Despite the reported levelling off in sugar confectionery sales, Perfetti Van Melle remains one of the UK’s top performing sweets manufacturers and a committed partner to wholesalers and independent retailers.

PVM’s confectionery portfolio is one of the strongest in the UK market and includes Chupa Chups, the world’s favourite lollipop, Mentos, the world’s number three candy brand and a top ten confectionery brand, Smint, the UK’s fastest growing mint brand, and Fruittella, one of the fastest growing candy brands and a leader in less sugar and sugar free offerings.

With Public Health England insisting on a 20% sugar consumption reduction by 2020, Perfetti Van Melle is leading the way with its reduced sugar and sugar free ranges, an area where the company has seen very strong growth, including in wholesale.

Mark Roberts, UK Trade Marketing Manager of Perfetti Van Melle, spoke to Wholesale Manager, starting with his job and the company’s mission to support wholesalers.

“I’m responsible for the development of the channel and category vision for our UK brands, with a focus on driving visibility with our principal customers. I also manage and deliver key category and shopper marketing insights to help form a coherent strategy for the growth of Perfetti Van Melle’s business in the confectionery category.

“This strategy includes helping wholesalers and their retail customers unlock confectionery sales across the product categories, as well as bringing out ‘Better for You’ products and tapping into the sales opportunities these represent.

“The wholesale channel is very important to us, and we spend a lot of time visiting customers and providing advice, such as how to merchandise and where to display our products in depot to maximise sales. We also have large format POS, especially created for the wholesale environment, and more recently we have been working with a number of business supporting ECommerce developments, a huge growth area within the sector.

“In terms of manpower we have dedicated Wholesale Account Managers who focus on wholesale customers, ensuring there is specialist knowledge on the sector and a dedicated strategy on how to best support the needs of the customers. This ensures we build mutually beneficial relationships and identify the right support levels for each account.”

The UK sugar confectionery market is in overall decline at a rate of 0.9% annually. Mark Roberts acknowledges this, but is undeterred:

“This position can be attributed to the numerous trends changing the way we live and therefore altering shopper missions in store. Most notably people are now more health conscious, and looking for alternative options.

“At Perfetti Van Melle we are focused on driving growth and differentiation by giving wholesalers and retailers choice; in the last eighteen months we have been expanding our classic sugar, reduced sugar and sugar-free offering with new flavours and formats to meet changing missions and occasions, and help our customers drive sales.”

Following its success with the Sugar Tax on soft drinks, says Mark, the Government now has its sights on achieving the same adjustment in sugar confectionery. “Supported by Public Health England, the government is focusing heavily on obesity and seeking to reduce sugar in our diets, introducing new guidelines to recommend lower calorie snacks and reformulate others to lower sugar content. The guidelines have also been set to reduce sugar consumption in sugar confectionery by 20% by 2020.”

“Reducing sugar like this is not easy, but it’s something we have dedicated a lot of time and effort to doing. Offering consumers an enjoyable product experience is of utmost importance to us, which is why we put our reduced sugar range through rigorous taste tests to ensure we maintain the flavour they love and expect.”

Wholesalers and the retailers they serve need to play their part in supporting PVM’s reduced sugar portfolio, says Mark: “To ensure shoppers identify these products and trial them, it is important for wholesalers, and in turn retailers, to give dedicated space to the ranges to ensure the awareness of availability is there.”

As the healthy living trend gathers momentum, Perfetti Van Melle have brought out three important ‘Better for You’ products in recent months. Smint Xtrm with Menthol and Eucalyptus is the first extra strong menthol power mint on the UK market that is sugar free. “We see mints and gum as a key format,” says Mark, “and Smint is our leading sugar free brand.”

Last year PVM also introduced Fruittella 30% Less Sachets, at only 99 calories per pack, aligning with Public Health England’s guidelines for two 100 calorie snacks per day. The convenient 28g sachets are available in best-selling Strawberry and Summer Fruits flavours, providing a great way for wholesalers to help retailers capitalise on impulse sales at tills. PVM have taken sugar reduction a step further with their Fruittella Fruit Drops, sugar free hard-boiled candies boosted with vitamin C, which come in flip top boxes, ideal as convenient on-the-go treats.

PVM’s best known product of all is Chupa Chups, the world’s first lollipop, which celebrated its sixtieth anniversary last year. A much loved part of millions of people’s childhoods, today Chupa Chups is an internationally-known brand and its iconic wheel is available globally, confirming it as the world’s favourite lollipop.

Even with a brand this successful, PVM believe it is important to keep innovating and bringing new items to the category, says Mark Roberts:

“Halloween is a key time for the Chupa Chups brand, and our Chupa Chups Spooky Pizza and Chupa Chups Skull help retailers create theatre in store. We are intent on exploding the Chupa Chups offering this year, with some exciting NPD tapping into the shopper desire for food and drink to provide new sensations and experiences. Watch this space!”

Another key brand in PVM’s portfolio, Mentos is one of the top ten candy brands in the UK and is a strong performer, helping fulfil the functional refreshment needs of shoppers. PVM brought back their successful Mentos ‘Say Hello’ campaign in 2018, supported by a £2.5m media investment including widespread advertising and POS.

Seasonality is a major factor for PVM’s confectionery sales, says Mark Roberts:

“Christmas is a big occasion for us, especially with our sharing formats as these are perfect for families coming together. However, Halloween is a stronger power period.”

PVM’s research shows that in 2017, 77% of shoppers said that they bought sugar confectionery in the lead up to Halloween, more than purchased in such categories as chocolate. This can be seen in last year’s stats, says Mark; in 2017, Halloween was worth £117m in incremental spend, with confectionery accounting for £94m of these additional sales. PVM’s sales reflected this, with Juicy Chews and Duo Stix Halloween bags growing 79%. This contributed to PVM’s overall 14% growth, which was faster and earlier than the rest of the market.

PVM believe strongly in helping wholesalers and their independent retailer customers to grow their sales, says Mark Roberts:

“Our brands are some of the UK’s most trusted family confectionery products and we offer a wide selection of products to meet the needs of different shoppers, which is vital for boosting retailers’ confectionery sales.

Through our broad range, we also enable retailers to offer consumers choice. Each shopper desires different offerings, so we don’t wish to dictate what they should and shouldn’t buy. It’s this level of choice that has people returning again and again.”

Even with these strong, well established brands in the PVM portfolio, Mark Roberts and colleagues are looking for more sales growth. One clear route is digital technology:

“Online is a huge opportunity for us and an area we have been supporting a number of customers in. The first thing is to ensure the navigational system is as easy as possible to use, and the imagery and information is fit for purpose. If these things aren’t correct, any other activity will be very difficult to make work.”

Finally, the other proven option for growth for a company with PVM’s track record of product development is innovation. There’s plenty to look forward to, says Mark Roberts:

“We’ve got some really exciting new product launches scheduled this year. We will also continue to lead the way in Better for You, emphasising the benefits of our reduced and sugar free offering, alongside our best-selling core products.”

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