Chocolate candy remains a customer favorite, so merchandising the product should be easy, right? But selling chocolate successfully in a convenience store can prove a surprisingly complex proposition.
That’s because retailers must adroitly manage a host of moving parts, from meeting conflicting consumer demands to tracking top-selling brands as well as their innovative new products and line extensions. They must also consider the preferences of local demographics, merchandising techniques, popular pricing and limited-time promotions.
C-store customers love chocolate for its indulgence factor, but many remain stubbornly health conscious, creating an opportunity in better-for-you candy sales, including sugar-free, which saw a surge in sales during the pandemic.
According to the National Confectioners Association, 92% of American consumers turned to chocolate for an indulgence fix during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, according to research firm IRI, sugar-free chocolate sales at c-stores were up 57.8% for the 52 weeks ending Feb. 21, 2021. At the same time, snack-size chocolate candy saw a 30.9% drop, and sales of novelty chocolate fell by 32.8%.
Having the products consumers have always wanted — as well as trendy new items to wow them with — is key in many product categories, and even more so in chocolate candy.
Flavorful line extensions are cropping up within the major brands customers already know and love, attracting consumer attention and boosting sales. Savvy c-stores are keeping these items in-stock for customers.
Recent brand launches have included Snickers’ new Snickers (Peanut) Brownie, Reese’s Big Cup with Pretzels and Reese’s Big Cup with Chips. Hershey’s Kit Kat Duos Mint + Dark Chocolate offers mint crème, dark chocolate on crispy wafers. Other recent Kit Kat line extensions have included Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate, Kit Kat Key Lime Pie, Kit Kat Birthday Cake and Kit Kat Thins. In January 2021, Mars Wrigley rolled out M&M’S Chocolate Popcorn, a milk chocolate popcorn-flavored shell with a crispy center.
Yet another trend convenience store retailers can now take advantage of to fuel sales is Cannabidiol (CBD). More c-store retailers are stocking CBD products in states where sales are legal, and CBD-infused chocolate includes the feel-good properties of CBD with the delicious taste of a chocolate treat.
Americans’ love of chocolate is here to stay, but what they buy and why, and how they buy it, is ever evolving, requiring retailers’ diligence.