If you thought it was just kids who ate sugar confectionery you’d be wide of the mark. Many of the lines might have been developed for children but prove a hit with adults, too. Even the tough guys (and gals) in the British armed forces love their sweets according to NAAFI figures, servicemen and women in Afghanistan last year munched their way through 923,583 bags of Haribo.

Here in the UK, sweetie buying habits change as we hopefully head towards warmer weather, with more people opting for fruity sweets rather than chocolate bars.

According to Marcell Redpath, account director at brand agency Dragon Rouge, the key trends in sugar confectionery are sours, nostalgia and health (in terms of sugar reduction or no artificial colours).

“There has been a vast increase in the number of products offering more extreme sour ‘hits’ from Toxic Waste (where the challenge is how long you can keep the sour sweet in your mouth), through to the more mainstream products such as Haribo Tangfastics.

“I think we’ll continue to see these types of products coming through via the other mainstream brands. It’s the more exciting flavours and the experience that comes with eating these sour products that’s appealing for kids/teens, and I’d imagine this trend will continue through the introduction of other more extreme mouth experiences such as popping and fizzing varieties.”

Redpath adds that nostalgia has been a strong trend for a variety of categories, and sweets are no exception. “In tough times, adults have been returning to the products that held happy memories for them from their youth. So we’ve not only seen Starburst reintroduce Opal Fruits, but also the profile of old-fashioned styled sweet brands such as Hope and Greenwood being raised.

“We’re also seeing old fashioned traditional sweet shops return to some high streets where consumers can go through the ritual of purchasing 100g of humbugs, or alternatively purchase the products in replica small-scale sweetie jars. While exciting for the moment, I see this strategy focusing on limited-edition packs only for mainstream brands.”

Redpath says health is another trend: “Brands have been removing the ‘nasties’ from their products to help create ‘more permissible’ treats for mums to give their kids.

“Alongside the promotion of ‘no artificial colours and flavours’, we’ve seen the introduction of fruit juice, lower sugar and light versions.

“The removal of nasties is welcomed and the introduction of ‘smoothie’ flavoured products (replicating the healthy drinks market) have also helped to reduce the negative perceptions around confectionery. But this is a balance sweets have a role as a treat from mum/dad to their kids, but as soon as sweets become ‘healthy’ they’ll start to lose their appeal, especially in the eyes of children.”

New horizons

On the subject of whether the UK market is exciting enough for today’s consumers, Redpath says: “It could be argued that Starburst Choozers was the closest to true innovation we have experienced for a while.

“It’s believed that about 70% of category growth is through npd, so it’s surprising that we haven’t seen more revolutionary innovation. However, new products cost a lot to support and in these current cost-saving times, innovation budget can be the first to be cut.”

He adds that he’d like to see new textures of sweet that really shake up the category, or a new ‘adult’ sweet brand that delivers on natural ingredients, taste and texture.

So picking up on Redpath’s trends, just what are the manufacturers doing?

Wrigley is going for sour in a big way with its new Starburst Tongue Tangles fruit chews with an oozing sour centre. They come in three flavours banana & mango, apricot & cherry and blueberry & lemon in a stickpack which retails at 42p and a sharing bag at £1.25.

Wrigley PR manager Gareth Streeter says: “Starburst is the number one fruit chew (AC Nielsen data) in confectionery, and we are sure that the new range will be a big hit with consumers this summer.”

Thornycroft is cashing in on the retro trend but also embracing the sour trend, too, with the launch of eight new products under the Wham name. The Wham chew bar was first launched in the 1980s and quickly became a kids’ favourite.

The range includes Wham TNT Popping Candy, Nitro Sour Spray and Xtrm Sherbet Dip. At the same time, Wham chew bars are being relaunched in a bigger size, incorporating new colour crystals, with a 20p price point. They come in seven flavours.

Helen Hartley, group marketing manager at Tangerine Confectionery, says that as many of her company’s brands are among the best loved in the confectionery marketplace, it has been well placed to capitalise on the ‘retro’ trend. The brands she refers to include Anglo Bubbly and Barratt’s Sherbet Fountains, Dip Dabs and Refreshers.

However, the company is keen to keep up with other trends, too, and so has recently relaunched its Lion brand with all natural colours and flavours and a new look.

Pick your own

Another trend that’s exploded is pick ‘n’ mix as retailers have rushed to fill the gap left by Woolworths even M&S is doing it.

Specialist confectionery cash and carry chain Hancocks reports that its sugar confectionery sales have been extremely buoyant in the past 12 months mainly due to the massive growth of pick ‘n’ mix.

Sales of its weighouts grew by 20% last year. Retro pick ‘n’ mix has been popular at Hancocks so sweets such as humbugs, rosie apples and cola cubes have all been selling well.

