How to sweeten your sales of sugar confectionery

Sugar confectionery is a fast-moving category, but what are customers currently looking for? Tamara Birch finds out

Sugar confectionery category management advice

Trending behaviours

“The UK sugar confectionery market had a volume sales decline of 5% in 2020 due to Covid-19. However, as footfall in major retail outlets improved and shopper habits returned to normal in 2021, volumes have been growing by 2.3%,” says Gabriella Egleton, senior brand manager at Kervan Gida UK Ltd, owner of Bebeto confectionery.

Sascha Macchi, senior brand manager for Rowntree’s at Nestlé Confectionery, echoes this opportunity and says the category is worth £1.5bn. Macchi says: “Sugar confectionery is also growing ahead of chocolate with sales up 5.2% over the past year and in double-digit growth in the latest four weeks.”

But how can independent retailers capitalise on this opportunity? Stocking a core range is a strong first step, but understanding what’s trending and what customers are looking for is vital.

Pricewatch: Confectionery sharing bags price comparison

There’s an increasing appetite for varied snacking options, with a higher demand for plant-based alternatives. Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelez International, says: “Veganuary 2022 exceeded last year’s total sign-ups of 580,000 people, with more than 600,000 consumers having attempted to follow a plant-based diet this year.

“This can be seen within sugar confectionery. We launched Sour Patch Kids Watermelon, which contains no gelatine and has been certified vegan by the Vegan Society, meeting consumer needs,” says Nash.

Mark Walker, sales director at Swizzels, agrees and says: “Retailers should consider providing a vegan and vegetarian selection to accommodate every consumer, as well as stocking variety bags and sharing packs that offer something for everyone.”

Sales of single sweets (under 100g) saw a big decline in March and April last year (33%), according to Egleton, but sugar confectionery lines overall rose in 2020 and early 2021.

“With consumers making fewer shopping trips and people working from home, on-the-go product formats were hit the hardest,” Egleton says.

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Levi Boorer, customer development director at Ferrero, says there’s still an opportunity to drive impulse sales and says: “It’s important retailers are taking proactive measures to ensure their sugar confectionery offering stands out and attracts shopper interest, which can be done by stocking recognisable and trusted brands, such as Tic Tac.”

Despite this, sharing bags have become a must-stock – especially as costs continue to rise and shoppers look for value. In fact, Macchi says sugar confectionery sharing bags are the second-biggest-selling format in symbols and independents behind chocolate singles, and account for 18.7% of value sales.

Capitalise on sugar confectionery

Focusing on seasonal periods will help stores make the most of sugar confectionery. Upcoming seasonal events include Easter and Mother’s Day.

“The past couple of years have been up and down with Covid-19 restrictions, and, this year, people can truly get back to celebrating with family and friends without having to worry about potential lockdowns,” says Chris Smith, marketing communications manager at World of Sweets, formally Hancocks Wholesale.

To capitalise on the opportunity, create a level of in-store theatre using clear labelling and signage to capture shoppers’ attention. Nestlé Confectionery’s Sascha Macchi says 58% of sugar confectionery sales are made away from the main fixture.

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“Also, 19% of sales come from displays at the till, while 18% come from end-of-aisle, 13% from front-of-store and 7% from a free-standing display,” says Macchi. “So, retailers looking to maximise their sales should ideally concentrate on these areas.”

It’s also worth noting a lot of customers buying from the sugar confectionery categories are younger consumers. “Stocking things like the Crazy Candy Factory kids’ novelty range will encourage shoppers to buy,” says Smith.

“This range combines sweets with toys, which are certain to keep kids happy. They’re great value for money, too.”

Focusing on new products is vital for Sandeep Bains, from Welcome Faversham in Kent. “New products are always the way to go and a way to bring new customers in,” he says.

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“We also focus on seasonal opportunities, such as Christmas, but as soon as that goes, we focus on Easter,” he says.

Make sure to highlight any new products using PoS or interact with your customers on social media. Retailers could do this by running a staff taste test where they give their honest reviews of any new products.

Meanwhile, Ferrero’s Levi Boorer recommends retailers create bundle deals or linked purchases.

“Incorporate Tic Tac into an ‘essentials’ range whereby customers can pick up the products along with a magazine, newspaper or snack to cater for morning commuters,” he says.

Supplier view

Susan Nash, trade communications manager, Mondelez International

“The most important confectionery display is the main fixture, as 45% of confectionery products are picked up from here. Shoppers need to be able to find the main fixture easily, so it should be in a high-traffic, visible area of your store.

“It’s also important to stock lines that meet new trends, especially recent new products from the fast-growing Sour Patch Kids range. The new Sour Patch Kids Watermelon bags will offer shoppers an affordable and delicious authentic candy treat with an RRP of £1.32. Available in 140g bags, each individual jelly sweet is watermelon-flavoured with a coating of sour sugar.

