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Candy And Snacks: What’s In Store For Independent Retailers?

NCA Sweets and Snacks show

Last updated on February 7th, 2024 at 11:13 am

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In preparation for the upcoming Sweets & Snacks show, Anne-Marie Roerink discusses what issues and challenges are important to independent retailers and what topics they can expect to see featured at the show.

Roerink is the president of 210 Analytics, LLC, a marketing/research company specializing in food retailing. Roerink authors NCA’s flagship State of Treating series and the rotating report series on chocolate consumers, candy consumers and seasonal confectionery consumers.  

Anne-Marie Roerink
Anne-Marie Roerink

Working closely with retailers, manufacturers and trade associations, Roerink has developed an excellent perspective on the ever-changing wants and needs of the grocery shopper in a one-size-fits-no-one world.

What are the current challenges and opportunities for independent retailers? 

The biggest challenge is the ongoing pressure on income, which isn’t unique to independent retailers. While the rate of inflation has moderated throughout 2023, current food and beverage prices are much higher than pre-pandemic. Combined with everything else that has become more expensive, many consumers are making changes to how they shop. This includes the amounts they buy and what and where they shop. Price and promotions have become much more important and everyday value formats are reaping the benefits.  

That said, the current market is not a race to the bottom, and there are many reasons why consumers are willing to spend more. The top three are 1) holidays and celebrations, 2) personal indulgence and 3) brands that have earned their loyalty. For this reason, confectionery and snacks have a unique advantage. This explains why chocolate, candy and snack items have experienced very strong sales over the last few years.  

Holidays and celebrations 

When charting out the 52 weeks of sales for either confectionery or snacks, you’ll see a surge in sales surrounding major holidays like Valentine’s Day, Super Bowl, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, etc. Retailers can use the opportunity by leveraging great merchandising, secondary displays and online platforms like social media. There are also opportunities to create promotions and merchandising strategies around smaller, secondary holidays like Memorial and Labor Day, National Potato Chip Day (March 14) or National Candy Month (June). Shoppers love seeing displays that combine chips and dip or candies in red, white and green next to gingerbread houses. These types of solutions can drive an extra item in the cart.  

Personal Indulgence 

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the definition of health and well-being evolve. Just five years ago, well-being focused on physical health and nutrition. But as interest in self-care has surged, consumers have become more likely to weigh physical health and emotional well-being equally. My latest research shows 95 percent of Americans agree that physical health and emotional well-being are interwoven. This is another space where chocolate and candy, in particular, thrive. When consumers are asked about the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word “candy”, top associations are yummy, a treat, celebrations and fun.  

Independent retailers have a great opportunity to bring that fun to the in-store or online shopping experience. When visiting Jungle Jim’s in Ohio, the store had a giant display by the entrance with candies from dozens of countries worldwide. Ingles showcased candies, nuts and other snacks from local candy makers, and Dorothy Lane had a large assortment of their famous Killer Brownies on display for a snack or gifting tin. It’s these kinds of delights that provide shoppers with the opportunity to treat themselves.  


Despite private label brands making deep inroads in many stores, confectionery and snacks still carry strong brand loyalty. Childhood nostalgia creates an almost unbreakable bond between shoppers and beloved brands. Candy and snacks are also categories where consumers are willing to explore the latest product innovation. Independent retailers can leverage the power of brands to catch consumers’ eyes in-store and online.  

NCA Sweets and Snacks show

Candy and snacks have been high-performing categories for many retailers. How can we get the most out of them? 

Candy and snacks are categories that have unique incrementality. Confectionery, especially seasonal confectionery, can prompt spontaneous purchases. Independent retailers who leverage endcaps, secondary displays and the checkout lane are likely to see increases in average cart size. Incremental purchases make the big snack displays during the Super Bowl or Halloween worth the effort. These are key opportunities for retailers to test products at a more aggressive price point and sell at full value throughout the year.  

With shoppers so focused on value, how important is innovation for retailer assortment right now?

There is a reason why the Sweets & Snacks Expo, the candy and snack industries’ largest trade event, has grown significantly over the last five years. As retailers realize the opportunity these categories provide, they are making a larger investment in products and trends that align with shopper preferences. While each category has a few big sellers that make up a large part of sales, hundreds of smaller brands represent a smaller but important piece of the sales curve. 

That’s what makes the candy and snack aisles so exciting: you can find your favorites and browse for new options. Recent research found parents often purchase different types of candy for themselves than they do for their children. The difference may be chocolate versus candy or sweet versus sour. The options in confectionery are diverse and can accommodate any taste preference. For independents, these options – including emerging brands – allow for differentiation.  

The other opportunity lies in the seasonality of candy and snacks. While a wide assortment may be a challenge for some independents, having limited-time offerings can inspire and delight shoppers by creating a scavenger-hunt environment that features new items throughout the year. 

NCA Sweets and Snacks show

Any category or retail predictions? What trends do retailers need to focus on in 2024? 

Looking at the recent trend lines, we will likely see unit/volume pressure going into 2024. But the good news is that consumer demand is still strong, and we should see trendlines moving in the right direction. Providing various pack sizes can be a strong option for 2024. I also suspect we will see a continued focus on more frequent and aggressive promotions.  

Where can retailers get started if they’re interested in maximizing candy and snack sales? 

Candy and snacks provide a unique opportunity for independent retailers to differentiate, delight, and convert. In addition to finding locally produced items, independent grocers should attend Sweets & Snacks Expo to discover the latest and greatest innovations. Having attended myself in the past few years, I always discover items with new ingredients and flavors, both domestic and international. It’s amazing to watch these new trends appear. Sweets & Snacks Expo is where they’re first discovered.  

I’ve also noticed that innovation in candy and snacks is a preview to flavor and ingredient change in other categories, like bakery. Sweets & Snacks is a great place to see what’s on the horizon. There’s Inspiration galore, and that’s what we need to prompt new ideas and shoppers’ interest. 

What is the Sweets & Snacks Expo? Where can I learn more? 

Sweets & Snacks Expo is the premier business-to-business event for the confectionery and snack industries. It was specially designed for retailers and distributors and is unrivaled in new product launches, business-building solutions, and innovations in merchandising. Sweets & Snacks features the latest and greatest in the candy and snack industries. The show will be held May 14-16 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Don’t skip the pre-show day, May 13, for the Most Innovative New Product Awards Ceremony and the Supplier Showcase, a chance for attendees to see innovations in packaging, machinery, ingredients and more.

Read more snacks news from The Shelby Report.

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