The media might be out to demonise sugar, but retailers are still seeing plenty of demand for sweets, with shoppers happy to treat themselves.
The news that many processed fruit snacks contain higher concentrations of sugar than a bag of Haribo must have had sweetie manufacturers jumping for joy. After all, many parents who had switched their kids’ range of treats from sweets to these fruit snacks may well switch back.
Every week there’s some media story or another on the dangers of sugar, but at least one manufacturer isn’t particularly bothered - and that’s Bonds, a company that’s in such strong growth that it recently moved to a bigger site.
Managing director Philip Courtenay-Luck believes the company’s sales figures back up the notion that the nation is still in love with sugar confectionery. “You just need to look at our stats,” he says. “Business is booming; we’re up 23% on sales so far year on year and we’re outperforming the industry. We’ve not been affected at all by the anti-sugar lobby and that’s because the Great British public likes a bit of enjoyment. Sugar is hidden in a lot of food and drink, but if you buy sweets you know what you are getting. People aren’t idiots, they know sweets have sugar in them.”
Market research paints a similar picture. According to Mintel, four out of five adults ate sweets in the six months to 2014, with under-25s core users. However, the decline in 16- to 24-year-olds in the next five years could prove a problem, although Mintels think this could be offset by the rise in 10- to 14-year olds. The research company predicts that value sales of sugar and gum confectionery will grow over the next five years but by 1%, to take it to £1.7bn by 2019. And volume sales are expected to fall by 12% with the rise in value sales attributed to inflation and trading up.
Sales of sweets are strong at Terry Hornby’s Newsbox in Portsmouth, where customers, who come from miles around, would be hard pushed to not find something they like. The shop’s window is full of jars; there are 25 shelves with 12 jars on each shelf. And the contents offer typical margins of 45-50%.
“We have a well established trade,” says Terry. “People come all the way from Winchester, Waterlooville and Havant to get their sweets, plus we have lots of schools and colleges close by.”
Such is the range that Terry doesn’t change the display around so he and his staff - and customers - always know exactly where the different varieties of sweets are.
You’ll find everything from bubblegum bottles to chocolate brazils; raspberry ruffles to bon bons on display, and if Terry doesn’t have something you want he’ll try to get it. Hancocks is his main supplier.
“Our jar turnover is colossal,” he says, so shelf life is not a problem for him. However, for those who worry about wastage he points out that most lines on display have a shelf life to 2016 and 2017. “If they’re not selling, they’re delisted,” he says.
Sweets are priced per 100g - raspberry ruffles at 90p for 100g; chocolate brazils at 86p - but customers can have whatever amount they want. “Some want 20p-worth, others ask for £1-worth. And a lot of people buy £1-worth of a lot of different sweets at one time. Sunday is our best days for sales, but they sell every day, with kids buying them on their way to school or college.
“Some people even ask for a whole jar of sweets and if we’ve a spare jar we’ll let them have one,” says Terry. A lot of the sweets are sold to him in bags and he transfers them to jars for display purposes.
As for the bags he’s selling the sweets in, Terry says the price is negligible with the profit margins more than making up for their cost. He adds that he gets his best margins on Hancocks’ Kingsway range.
The Bonds range includes old-fashioned Victorian jars, but Courtenay-Luck says sales are slipping away: “Every time someone has a store refit they take out the jars and replace them with bags. But it’s important that c-stores don’t just offer M&M’s and Maltesers - they need to keep their customers loyal by offering other sweets, or those customers will be forced to go to Tesco.”
When it comes to trends in traditional lines, he says hard boiled is having a hard time, while softer eating sweets are more popular.
“Toffee bon bons used to be as hard as a rock, but we do a softer eating version. It’s been so successful that the strawberry bon bons are now available as a standalone product. As for traditional sweets, I’m always amazed that fruit jellies are still in the top five in our bagged range.”
To improve sales of traditional lines, Bonds is rolling out pricemarked packs (PMPs) on its £1 Sweet Shop range. The new PMP packaging will appear on sweet shop favourites such as Chocolate Raisins, Chocolate Limes and Mint Imperials, making it easier for retailers to merchandise.
