With consumers continuing to crave a sweet treat, Olivia Gagan looks at the ways the wholesale channel can get ahead in the chocolate bars & sharing range

The government may be enforcing policies designed to curb sugar consumption, but the UK’s shoppers still have an appetite for a sweet treat. In response to changing tastes, new healthier and premium options are flooding the market, and sharing bags are now a must-stock format, as well as reduced single-pack sizes.

But how should wholesalers handle this category? We’ve asked suppliers what they’re doing to stay ahead in this fast-moving market, and how wholesalers can make the most profit from countlines, tablets and sharing bags of chocolate.

Buttoned up

Cadbury's sChocolate has evolved from being primarily offered in a standard-sized bar format to being sold in a dizzying array of variants, formats and limited editions. Bite-size versions of traditional favourites in scaled-up bags are also sales winners at the moment, with Susan Nash, Mondelez International’s trade communications manager, explaining that old-school Cadbury’s brand Bournville has experienced a resurgence this year after being launched in button format in a sharing bag.

“Bournville moved into the sharing bag format for the first time with the launch of new Bournville Giant Buttons in January,” she explains. “The decision to create a big button format was led by the fact that the Cadbury sharing bag portfolio is growing in sales at 6.6%, led by Cadbury Dairy Milk Giant Buttons. The introduction of Bournville Giant Buttons in a sharing bag format is to meet consumer demand for a dark chocolate offer.”

Premium treats

With regards to niche and upscale products, the premium market is a growing chocolate segment that is bringing new, higher-spending consumers into the category. In this particular section of the chocolate market, single-serve bars and tablets are proving popular. To capitalise on this sales opportunity, Green & Black’s launched two singles bars last year: Green & Black’s Truffle, and Green & Black’s Praline. These launches are designed to meet the needs of consumers looking for a luxurious new way to unwind, says Nash.

She adds that wholesalers should note that consumer palates are becoming increasingly refined. “As we go through different life stages, our taste buds change. This is true for many foods, such as olives and coffee, and consumers are increasingly looking for a richer-tasting chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage versus milk chocolate. However, that is not to say we are all happy to reach for high-percentage cocoa products. There are degrees of acceptance, and some consumers find dark chocolate a little too bitter and therefore believe it is not for them,” she says.

Cadbury Darkmilk was launched to meet consumer demand for a mass-appeal dark chocolate, she says. Made with 40% cocoa, the range comes in a tablet format in three flavours.

On the go

Another trend is the growing consumer demand for confectionery products designed specifically to enjoy while on the move. Dan Newell, confections marketing director at Mars Wrigley Confectionery, says: “Eating habits are evolving. Eating on the go now features prominently in everyday food consumption as a result of increasingly busy lifestyles, new ordering and payment technologies and an expanding array of choice.” Within chocolate and sharing confectionery, this presents a huge opportunity. With 70% of the UK’s population buying food for lunch on the move.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery has designed products to meet a very specific part of the on-the-go confectionery category: consumers who are driving every day. “After identifying in-car consumption as a clear growth opportunity, we developed a holder, which is tailored to conveniently keep bottles of Extra Airwaves to hand, and front of mind,” explains Newell.

Chewing gum designed to fit neatly in your car may not be as niche as it first appears: Newell believes gum, and specifically sugar-free gum, is selling in large volumes due to growing oral care awareness and a millennial desire to have minty-fresh breath.

Shoppers are “seeking out a healthy addition to their day-to-day oral care routine, [hence] the trend towards sugar-free gum,” he says.

This trend then presents an opportunity for wholesalers to promote their gum products as a healthy alternative sharing option. Newell says: “According to Mintel data, 16-to-34 year-olds are more likely to be concerned with oral health compared with other age groups. Over 97% of Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s gum sales are from sugar-free products, and our Extra sugar-free gum range is accredited by the Oral Health Foundation.”

Bags of opportunity

The big night in offers the chance to boost sales of chocolate and sharing confectionery. The rise of this occasion is reflective of price-conscious consumers who want to enjoy themselves on a budget, says Stuart Graham, customer marketing director at Pladis.

For wholesalers, making the most of this opportunity means prioritising price-marked sharing bags, and products that can be bundled up as part of a
meal deal.

“With UK adults planning more quiet nights in – the go-to option to keep costs down – the sharing format is increasingly important. It generates 3.1 billion snacking occasions per year, according to our research,” Graham says.

Andrew Ovens, marketing manager at Big Bear Confectionery – whose brands include Fox’s Glacier, Just Brazils and Poppets – agrees that marketing sharing confectionery and chocolate around big nights in can boost sales. 

“The ever-growing popularity of on-demand TV and stay-at-home streaming is driving sales,” he says. “According to Mintel data, a notable 64% of cinema goers say they watch more films at home than they did two years ago.

“Alongside this, 75% of millennials would rather stay in to avoid increasing cinema costs.”

