International Confectionery speaks to Marcia Mogelonsky, Director of Insight, Food & Drink at Mintel, outlining what she believes to be the latest trends in the confectionery industry.
Can you begin by giving us some background to your career and how you became Director of Insight, Food & Drink at Mintel.
I have been with Mintel for 21 years… before I started writing US reports (my first job at Mintel), I worked as an Associate Editor for American Demographics Magazine. I also worked as a consultant in the food industry, focusing on new product innovation across a wide range of categories, from food to aviation and hardware. Before I got involved with market research, however, I was a researcher of a different sort: I have a PhD in classical archaeology, and spent 10 years excavating sites in the Mediterranean and Middle East.
What has been the most memorable experience in your career so far?
There are so many! I think that my first trip to Asia (Australia, Indonesia and Singapore) on behalf of Mintel is a standout. I also spent a week in Cairo, Egypt, on behalf of USAID, and that was a fascinating experience. The myriad opportunities to travel to Europe for Mintel and meet so many interesting and innovative clients have also been amazing.
What insights have you noted in confectionery over the last year? What trends do you foresee that will grow?
Confectionery was a real lifesaver during the pandemic, as we all reached for those special treats that offered such spiritual and emotional comfort. I was pleased to watch the ways in which confectioners pivoted to ensure that we were able to enjoy candy – and celebrate “candy holidays” like Halloween and Christmas – even when access to confectionery was limited by lockdowns.
Online purchasing of everything grew in importance last year; the internet is a challenging platform for confectionery as it relies so heavily on impulse buying. While consumers may become more comfortable with internet purchasing of confectionery, I think we will see more dynamic and engaging in-store displays, especially for launching new products.
What does the ‘New Normal’ in confectionery and the food industry look like?
At Mintel, we have rebranded that phrase to be “the NEXT normal” because the situation in the 2020s and beyond keeps evolving; the pandemic has not disappeared, it is just in its next iteration. We can’t just flip a switch and be “normal again.” Beyond the pandemic, we are facing extensive supply chain issues and a number of socio-political evolutions that are not normal at all! So, we talk about the next normal… and the one after that… and so on.
I think one of the outcomes of the pandemic has been the desire for comfort and nostalgia. We are not giving up our food adventures; but we are more willing than we were before the pandemic to accept a meal (or two) of familiar foods. Same with confectionery and sweets: we no longer have to have the most “out there” flavours and textures all the time. We also want the comfort a familiar confectionery can bring.
Do you think the new focus on our health and nutrition will impact the confectionery industry? In what ways?
Going forward, confectionery will continue to attract consumers of all ages. With growing attention to better health, however, manufacturers will have to find ways to find “less sweet” sweets appealing – Mintel’s research has shown clearly that there is a move towards sugar reduction across categories. Confectionery will have to join in and help consumers manage their health by offering healthier alternatives.
This is something that we will have to come to grips with – while there is a growing demand for sugar reduction, in the confectionery categories the attitude is “don’t touch my products” – I call it “the not in my backyard view of sugar reduction!” So, confectioners will have to find palatable ways to help consumers. Cutting back on sugar by adding other sensory notes, offering smaller pack sized of full sugar confectionery as a way of reducing sugar intake… and finding that “holy grail” – the sugar substitute that tastes and acts the same way as sugar – these are all goals.
What does a typical day as the Director of Insight at Mintel look like?
I am very lucky in that I was a remote worker before remote working became trendy during the pandemic! I work with a fantastic group of talented analysts in Mintel’s Food and Drink platform and my days involve consulting with them and discussing ideas and insights. I also write syndicated content and work with confectionery clients.
I am fortunate in that no two days are the same. I can spend a day or two locked in a client project, and then focus the next few days writing insights that I’ve wanted to pursue. I get to read, read, read – our Mintel reports from different markets, our broader consumer surveys, newspapers, magazines, websites, trade journals and more.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
My parents were extremely creative people and worked in a wide range of fields. They always told me “There’s no such thing as a stupid question!” – always ask questions, observe and learn. I have travelled extensively and have lived in various cities in North America and Europe and I always make it a point to visit grocery stores, markets, kiosks and anywhere else there’s food. I take lots of photos and use my “photo archive” to spark new ideas for insights and innovations.
What is your favourite aspect of your job role and what do you see for the future of confectionery trends?
I get paid to think about candy all the time! I go to conferences and get free candy to try and write about… my kids always thought that was the best part of my job… But seriously… I love being able to take a long view of the candy industry – I have been following it for more than 20 years and I love the history behind it. I also love the chance to use the history of the category to try to build out an idea of what will happen in the future. There are so many trends (or fads, really) that have come and gone… and come back! I often see “new brands” that are really the 21st century versions of brands I grew up with or I saw launched with fanfare in the last decade of the last century.
As for the future – I would have to be very brave to try to guess, after the pandemic and the other dramas of 2020 redirected us. But it is notable that confectionery continues to be strong because consumers will always need something that is “affordable, pure pleasure” – a candy, especially one that captures a positive feeling or moment – will always find a place in our shopping carts or kitchen cabinets. And there is also room for innovative products that bring us a new joyful experience, without a major outlay of cash. Indeed, it is the balance between “fun” and “affordability” that keeps the category moving forward.
Are there food trends in different geographical regions – how do they impact each other and how different are they?
This is a very complicated question and the answers will be quite involved. Short answer – yes! When I first got involved in the food industry, we were not quite “global consumers” – we were just starting to experience life in other regions… and food in other regions. Food media – TV, magazines – celebrity chefs, and esoteric ingredients were not well known.
We have watched food trends migrate from region to region … and other trends evolve through fusion… all fascinating. For example, I remember when Lindt boldly introduced wasabi chocolate to Europe! Now wasabi is a common condiment everywhere and is certainly not the headline-making flavour it was when Lindt took that step.
How has medicated confectionery grown and why do you think this is taking more precedence?
Like other confectionery categories, medicated candy saw sales fall in major markets during the pandemic – medicated confectionery does more than just satisfy a sweet urge, it also offers an answer for minor irritations such as sore throats or congestion. But, during the pandemic, when we were locked down and keeping our distance from others, we were not catching colds or flus – we did not need to buy medicated confectionery because we were not getting sick.
But, as markets start to open up, many consumers are gathering in closer quarters again – stores, schools, entertainment venues – “common germs” (e.g. colds, flus) will increase, especially as mask-wearing is not always enforced or required; increased interactions will lead to increased needs for medicated confectionery. We may also see some “vaccination fatigue” too, as consumers are tired of being jabbed and may forego a flu shot this year. They will definitely be stocking up on throat soothers!
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