The change is designed to attract impulse buyers, says Courtenay-Luck. Recent research by HIM shows that 71% of consumers are more likely to buy PMPs as they are perceived to represent better value.
Further lines will be added to the range later this year in celebration of Bonds Confectionery’s 120-year anniversary.
Jatinder Sahota of Londis Sheppey in Kent is doing really well with Golden Casket’s £onepounder range, especially since he’s moved the fixture to opposite magazines at the back of the shop. He carries 35 lines and keeps boxes of each to keep the display topped up.
“I was a bit concerned about moving them to the back of the store, but we’ve sold more since they’ve been opposite the magazines. People sometimes come in twice a day,” he says. “Before it used to be just the older people buying them, but now more of the schoolkids and their parents buy them. They go well at Halloween as people put them out in a bowl. I think their packaging is good - they’re pricemarked plus people can see exactly what they’re getting for their money.”
Golden Casket says about 10 million bags of £onepounders are purchased each year. The company puts the range’s success down to the quality and taste, as well as the variety - more than 75 lines including boilings, toffees and chews - and that all-important round pound price.
But moving the £onepounders is not the only change Jatinder has made to his confectionery display. He had a full refit last year and as a result certain ranges got culled. “I reduced the space for chocolate countlines from 3m to 2m and sales are up because sugar lines are now positioned under the till.”
It was a bold move, but he explains why he made it: “I’d gone into Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s and thought if 2m of chocolate was good enough for them, then it was good enough for me.”
As part of his refit, he had a new till area where mints and sugar confectionery are under the counter, facing out to the customers. “Newspapers and mints are closer together now, which is important, but it was also important to have chewy sweets at the front for kids at the counter. It makes it all more prominent and plus we can be more flexible in what we stock. We’ve increased our bag range and these are now popular even when they’re not on promotion. I’m really happy having moved the confectionery. Sales of sugar confectionery are going in the right direction.”
Further north, Nigel Bennett from The Corner Shop, Coalville, Leicester, hasn’t noticed his customers cutting down on sweets. He says all the Haribo lines, especially Tangfastics and sour dummies, are selling as well as they have ever done.
Despite an influx of new sour treats during 2014, Tangfastics remains the most popular and is the only sour treat within the top 10 hanging bags.
“We have Haribo in pricemarked bags. I use two or three cash and carries so I can ensure I get the pricemarked packs,” says Nigel, adding that there’s not much other promotional activity on sugar confectionery. He also stocks Bonds as he says some of its sweets are very reasonably priced, and offers some of the more traditional sweets such as Fox’s fruits and Glacier Mints.
Haribo is a strong seller for Terry in Portsmouth, too, who carries 15 different varieties of the sweets and has boxes of Twin Cherry and Maoam in stacks around the shop.
Like Nigel, he favours the pricemarked packs at £1. And Haribo is so popular that he even buys it in 3kg bags and sells it out by weight.
Nigel and Terry will be pleased to know, then, that a Frenzy Edition of top-selling Starmix and Tangfastics is now available. They include new tropical flavours and vibrant colours, which means consumers can find anything from a pink passion fruit-flavoured fried egg to a watermelon cola bottle in their bag of sweets.
Courtenay-Luck stresses the importance of stocking plenty of options for kids, especially since sugar confectionery delivers a higher margin than chocolate. “Don’t be over-awed by the big chocolate boys,” he says. “You need to cater for different people and mustn’t forget the kids.”
He adds that Bonds has 200 kids’ lines and can supply a fixture to help make the kids’ section fun.
An eye-catching kids zone can also attract a wide audience as Courtenay-Luck says it’s not only kids that buy into kids’ sweets. He points to the fact that adults have caught on to the sour trend, especially. “While kids want ultra fizzy and sour, adults are also getting a taste, but for milder fizzy and sour sweet. They don’t want the Toxic Waste and the Brain Licker, but they do want sour.”