The latest addition to the Hancocks range is Candy Bricks, which the company expects to be popular because of their play value. Similar to Lego pieces, the bricks are available in a 2.5kg bag priced at £5.99 for weighout and in a £1 retail bag.

Another new line is Fudge Crunch; pieces of fudge blended with rice crispies and topped with chocolate. It comes in a 1.4kg tub priced at £3.65 and a £1 pouch bag.

Hancocks is also adding four new weighout sweets from Donkers: cola lemon berries; butterflies; strawberries; and fruit gums.

Purchasing director Jonathan Summerley says: “The retailers who are most successful with weighouts are those who regularly review their range, introducing new lines to retain the interest of their customers.”

Sticking with pick ‘n’ mix, and Chewits Sweet Shop range, which includes whips, foams and jellies, has been relaunched and updated for the convenience sector with lower price points. New products have already been added to the range with further lines launching in September.

In addition, new core range products were launched last month. These were the cola stick pack and Chewits Bites bag. Cola is the second flavour to be revived by fans campaigning on the Chewits Facebook page; the first was ice cream in 2009. The new flavour will be available in a stickpack and a five-stick multipack, which also includes ice cream.  

Chewits Bites is a 150g mixed bag of Chewits’ most popular flavours: strawberry; blackcurrant; and fruit salad.  

New flavours are the lifeblood of confectionery, especially lines aimed at youths and younger adults. From Tic Tac there’s a new cherry passion flavour offering consumers cherry and passion fruit-flavoured sweets in one pack.

Ferrero UK sales director Jason Sutherland says: “We’ve found that when purchasing Tic Tacs, consumers tend to stick to their favourite flavour, with 85% of people being loyal to only one (Dunnhumby research). So the introduction of different flavours brings new consumers to the brand, driving incremental sales for the retailers.

Sutherland continues: “We are launching cherry passion this month so retailers can capitalise on the summer sales trend, where consumers trade out of chocolate confectionery and into fruit flavour products which see a 17% increase in sales over the period (AC Nielsen data).”

Sutherland says Tic Tac has had a very successful year, delivering value growth of 12.9% year on year (AC Nielsen total coverage to February 20, 2010). “This growth is being driven by greater distribution across the Tic Tac range and increased sales of Tic Tac 100s, the large pack format.”

Tic Tac is being supported by a £5m campaign this year. Promotional activity will include a cherry passion-specific tag on the end of the brand’s TV advertising in July, and a sampling campaign at key events throughout the summer.

The 18g pack, which contains 37 sweets, accounts for more than two-thirds of all Tic Tac sales. It is available in four flavours: fresh mint; spearmint; lime & orange; and new cherry passion. The 100s pack has been designed as a travel pack for consumers to keep in their car or handbag. This pack comes in three flavours: fresh mint; lime & orange; and spearmint.

Bags has been another big trend in sugar confectionery. According to AC Nielsen data, the total sugar bags market is worth £475m. Cadbury’s sugar bags account for £105m-worth of sales and are growing at 4%. Cadbury trade communications manager Kate Harding says c-store retailers should focus on, in order of priority: Maynards Wine Gums, Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts, Bassetts Jelly Babies, Maynards Sports Mix, Maynards Midget Gems and Bassetts Murray Mints.

Meanwhile, Nestlé has a huge hit on its hands with Randoms, which was launched last May. According to IRI total market data for the 52 weeks ending March 27, 2010, Randoms is the second biggest selling fruit sugar singles sweet behind long-established Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles.

Nestlé UK trade communications manager Graham Walker reckons there are still some distribution gaps for Randoms so there’s further potential for the brand. Nestlé is backing Randoms with a £6.5m media support spend this year.

Walker says much of the success of the Rowntree’s range comes from its ‘permissibility’, because mums buying for kids know the lines are free from artificial ingredients, but contain real fruit juice.

Nestlé now offers a range of Rowntree’s sharing bags (Fruit Pastilles, Pick ‘N’ Mix and Fruit Gums) at the eye-catching price point of just £1.

Walker says: “More than a third of confectionery shoppers are more likely to buy a product with a rounded price point over a similar product without one. On top of this, 48% of confectionery shoppers say that a price-flashed pack would encourage them to buy, up from 34% in 2007. With this in mind Nestlé has re-engineered its top-selling sugar bags.”

However, the big news from Nestlé this summer is a cross-category promotion called ‘Get Set, Go Free’. It gives consumers of Nestlé’s confectionery, cereal and water the chance to try out different activities during the summer holidays, for free.

Walker says it is Nestlé’s biggest ever cross-category promotion and will be backed by a £3m media campaign. Thirty-seven activities are available to consumers, including martial arts, swimming, paintballing and scuba diving. They have to collect points from packs and then exchange them for activity vouchers.

