Supply chain disruption, 40-year high inflation in the United States and lingering COVID-19 concerns have impacted confectionery shopping and consumption patterns, National Confectioners Association members at SOTIC were told during a presentation on the report’s findings.
The good news is that while consumers describe life as expensive and stressful, confectionery still remains an affordable treat, and what’s more, 64% of those surveyed said they don’t need an excuse (a special occasion) to buy chocolate or candy and are happy to treat themselves when the mood suits.
‘Indulgence permissibility’ is the new buzz phrase in 2023 and it has been made easier by the industry committing to portion size and packaging varieties.
Elise Fennig, the NCA’s Chief of Staff & SVP of Operations, unveiled this year’s findings and revealed there is more good news for the sector. She explained to business leaders that the majority of consumers believe chocolate and candy companies are doing a good job promoting portion control and sugar reduction alternatives helped by the NCA’s Always A Treat campaign.
Along with price rises to offset inflation, the success of the campaign has seen sales of candy and chocolate reach $42.bn in 2022, according to Euromonitor with sales projections expected to top $54.3bn in the US by 2027.
The report also highlights that sugar-free remains an area that delivers growth for both chocolate and non-chocolate.
One area of the business that can further influence confectionery purchases, is Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) – especially among young shoppers. But according to the report, the message on their ESG policies from companies is not getting across as clearly as it should. ‘Transparency is the currency of trust’ and companies were urged to step-up their communication on package labelling, website and social media.
In an upbeat presentation, Fennig said that despite the stress and pressure surrounding inflation and high prices, consumer confidence remains robust and 67% of those surveyed believed life is getting better with 59% claiming life is ‘awesome’.
“That is awesome because we all know that awesome is the place where candy lives,” she said. "78% of people say that chocolate and candy makes them happy and 79% of people say health and happiness are interconnected … so this idea of candies being associated with happiness is incredibly important because we know it's not just about physical health. It's also about mental health and emotional wellbeing.”
Key findings from the The NCA’s 2023 State of Treating report include:
- 79% of consumers agree that physical health and emotional wellbeing are interconnected, and 86% agree that it is fine to occasionally treat yourself with chocolate and candy.
- 78% believe confectionery sharing and gifting are great traditions.
- Consumers buy confectionery in three to four different retail channels, led by supercenters and supermarkets.
- 61% of shoppers look for confectionery products they have never purchased before; innovation is important.
- 59% of candy consumers have searched Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for confectionery-related content.
- Transparency is the currency of trust; 43% of consumers prefer to learn about a brand’s ESG efforts from the package label.
"With high marks for favourability and permissibility, along with the majority of consumers agreeing that confectionery is an affordable treat, chocolate and candy sales grew despite economic pressures,” said John Downs, NCA president and CEO. “Consumers continue to treat with chocolate and candy to enhance their emotional wellbeing, celebrate holidays and enjoy everyday moments."
Impact for Candy and Retailing in 2023
Following Fennig's presentation, Hank Cardello, Executive Director, Business Impact Solutions at Georgetown University, shared findings from its report: ‘All Indulgent Foods Are Not Created Equal: The Impact for Candy and Retailing in 2023 and Beyond’ that shows conclusive evidence that the chocolate and candy industry has made significant strides in helping to reduce sugar, calories and portion size, making it a healthy indulgence that is part of a balanced diet for most consumers.
“What we’ve learned is that consumers treat candy differently than other indulgent products," he said.
He praised the NCA leadership for implementing the Always A Treat campaign, a landmark agreement with a five-year goal to help consumers manage their sugar intake with more transparency, choice and portion guidance.
In its last Progress Report from 2021, Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) praised the NCA’s transparency, with voluntarily print calorie information on the front of products comprising at least 90% of a company’s volume sales
‘The NCA met and exceeded its goal with 94.8% of SKUs having calorie information on front of pack (FOP),’ it stated.