Over the last few years, the market for sugar confectionery, chewing gum and mints has experienced mixed fortunes, with some sectors benefiting from innovation (ie chewing gum), while the wider market has seen a more sluggish performance.
Sales of sugar confectionery and gum are increasingly being influenced by the healthier lifestyles that are slowly being adopted by British adults and children. Consequently, consumption of many sugar and gum lines is stable at best, and at worst is seeing a decline in retail sales. While interest in premium and, more recently, higher-quality, ie natural, products have helped boost sales, the sector is faced with a series of challenges that will require radical thinking if they are to be overcome.
The market for sugar confectionery and gum has seen sales growth of an estimated 7% between 2004-09, which is equivalent to an 11% decrease when inflation is removed. This is despite manufacturers re-focusing their activities to stimulate interest from consumers.
Innovation has been a crucial area, and was instrumental in revitalising the fortunes of the chewing gum market in 2007. Elsewhere, in segments such as gums and jellies, the rollout of new products and flavours has proved equally successful. Overall, however, the market has not performed as strongly as competitors such as chocolate confectionery or ‘healthier’ snacks such as cereal bars.
Health concerns remain an important factor, with a growing number of consumers trying to eat more healthily. While this is leading to strong sales for rival products, such as cereal bars, it is also helping to stimulate innovation within sugar confectionery. Sugar-free confectionery products have made steady progress in the market, and there has been a growth in the use of natural flavourings and removal of artificial ingredients.
In terms of distribution, convenience is at the heart of many sugar confectionery and gum purchases, with the importance of the grocery multiples assuring their prominence as the main channel. These outlets command some 44% of all sales.
The impulse nature of the product is also significant, benefiting outlets such as petrol station forecourts, which command a further 13% of sales.
Mintel’s exclusive research illustrates how the love affair between consumers and sugar confectionery and gum may be in decline. Even amongst children (aged 7-10) heavy consumption is dropping back.
Despite this, confectionery remains popular with a wide swathe of the adult population, with particular age groups showing peaks in their preference for particular products, for example, women and under-45s for sweets, under-25s for gum and over-64s for mints.
There is a close association between travelling/driving and eating sweets – some six in ten adults eat sweets on a journey, which could provide more opportunities for impulse purchasing before an outing. Watching TV or attending the cinema or a sports game are also occasions when people like to eat sweets, also highlighting potential for sharing packs – more than two fifths of adults like to share sweets with friends or family.
However, when it comes to chewing gum and mints, oral hygiene is much more to the fore. Freshening breath is the primary benefit or reason to use (for seven in ten adults), followed by cleansing the palate or cleaning teeth.
Looking to the future, growth to 2014 is forecast to be less strong than in the past for the sugar confectionery sector.
Meanwhile, innovation in chewing gum which helped to rejuvenate what was a stagnant market in 2007, is expected to grow most strongly up to 2014. Mints are in serious decline as they have an older user base that is giving up sweets as they pay more attention to their health.