Candy is seen as accessible luxury

Economic uncertainty, self-checkout lanes, omnichannel shopping and natural and organic trends are all impacting the way consumers are purchasing and consuming snacks and candy, according to a recent survey from Acosta Group, which was conducted with its proprietary Shopper Community. One thing made clear from the survey is that shoppers view snacks and candy as accessible luxuries in their daily lives.

“We wanted to learn more about the shopper path to purchase by understanding when and why shoppers are snacking, as well as where and what they’re buying on different occasions or shopping trips,” said Kathy Risch, SVP Consumer Insights and Trends, Acosta Group, who will also be a speaker on shopping behaviour impact on category sales at the upcoming Sweets and Snacks Expo 2023 in Chicago from May 22-25 in Illinois, Chicago. “We discovered consumer shopping preferences and generational differences that inform how brands and retailers can best meet the needs of today’s consumers.”

These categories represent big dollars, each seeing 12% year-over-year sales growth fueled by the increased pricing of inflation, according to data from Nielsen.

“Without a doubt,” added Risch, “we like our snacks, whether enjoyed as comfort food, meal replacements or stress relievers.”

40% of shoppers in the survey say they’ve eaten a large bag of salty snacks in one sitting, with that percentage rising to 74% for Gen Z and 60% for Millennials.

Shoppers are snacking throughout the day, with 43% saying they’re usually snacking at night, 32% often snacking as a meal, and 36% snacking mainly when bored (47% of Gen Z). Stress snacking is highest among Gen Z at 81%, with 68% of shoppers with kids saying that they snack when stressed. Snacks are perceived as a comfort food by 68% of shoppers.

Salty snacks are top of the category with crisps in the lead, and popcorn becoming the go-to snack of 2023. Taste is driving choice, followed by value and promotional pricing.

For purchasers of candy, chocolate is preferred (82%) over non-chocolate, with 54% of shoppers saying they eat more candy than they should. Four in ten are eating candy at least once a day, with Millennials and higher income households eating more.

Taste is the number one reason for selection, with high quality ingredients, good value and a favorite brand also driving factors. Chocolate bars are the favourite choice, with candy-coated chocolate ranking second.

Citing high prices and health concerns, 30% of shoppers say they’re buying less candy than last year. Candy sales are also at risk due to the increased use of self-checkout, which is preferred by 76% of Gen Z and 73% of Millennial shoppers.

More than 25% of all candy sales occur at checkout, with self-checkout reducing impulse candy conversion purchases by 50%, according to IMC Proprietary Retailer Research.

When given a choice, shoppers today choose evenly between healthy snacks (49%) and “junk food” (51%), however, 61% of higher income households also choose healthy.

Of total snack buyers,15% report it’s important for snacks to be natural or organic. Most of the shoppers interested in natural and organic are willing to pay more – especially Millennials – which is driven by a desire to eat healthier and help the environment.

With regards to how shoppers are buying their snacks, 28% of snacks are being purchased online and one in three of those shoppers have a subscription service for automatic reorders.

Just 12% of candy buyers have recently purchased online, which showcases a potential untapped opportunity to grow sales and basket size by promoting candy items on impulse during online checkout. Drug and dollar stores are also popular for candy purchases.

“With this study, we’ve identified several standout opportunities to support continued growth for CPG brands in snack and candy,” commented Darian Pickett, Chief Executive Officer, Sales Agency, Acosta Group. “At Acosta Group, we bring multiple capabilities to the table to provide a one-stop shop to drive customer purchase and loyalty, build integrated omnichannel plans and support brand innovation for category expansion.”

In terms of areas of opportunity, highlighting health attributes, exploring adding organic lines, developing resealable packaging, creating promotional pricing strategies and designing a more integrated shopping experience with the recognition of the importance of online purchases all present areas to be tapped into.

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Media contact

Caitlin Gittins
Editor, International Confectionery
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920

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