He says that wholesalers looking to cash in need to ensure that sharing products are front and centre.

Price-mark appeal

Price-marked chocolate and confectionery sharing bags also appeal to younger shoppers looking to get the most bang for their buck, Ovens adds. “In independent research we recently commissioned, sharing bag formats were more than four times as popular among younger consumers,” he says.

This trend is reflected in our sales, with Poppets, which is particularly popular with under-15s, selling well in this format.”

To meet the demand for great-value sharing formats, Mondelez International has introduced new-size £1 promotional price-marked packs within its chocolate sharing bags range.

This is to help wholesalers and retailers improve price perception and help increase speed of sales.

Included in the range are RRP £1, 95g promotional PMPs across bestsellers Cadbury Dairy Milk Giant Buttons, Caramel Nibbles, Twirl Bites, Bitsa Wispa and Terry’s Chocolate Orange Minis.” 

Retailer viewpoints

Anita Nye, Premier Eldred Stores, Orpington, Kent

“Anything with a £1 price-mark is key for us in this category. Dairy Milk, Galaxy, Smarties and Haribo £1 price-marked sharing bags fly off the shelves. Cadbury’s products are consistent bestsellers. We also stock a value Happy Shopper line, where everything is 50p; the white chocolate and milk chocolate bars in this range sell really well.

Nishi Patel, Londis Bexley Park, Thamesmead, Kent

“Our top sellers are Cadbury’s £1 price-marked bags. Dairy Milk Buttons are number one, followed by Dairy Milk Caramel Nibbles and then Twirl. With bars, Galaxy and Cadbury Fruit & Nut are must-stocks. Shoppers also love our US niche varieties of popular brands – Peanut Butter Twix, and pretzel and peanut butter M&M’s, for instance.”

Natalie Lightfoot
Natalie Lightfoot, Londis Solo Convenience, Glasgow

“The £1 price-mark is what seems to help certain chocolate lines become bestsellers. That said, there is still a big market for smaller, single-serving bars.

When it comes to the most popular chocolate bar formats, traditional products like Cadbury Dairy Milk continue to sell well, both in the single-serving and sharing-block sizes.”

Wilson Rea, Keystore More, Lanark, Lanarkshire

“We don’t stock any value lines, as people tend to prefer brands within this category. We stick to major suppliers like Mondelez. A clearly displayed, wide range of price-marked products is key when shoppers are in a rush – anything in a grab-bag format by Cadbury or Haribo will sell well.”

Supplier viewpoint

Susan Nash, Trade communications manager, Mondelez International

“Confectionery is one of biggest food and drink categories in convenience, and the category is the most impulsive, so having strong availability in depot for retailers is crucial.

“Our top tip in depot is to focus on the bestselling lines.

“Beyond that, as part of your wider offer, make sure that you have a range that covers all needs. Single, sharing and gifting confectionery.

“Place bestsellers in high-profile places in depot to make it as easy possible for retailers to shop.

“Use manufacturers’ point of sale material, and don’t forget the basics – keep aisles fully stocked and displays tidy.”

Product news

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    Lunchbox favourite Wagon Wheels are now available in individually wrapped single-serve packs, designed to appeal to on-the-go shoppers in the convenience channel.

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    A sharing bag format of Jaffa Cakes Nibbles is now available to wholesalers, with the long-standing classic reshaped into bite-sized balls of sponge and orange-flavoured jelly.

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    Milkybar Mixups now come in a sharing bag featuring milk and white buttons. This NPD was created in response to increasing demand for Milkybar to introduce a mix of chocolate flavours.

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    Old-school dark chocolate brand Bournville has been modernised with a new giant button format. They’re vegan, so they tap into the trend for animal-produce-free chocolate products.

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    Poppets have been on shelves since 1937 and are enjoying a renaissance with younger shoppers thanks to the introduction of a mint sharing bag format, which appeals to the big night in trade.

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    Boasting a higher cocoa content than its sister line Dairy Milk, Cadbury Darkmilk tablet offers a slightly “more grown-up taste”, parent group Mondelez International says.

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    Suitable for vegetarians, Green & Black’s Praline Milk & Hazelnut bar has a smooth, ethically sourced dark chocolate shell with a milk and hazelnut centre.

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    Ideal for the convenience channel thanks to a £1 price-marked pack, the Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo Sandwich tablet combines traditional British favourites with popular US flavours.

Takeaway points

1. Don’t forget your core range – While new formats and flavours drive excitement, make sure your core lines and brands are consistently available.

2. Have a range that covers all needsFrom big night in shoppers on the hunt for share-size bags to snackers on the go, offer a range that can meet a variety of everyday occasions.

3. Try new formats of old favourites – New styles of established products can help revive sales so try formats such as
big buttons.

4. Price-marked products are key – Price-marked share bags are one of the confectionery market’s biggest success stories in recent years.

5. Go to the dark side – Dark chocolate sales are enjoying a resurgence, so make sure to stock a selection of this type.

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