“We’ve been doing the Go Free activity for five years now and last year there was a 12% sales uplift when compared with the promotion in 2008,” explains Walker. “We’re very confident Get Set, Go Free will increase sales again because there are more activities, on more packs, backed by a bigger spend.”

Promotional packs (including Randoms and Fruit Pastilles) will hit shelves in June/July and advertising will kick off in mid-July encompassing TV, radio, press, outdoor and online.

When asked whether convenience retailers give enough shelf space to sugar confectionery compared with chocolate, Walker turns the question around, saying: “The big challenge is whether retailers have given the right proportion of space depending on their shopper profile and the time of the year, because sugar sales increase in the summer, particularly sugar sharing bags. It’s all about the right range at the right price.”

Perfetti Van Melle reckons it’s got the price right with its new 99p range of pricemarked bags, which includes Fruittella summer fruits and liquorice & fruit and Chupa Chups Best Of.

Last year was a good one for the company when its brands significantly outperformed the sugar confectionery market. Mentos, Fruittella, Chupa Chups and Smint saw growth of 23%, 18%, 30% and 11% respectively (IRI, all outlets, 52 weeks ending January 23, 2010).

Perfetti Van Melle marketing director Mark Stangroom puts much of this growth down to the products having better visibility in stores. There has also been much more support for the brands and this continues with Fruittella backed by national TV advertising during the summer months.

New to the Fruittella range is 2Fruity which offers consumers three different flavour combinations: strawberry & banana; apple & blackcurrant; and peach & raspberry.

Stangroom says: “Off-shelf displays are important to get people to trial new products. We’ve also found that multibuys or activity such as ‘two for a price’ work well.”

Finally, Cadbury has really tapped into the healthier and better-for-you trend with its range from The Natural Confectionery Company (TNCC). It was first launched in June 2008 and, according to Nielsen data, is worth £11.4m with 70% of these sales incremental to the category. TNCC prides itself on offering simple, natural colour and flavour sweets.

Cadbury’s Harding says that TNCC are “sweets people feel better about eating”.

The experts

Keith Tordoff purchased ‘The Oldest Sweet Shop in England’ 15 years ago. The shop is in Pately Bridge high street in North Yorkshire, and has been since 1827. Today it’s chock full of more than 250 traditional glass jars of sweets. Keith says the shop has seen sales growth about 10% during the past year. “History really does show that people turn to affordable treats during a recession, and buying sweets is such a happy experience. We are seeing strong growth both at the shop and through our online sales.”

Alan Wix is a new entrant into the world of confectionery. He opened his traditional sweet shop Sweet Memories in Ormskirk, Lancashire in January and is finding business very buoyant. “Before we opened, another local business recommended Hancocks to us so we popped down for a chat. They have been great to us and now 80% of our sweets come from Hancocks,” he says. “We have kept our shop very traditional, selling all manner of sweets from jars it certainly does seem to be a good time for confectionery.”

Ansar Farooq runs two sweet shops and a market stall with his brother Asim: He says: “We opened The Sweet Shop in Sale, Cheshire, last year, having seen business in our Oldham shop grow, especially for loose sweets. Many c-stores don’t really sell a huge range of sweets it’s mostly chocolate bars so we decided to really focus on them. “Business has been good at both shops and at our Bury market stall. Our Oldham shop certainly benefited from Woolworths closing, as it was right opposite us. We now sell lots of pick ‘n’ mix people typically spend £2 at a time on that.”

retailer view

“We give quite a bit of space to sugar confectionery. Haribo bags sell well and one of our best-sellers is Haribo Strawberries. We sell more bags than tubes now; people don’t mind that they are more expensive. And nearly all of them are pricemarked I don’t mind pricemarking as long as the profit is still there for us. Another strong seller is Nestlé’s Randoms.” Denis Williams, Broadway Convenience Store, Edinburgh

ones to watch…

Birthday Cakes
Haribo is celebrating 250 years of its traditional liquorice sweet Pontefract Cakes with special limited-edition packaging. It was originally a medicinal line. rrp: £1.12 tel: 01977 600266

Walkers Nonsuch has unveiled bright new wrappers for its Andy Pack bars of toffee. The wrappers also now include the message: “Whack, Unwrap and Enjoy”. tel: 01782 321525 

Get chewsy
New from Wrigley’s Extra is Chewy Mints. Each 38g bag contains four different mini mint flavours: peppermint; spearmint; sweetmint; and coolmint. rrp: 59p tel: 01752 701107 

With added bite
Mentos is currently on TV, sponsoring ITV2’s The Vampire Diaries with the message ‘There’s nothing like a Mentos kiss’. The sponsorship deal will run until June. tel: 01753 442100

Loadsa potential
Swizzels Matlow’s new value £1 Loadsa range comprises six different variety packs containing a mix of its sweets, such as New Refreshers, Love Hearts, Fruity Pops and Fun Gums. tel: 01663 744 1441