By Erin, Rigik, Senior Editor
The Sweets and Snacks Expo kicked off Tuesday, May 19, at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The Expo is celebrating 18 years in Chicago and is expected to have more than 16,000 attendees, marking the biggest show ever.
John Downs Jr., president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association (NCA) opened the Expo with a presentation to attendees on NCA’s strategic vision and how it will advocate for the industry in the future.
“Our business symbolizes all that is right with the world. We are an affordable, authentic, honest, transparent treat,” he told the audience. With a 98% common CPG household penetration rate, candy’s popularity is overwhelming. Some 123 million households in the U.S. enjoy candy every year with Americans enjoying it 2-3 times a week.
While the candy, snacks and food industry are often vilified as the cause of obesity, Downs pointed out that 78% of consumers in a quantitative study reported that they expect sugar to be in candy. “Shoppers would rather cut sugar from other sources,” he said.
In fact, candy represents only 2% of the calories in the diet. And 6% of added sugars. Most people enjoy candy twice a week, averaging less than 50 calories per day from confectionery items. “This tells us our consumers are driven by common sense and making smart choices about what they want to enjoy and when they want to enjoy it,” he said. “Our sales are about $35 billion. Consumers are willing to pay more for choice, especially Millennials. They want variety. They want options as it relates to portion sizes and calories. Consumers want customized offerings and premium products. People are beginning to understand and appreciate premium in this country and in our category.”
He encouraged manufacturers of candy and snacks to engage in the conversation around health and reinforce candy as a treat.
David Freedman, renowned journalist, author and contributing editor of The Atlantic, spoke on the right and wrong way to address obesity. “People alive in American today will give up 1 billion years of life to the obesity crisis. We better figure out what healthy eating is,” he said.
He went on to note the confusion customers face in determining what healthy eating is, often listening to journalists telling stories, instead of scientists. Inspired by author Michael Pollan’s book the Omnivore’s Dilemma, many consumers see healthy foods as those that don’t come from big companies, are locally grown, organic, not shipped in trucks and have nothing added to them. Theories on obesity abound, adding to the confusion. It’s up to the candy, snack and food industries to help change the conversation.
“A lot of people are convinced you’re the enemy and nothing will talk them out of it. It’s the ‘tobaccoization’ of the food industry. People are coming close to treating you the same way and you have to turn that around. I believe you can turn this around now. You guys have to fight back in a smarter much more aggressive way. I think the way is to take the foods Americans love, and slowly make them healthier. You won’t be rewarded for it at first, but over time it will pay off,” he said.
By The Numbers
Larry Levin, executive vice president of IRI Worldwide, spoke on trends impacting the candy and snack categories.
Candy made up $24.1 billion in store sales, up 2.8%. Growth is especially strong in dollar and mass merchandising channels. Some 49% of candy growth was contributed by Millennials.
Snacks delivered $38 billion in CPG sales, with some 54% of snack growth contributed by salty snacks.
The convenience channel had 22% share with 7.6% growth. “That’s astounding growth and it shows we’re motivating customers to get out of their car and find a quick treat,” Levin said.
Holiday and seasonal is growing, and the Superbowl is a prime time to target customers. Snacks brought in $1.5 billion ( up 4.8% ) and candy brought in $767 million (up 4.7%) in the two weeks around the Superbowl.
Multi-cultural households, Millennials and Boomers remain key demographics. It’s important to know how to connect with Millennials and understand the flavors products that resonate with them.
Era of Health
Tuesday afternoon, Steve Kolinsky, food reporter, ABC-7 Chicago, moderated a panel of four experts in a special session for media. The panel included Berta De Pablos-Barbier, vice president marketing for Mars Chocolate North America; Phil Lempert, The SuperMarket Guru, consumer trend analyst and food marketing expert; Mary Myers, director of product development, Mars; and Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD, registered dietitian and nutrition journalist. The panel discussed satisfying the demand for taste, convenience and choice while tackling health concerns related to the over consumption of sugar, calories and fat.
The panelists talked about consumer confusion over making healthy selections, and Mar’s commitment to giving consumers more choices, including products under 200 calories.
O’Neil pointed out that in our diet we want no more than 10% added sugars, and explained the difference between intrinsic or naturally occurring sugar and added sugars. Guidelines expected in September will likely separate out total sugars and added sugars on labeling.
During the event, Mars introduced its newly launched goodnessknows snack squares, made with whole nuts, real fruits, toasted oats and dark chocolate. The product is divided into four stackable square servings all for 150 calories.
Lamprey pointed out that customers are seeking products with a balance between health and wellness, taste and affordability.