Happy days are here again for Tic Tac
According to Nielsen data, Tic Tac is growing at a rate of 13.5% - but the brand looks set to grow further thanks to its latest on-pack promotion.
Called Happy Rewards, the activity gives consumers the chance to accumulate reward points with every purchase of a promotional pack. They can redeem their Happy Reward codes immediately on items such as phone wallpapers and ringtones, or points can be saved up for higher-value rewards such as free Cineworld tickets, a Casio watch, headphones or a free Uber ride.
The campaign is being supported with marketing support including targeted digital, social and out-of-home advertising, as well as in-store theatre, to help ensure maximum impact with consumers.
Ferrero customer development director Levi Boorer says: “We’re confident that the Happy Rewards promotion will help retailers to boost their sales. We know the mechanic works. Last year we launched the Tic Tac Find a Fiver campaign, where consumers could win £5 or a £5-off voucher with selected partners, and the activity generated more than 54,000 entries and repeat purchases.”
One retailer for whom Tic Tac sells really well is Pardip Kumar, from Kings Ride Supermarket in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. He says: “Tic Tacs are always a popular product in my store. Ferrero provides lots of POS items through the online POS catalogue, which helps to drive excitement in store. The counter-top unit has particularly helped to maximise space as it fits perfectly at the till point, encouraging impulse purchases - plus it keeps the product tidy and looks great.”
What’s crossing the pond
More and more c-stores are stocking US confectionery. Bonds’ managing director Philip Courtenay-Luck says sales of its US range (pictured right) are going well.
Adam Hogwood of Budgens of Broadstairs, Kent, points out that US confectionery has made his a ‘destination store’, plus sales are incremental to his standard sweets.
Hancocks purchasing director Jonathan Summerley says the cash and carry company has been stocking American confectionery since the start of this trend. “With Britons travelling further for their holidays and following their favourite American celebrities on social media - learning what sweet treats they like - demand has rocketed.
“US confectionery is certainly not the cheapest range and yet demand continues to grow. Many retailers are enjoying a strong point of difference from stocking Wonka, Mike and Ike, Marshmallow Fluff and more.”
Summer spells a round of promotions from some of confectionery’s biggest hitters.
Nestlé’s new Great Escapes promotion is running across the full Rowntree’s portfolio of singles and sharing bags. Promotional packs feature a code which shoppers enter onto the website to find out if they are a lucky winner. The Great Escapes up for grabs are all in the UK or Republic of Ireland and include yurts, tree houses, coastal and country retreats.
Skittles has teamed up with Xbox to give consumers the chance to win an Xbox One - with one console given away every day until the end of the year. A code features on packs of Skittles Fruits, Sours, Confused and Wild Berry flavours, on both 55g and 174g bags. Consumers have to enter the code at www.skittleswin.com and play a Skittles game to be in with a chance of winning.
Maynards, meanwhile, is giving consumers the chance to Celebrate Like Royalty by offering ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ banqueting prizes such as a banquet on a private jet, worth £20,000. Promotional bags are available in pink outer cases and the activity is supported by a £2m marketing investment including TV.
Rowtrees mixes up Fruit Pastilles
A limited-edition Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles berries & cream single pack as well as a permanent berries & cream sharing bag are launching in time for summer. Each pack contains a mix of strawberry & cream, raspberry & cream and blackberry & cream sweets.
Hancocks fudge in adventurous flavours
Hancocks has launched a new 2kg tub range of fudge in some very interesting flavours including strawberry & Champagne; Jammie Dodger, Kola Kube and Jagerbomb.
Wham bars move with the times
Continuing to ensure that its retro products are relevant to today’s consumers, Tangerine Confectionery has added a new version of the classic Wham bar. Wham Super Sour Minis come in a sharing bag (200g, rrp £1.29) containing miniature, sour versions of the traditional chew bars.
Swizzels Squashies in new variant
Swizzels has extended its popular Squashies range with a new Drumstick Squashies sour cherry & apple variant. Another new addition from the confectionery manufacturer is a 10p Refresher Rope in original lemon and strawberry flavours. It’s a stretchy rope with a fondant centre.