Sweets are not just a perfect idea for a gift, an expression of feelings, or to share with your loved ones, but also a way to get into a good mood and have a little selfish moment of pleasure – just for yourself. For an occasion and with no occasion – what do confectionery manufacturers propose?
Consumer behaviour in sweet categories is characterized by high dynamics. On the one hand, we bet on traditional delicacies, such as chocolates or cookies; on the other hand, we are willing to taste innovative products. Most respondents declaring consumption of confectionery usually choose such products as chocolates (91.3%), cookies (89.0%), candy bars (81.7%), chocolate sweets (79.7%), and wafers (78.1%)1. According to a survey conducted by SW Research, a high percentage of respondents eat confectionery at least from time to time (83.6%). Low-sugar confectionery, in turn, is consumed by almost a half of the survey (47.8%). Therefore, a significant difference between the percentage of people consuming “conventional” sweets and low-sugar ones can still be seen (at a level of 36 pp.).
Above all, confectionery means pleasure in consumption. However, in view of the growing awareness of Polish consumers, increasing attention is paid to simple product composition. The so-called clean label is becoming a reality and “unnecessary” additives are less and less often encountered on confectionery packages.
The origin and manner of acquisition of the ingredients are also becoming important to the consumer, especially in the category of chocolate confectionery – cocoa is under scrutiny.
In spite of the obvious reason we buy sweets, more and more consumers still look for healthier variants: with a simple composition, no sugar additives or preservatives. The confectionery categories are also affected by vegan and vegetarian trends. Consumers are interested in such products as vegan milk chocolate, there are also more and more soft sweets based on gelatin made from ingredients of plant origin.
Another trend observed on the confectionery market is interesting taste combinations, especially sweet with salty. A trend already noticed some time ago is the so-called multi-sensory sensations during consumption, which means a product should include several different consistencies.
The category of chocolate confectionery is constantly undergoing transformation in response to consumer needs and expectations. The analysis of data from the Global New Products Database (GNPD) kept by Mintel shows that over the last three years until October 2022, the leading statements among global new products were those from the group of ethical and environmental ones, with emphasis on sustainable resources/living environment (33%) and wellbeing of the human factor (33% as well). The next place was held by environmentally friendly products (30%). Honorata Jarocka, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, stresses that this kind of positioning is consistent with the trends perceivable comprehensively in the category of food and beverages, and also responds to the growing consumer awareness in business ethics and environmental responsibility.
Consumer data for the Polish market show that the ethical dimension has become an important topic for the category of chocolate confectionery. In spite of high confidence in leading producers, many consumers are inclined to change their shopping preferences in view of unethical actions by their favourite brands.
“Packaging remains a noteworthy issue in terms of environmental responsibility. The Mintel data show that 53% respondents in Poland demonstrate readiness to pay more for chocolate in environmentally friendly packaging. Thus, both ethical and pro-environmental actions are an important direction in building the added value which, apart from the price advantage itself – extremely important in the context of the growing costs of living – also applies to non-price advantages fitting in with the code of the consumers’ personal convictions. This also means a significant possibility of growth for private labels which, as a rule, offer greater affordability and, as a part of competitive advantage, may engage with increasing intensity in campaigns regarding ethics and sustainable development. Importantly, more than one third (34%) of Polish consumers reveal they will buy more private-label products in view of the growing prices,” – summarizes Honorata Jarocka, Mintel.
A Time Full of Challenges
The times of the pandemic are certainly what everyone would rather like to forget, especially that there are new considerable challenges ahead; yet, summing up the confectionery market in 2022, the pandemic cannot be omitted, as it has also significantly affected the last twelve months. In the pandemic periods, consumers tended to choose well-known products under proven brands, limiting their openness to experimenting and purchasing of new goods. Under the new shopping model, customers would do bigger shopping, for the future, buying confectionery in larger, family and economic packages, whereas impulse confectionery slightly declined in importance. But as soon as we observed no significant pandemic restrictions, in 2022, consumers returned to the impulse offer, and their interest in new products and single formats increased as well.
After the pandemic-related difficulties on the market, the industry had to face new challenges. Positive market predictions currently clash with a range of economic difficulties both local and global in nature. Only over the last year, dairy products have gone up by almost 80%, and sugar today is twice as expensive as the year before.
A Sweet Future
The difficulties connected with the current economic situation omit no branch of business – according to analysts’ predictions, the global chocolate confectionery market will continue its stable development, growing by several percent annually. In Poland, it is predicted that chocolate confectionery consumption will increase by 0.5 kg per capita over the next 5 years. Domestic producers are still appreciated abroad – this year, Poland has maintained the 4th position worldwide among the greatest chocolate exporters – as we can read in this year’s “Global and Polish Chocolate Market” report published by Wedel.