“To build on this, Sour Patch Kids Watermelon and Maynards Bassetts Fruit Smoothie will be available in a price-marked pack format this year, allowing for strong stand-out on shelf with the convenience of clear on-pack pricing to help drive additional sales for retailers.”

Capture new customers

A lot of sugar confectionery lines are typically bought by younger consumers or teenagers. An area proving successful for many independent retailers and younger consumers is American confectionery.

Sasi Patel, from Go Local Extra Oldham Road in Greater Manchester, says teen shoppers have a lot of disposable income from their parents, so they don’t mind paying more for sugar confectionery lines. To find the next big product, he regularly searches social media platform TikTok.

“The American confectionery category hit TikTok and the demand has been sky high,” Patel says. “Teens won’t blink an eye for buying an American gobstopper for £2.99 or a pack of sugar candy for £3, but our older customers likely would.”

Bains continues to have strong American sugar confectionery sales. “We rotate it every two-to-three weeks so customers don’t get bored,” he says. “There are a lot of products that might not be new to the US, but new to us, and we stock them to drive excitement.”

For Patel, the younger market is also driving his impulse sales in sugar confectionery. “Kids come in during the school run and they’re really getting behind the £1 lines.

“It’s convenient and isn’t a big cost to them as many receive £20 or more a week pocket money,” he says.

Supplier view

Sasi Patel, Go Local Extra Oldham Road, Rochdale, Greater Manchester

“With sugar confectionery, £1 bags are flying out. As prices rise, the £1 bags will become stronger. The industry is finding ways to make the pack smaller, but keep the price at a £1. There will come a time, though, when this price will likely increase to £1.25, but, at the moment, the momentum is in its favour.

“When it comes to impulse buys, it’s about capturing the non-working teen market. They have a lot of disposable income and come to us throughout the week – it’s important we cater for that market now, and focus on TikTok trends.

“We’re also about to start selling the little sweet tubs that are popular in M&S at the moment to boost sales further. We’re also adding in resealable tubs to our range for customers who want to have a treat on long journeys.”

Best practice for merchandising sugar confectionery

“To maximise the opportunity, confectionery needs to be sited in a secondary location,” says Mondelez’ Susan Nash. “Many shoppers need reminding or prompting to buy from the category when they are on a different mission and, by inspiring these purchases, retailers can increase basket spend. End of aisle, counter and front of store are the key locations.”

Nestlé’s Sascha Macchi echoes this and says: “In terms of sugar sharing bags, a good secondary location to target would be other categories associated with nights in, such as sharing bags of crisps and large soft drinks.

“When considering the main fixture, sugar sharing bags should be merchandised together, not combined with chocolate sharing bags, with a vertical split between the two on the sharing bags fixture.”

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It’s important to ensure your sugar confectionery and chocolate lines are merchandised separately to avoid confusing your customers. Also, try to include at least one different flavour and consider including a free-from, vegan or vegetarian option to cater for a wider range of customer missions.

Monitor the sales of free-from lines you stock to track their success, and make sure to highlight the key differences these lines offer. For example, are they gelatine-free? Are they dairy-free? Are they gluten-free, or vegan or vegetarian? Doing this will help you become a destination for these products. Make sure to highlight these lines on social media or your Google page, as many shoppers will look there first to find what they need.

Supplier view

Levi Boorer, Customer development director, Ferrero

“Consumer shopping habits have dramatically changed over the past year, with shopper visits to stores becoming more planned and structured.

“This has meant consumers are also looking to shop more locally, which has seen the convenience sector continue to be increasingly popular even as we emerge from the pandemic. Despite this more functional approach to shopping, there is still an opportunity for retailers to boost the appeal of their sugar confectionery.

“Especially when it comes to impulse, it’s important retailers take proactive measures to ensure their sugar confectionery offering stands out and attracts shopper interest.”

Top tips

Stock different flavours

“People typically look for mint and fruit flavours from this sector, which is why we recommend retailers stock a variety of flavours from our range,” says Boorer. “Stock them next to your newspapers and magazines fixture or within food to go next to items such as soft drinks or single-serve snacks.”

Create linked purchases

Meal deals or bundles are great for boosting spend. While restrictions have ended, nights in will remain popular, so consider running a promotion to capitalise on this throughout the year.

Labelling and signage is key

“If you frequently reshuffle the placement of your products, labelling and signage is key,” says Kervan Gida UK Ltd’s Gabriella Egleton. “Visual call-outs such as stickers, shelf barkers or wobblers are great for leading consumers to particular products.”

Secondary site

Having a secondary siting will push sales, especially impulse purchases. Place a range on a gondola end, alongside soft drinks or crisps and snacks to drive linked purchases.

Focus on sharing bags

Sharing bags have been growing in importance for the past couple years, and sugar confectionery is a category perfect for sharing. Include a variety of flavours, dairy-free and healthier sugar confectionery lines.

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