Americans catered to their sweet tooths during the pandemic, and that — along with their learned preference for packaged items rather than fresh — will stand sweet snacks and granola bars in good stead in 2022.
Cakes, pastries and sweet pies account for a sizeable portion of sales in the convenience store channel, expected to reach $3.3 billion by 2025, according to Khalid Peerbaccus, senior innovations researcher for GlobalData. Cookies are forecast to reach close to $1 billion by 2025.
According to IRI, for the 52-week period ending Dec. 26, 2021, in the convenience store channel, the overall snack bars, granola bars and clusters category totaled $760 million, up 14.7%, with granola bar sales specifically rolling in at $65.1 million, a dip of 2.6%.
Meanwhile, packaged sweet snacks grew by more than 12% in dollar sales in 2021, according to InfoMetrics data from Management Science Associates.
The pandemic not only moved consumers to look for comfort snacks but had them reaching for packaged baked goods for sanitary reasons — both habits that consumers have retained in 2022.
Retailers reported that sweet snacks was a growing category through 2021, with more consumers shifting from fresh options to packaged options.
Joseph Bortner, center store category manager for York, Pa.-based Rutter’s, which operates 79 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, said he sees the two categories of fresh and packaged baked sweet snacks blurring as time goes on.
In the wake of COVID-19, Bortner suggested, a fortunate scenario for retailers and consumers has developed as a result of that blurring.
“That gap between fresh and packaged has narrowed significantly as suppliers continue to develop and increase the quality of products offered,” he said. “Consumers perceive the (packaged) products as being free from any contamination. Utilizing these products in high-trafficked areas helps drive impulse and baskets.”
Implementing cross-promotions and cross-merchandising for packaged baked items with beverage and foodservice — merchandising by coffee, queue lines and checkouts — will also stimulate sales, Bortner added.
Health remains a factor in customers’ approach to sweet snacks.
According to GlobalData’s 2021 consumer survey, 43% of consumers said they are actively trying to reduce their consumption of sugar, and 35% said they are trying to reduce their intake of calories.
“Furthermore, 40% admit they are reducing their consumption of fats,” Peerbaccus noted. “These figures indicate consumers would be receptive to snacks that provide a guilt-free opportunity to indulge and are low in sugar, calories, fat or all three as consumers demonstrate a proactive desire to curb unhealthy eating habits.”
A quarter of respondents said they were interested in reducing their intake of artificial sweeteners, and 29% are doing the same with artificial flavors/colors, highlighting a desire for fewer processed foods in favor of those that contain a higher number of natural ingredients.