Whipping Up Chocolate Sales

One word will drive chocolate sales in 2017, experts say: Snackfection.

“Think of snackfection as an amalgam of predominantly snack items like fruits, nuts, seeds, pretzels and predominantly confectionery items like chocolate that are used to create a variety of textures and flavor profiles,” said Sheril Retson, category manager, center of store at Chevron. “For 2017 we will continue to see more snackfection type items coming to market.”

Coined by Hershey but adopted by the industry, this snackfection concept will grow stronger in 2017.

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“A growing trend is confection and chocolate expanding into the salty category with items like the new Hershey’s Snack mixes, Flipz and Barkthins,” said Gene Cyranski of Pilot Flying J. “You will see a lot of innovation by smaller brands trying to enter the market is in this ‘snackfection’ category, such as s’mores snack mix and cookie chips.”

This snackfection mentality isn’t just about combining ingredients, though. It’s a direct response to consumer desires.

“Consumers are interested in trying new tastes and textures, and manufacturers are diversifying products to accommodate this,” said George Puro, president of Puro Research Group, which publishes the Packaged Facts report, “Chocolate Candy Market in the U.S.”

The major players all have new products coming out, like three new flavors of Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch. Items like chocolate-covered pretzels also seem to be popular.

This year will be “a heavy candy product launch year with new brand extensions and new flavor profiles,” Cyranski said. “Chocolate has a lot of new product launches. Whether it be brand extensions or flavor extensions like the Snickers Hazelnut, chocolate [is] the majority of the innovation in heavy-hitting brands like Snickers, M&M, Butterfinger, Reese’s and Hershey.”

Innovation and the snackfection concept could not be more welcome in the eyes of many of retailers that depend on strong chocolate sales annually.

Actually, chocolate sales were a mixed bag in 2016 with decreases of more than 20% in total dollar sales of snack size chocolate but increases in chocolate under 3.5 ounces and chocolate over 3.5 ounces, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI), total All Scan convenience store data for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 25, 2016.

And while taste is at the forefront, packaging remains an important tool as well. Experts noted a trend toward bigger packages as companies try to meet the desire for both size and portability.

“A lot of the product launches are coming out in an array of pack types. We try and upsell as much as we can and have seen a lot of success in larger-pack types like the stand-up pouches,” Cyranski said. “Look for candy manufacturers to renew some focus on singles with product launches, promotions and merchandising vehicles. King still drives the category but there are those customers that will not get anything but a single.”

Retson agreed, saying that positive growth in standard bars “is contingent on the enhancement of innovation and aggressive promotional activities, [while] king size growth [is] driven by new item launches and promotional activation.”

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