your sales as your shoppers notice your display and join in,” says Summerley. “By its very nature, sugar confectionery lends itself to a very colourful and vibrant display.”

So by tapping into the key trends of retro, sour and pricemarked share bags, and ensuring that your display is easy to navigate and engaging, it seems the future is bright for sugar confectionery.