Mintel research shows optimism for confectionery market gains in 2022
While the pandemic continues to impact confectionery trends, there’s hope for revival this year, as Neill Barston finds speaking to Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight, food and drink, at Mintel
After originally gaining her qualifications in archaeology, Marcia Mogelonsky could easily have enjoyed a career within the academic world in shining a light on our distant past.
However, fate intervened in steering her towards a path that would lead first to working within magazines before taking up a role with global research organisation Mintel. For over two decades she has placed her energy and enquiry mind into exploring some of the major trends shaping our global food and drink sector (see our exclusive video interview with Marcia here).
As she explains to Confectionery Production, it’s been a rewarding and engaging experience, casting a keen eye over the nuances of markets that are ever evolving in their nature. Clearly, she notes the events of the past two years have proved especially notable for many segments, particularly within sweets and snacks markets, which have shown notable changes.
While there’s been a much-documented shift towards better-for-you and wellbeing and better-for-you segments product ranges, as Marcia reveals, one of the most tangible factors has come in how people are actually doing their shopping for treats. “The big thing that has happened within confectionery in the pandemic is that it has killed spontaneity – the category is such a spontaneous one as people are out and about and suddenly think ‘I feel like having a chocolate or candy bar and you’d wander into a store or boutique and it’s just there, based on impulse purchasing.
“But in most markets that has been clamped down with pandemic restrictions on stores opening, and when we’ve now been allowed to, it’s been a case of getting in and out of shops as fast as possible,” explains the US-based senior analyst. Consequently, she notes that the knock-on effect of the retail disruption has seen a lot of specialist confectionery store closures directly because of the ongoing pandemic.
As she notes, boutique stores such as Hotel Chocolat have felt the pressure of reduced footfall in their stores, though as reported this week, the UK-founded business, as well as many other premium retailers have adapted their operating models to offer a greater range of product online and significantly boosted their online presence in the past two pandemic-hit years in order to drive sales.
Furthermore, another key area that the pandemic has influenced has been that of actual product innovation, which took a notable knock amid the ongoing pandemic. Noting this trend, Marcia explains that international data between December 2019-Dec 2020 showed that global levels of product launches for chocolate fell 2% during the period, with companies in many instances opting to focus on core ranges rather than risk the uncertainties of bringing new lines to market with a disrupted retail space. She noted that results produced a notable degree of variation around the world, with Brazilian and UK markets reportedly shown a drop in innovative product designs.
This included declines in results for key the seasonal period surrounding Easter, though there were encouraging signs that Halloween 2021 saw an improved picture for the market, with launches up 40%, as consumers gradually return to stores. This was especially the case within the US market, which has been a particular strongpoint for the industry.
“Halloween launches were actually up hugely, as this came at the end of the lockdown period. In 2020, there was nothing, as nobody wanted to go trick-or-treating, but in 2021, it just exploded, as everyone just had this urge to get out there again, especially in the US, which is the biggest market.”
Notably, the start of 2022 has seen a global pattern of countries moving away from lockdown measures, meaning a greater array of opportunities for retailers, and renewed marketing activity surrounding products with an emphasis on sharing within an enhanced amount of social gatherings.
On the topic of wellbeing and better-for-you categories, which have delivered a significant volume of growth in the past few years, she noted that there had been mixed results. While there have been some high-profile launches on an international level, consumer response to such categories has not always been as receptive to the prospect of reduced sugar, particularly within chocolate categories.
Marcia added: “Wellbeing is important, but the attitude that I have seen from consumers in the US, the UK and in Europe is ‘not in my backyard’ – take the sugar out of anything else, but not my candy. They would rather eat less full-sugar ranges than eat reduced sugar options,” noting that consumer studies on whether such series of confectionery were considered as being popular with the public had yielded negative results. As she explained, this was founded on a basic belief that people were not confident that reduced sugar options could offer same taste or flavour profile as conventional product series.
She added that despite such seeming barriers to development of this segment, Marcia noted that there had been instances of manufacturers persisting in delivering products for the healthier-option category.
“For those that are creating these products, the mention the sugar reduction in tiny lettering on the packaging. What they have to do instead is push the taste and flavour experience, and say, ‘by the way, you’re not getting as much sugar,” added the analyst, who said that the broader category had been further enhanced with additional growth seen within chocolate products designed for the vegan market that are plant-milk based.
In terms of her wider outlook, Marcia added that there had been some considerable positivity surrounding the return of Sweets and Snacks Expo in the summer of 2021, after it was cancelled in 2022 due to the pandemic. As she noted, “it felt like the original Wizard of Oz where everything went from being black and white, into colour,” such was the wave of optimism surrounding the return to live events last summer after an enforced absence.
“I’m always upbeat about chocolate confectionery and sugar confectionery as well. I have seen some interesting products that give me hope that there will be a lot more creativity in the market – my favourite I’ve seen lately was sun dried tomatoes used in chocolate, which is something I’ve never seen before,” enthuses the analyst on the complex global market as it continues to find its feet as we move further into 2022.