What is the future of the chocolate industry? Do Polish sweets have their enthusiasts in the farthest corners of the world as well? As shown by the “Global and Polish Chocolate Market” report, Euromonitor predicts a stable growth in the value of the global chocolate confectionery market by approx. 5-6% annually during 2023-20272. Apart from the obvious effect of the inflation, a major driving force behind this category will be, among other things, new goods introduced by producers, as well as the forecasted increase (year-on-year) in consumption of chocolate confectionery. Euromonitor estimates that Polish people currently consume an average of 5.7 kg of chocolate confectionery per capita, yet this value is supposed to rise to 6.2 kg by 20273. The ceiling of 6 kilograms per capita will be exceeded in 2025. Despite the decrease in the purchasing power of Poles and the lesser inclination for purchases, confectionery still remains an important part of the shopping basket. Simultaneously, it is worth stressing that the Polish chocolate market is mature and saturated – in this context, export provide an opportunity for development of the market players. The more pleasing is the fact that Poland has maintained its previous year’s high 4th position in the ranking of the world’s greatest chocolate exporters. This evidence of the perfect quality of Polish chocolate products and the producers’ accurate response to diverse consumer needs and preferences in the farthest corners of the world.
The best occasion to give presents to your loved ones is, of course, holidays. They begin with the search for gifts. Among them, miscellaneous sweets can surely be a perfect present, capable of giving the recipient a moment of pleasure and joy.
The category of packaged confectionery includes, among other things, chocolate bars, pralines, cookies, candy and cooled bars, croissants, muffins and cakes, as well as candy, chewing gums, gummies and foams, or all kinds of confectionery with toys. “We can find them in smaller and larger stores alike, but of most importance here is the channel of discount stores, accounting for more than half of purchased packages in the category. Almost every third package is bought at small-format stores with an area up to 300 m2 (approx. 13%), whereas the least packages are purchased in supermarkets of 301-2500 m2 or hypermarkets (approx. 6%).
In small-format stores, the category of packaged confectionery has recorded a 16% growth in the value of sales over the last 12 months (MAT 09/2022) in comparison with the previous period. Apart from the increase of the value of sales, an increase in the number of sold packages by approx. 9% can be noticed as well,” says Ilona Mazurek, Data Analyst at CMR.
In the Christmas period, products particularly gaining on the value of sales include pralines, chocolates, gingerbread, and chocolate figurines. A consumer reaching for chocolate in December can choose from an average of 30 variants at a price of approx. PLN 4.8 per packaging. “The most frequently chosen chocolates are those under the Milka brand manufactured by Mondelez, as well as Wedel. Chocolate in bars prove to be not just a perfect gift to loved ones but also an excellent ingredient of holiday baking. The most popular options with a weight of up to 100 g include the Kinder Chocolate Milk variant in 50 g and 100 g cardboard packages, as well as 100 g Milka Alpine Milk, whereas the larger version, above 100 g, is represented by Milka Oreo at 300 g, Alpen Gold Nussbeisser in a 220 g package, or Milka Toffe Wholenut at 300 g,” Ilona Mazurek stresses.
Particularly noteworthy in this period is gingerbread: the number of packages sold can be more than 2.5 times higher than in the spring and summer season. However, this category is not available in all small-format stores up to 300 m2, only in 3/4 of them. In December, such stores offered approx. 5 variants to choose from, at an average price of PLN 4.1 per package.
Some of the confectionery types mentioned above are particularly prevalent in the gift categories. Pralines record peak sales by packaging in December, surpassing the level achieved in the months of St. Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. As CMR states, the offer of pralines is definitely richer in comparison with gingerbread; in December, we will find an average of 18 different variants in small-format stores, of which 7 belong to the chocolate box subcategory. “Deciding to buy pralines, a consumer incurs an average cost of PLN 13.1 per packaging, and the most frequent choices include the brands: E.Wedel Ptasie Mleczko, Ferrero Raffaello, and Toffifee (Storck),” the Data Analyst adds.
In the holiday context, it is also worth mentioning chocolate figurines, particularly enjoyed by the youngest consumers. They gain on popularity twice a year; in the form of Santa Claus, a snowman, or a bear in the Christmas period, and shaped like bunnies, lambs, chicks or eggs around Easter. As in the case of gingerbread, we can encounter the category of chocolate figurines in December in 3/4 of small-format stores up to 300 m2, and we can choose from an average of 5 different available products. The average price of a figurine is PLN 2.2 per package and usually applies to the lower weight of 30-60 g.
“The last 12 months have served us a lot of interesting new products. On store shelves, we find such things as new chocolate bar variants of standard weight: Milka Oreo Strawberry 92 g, but also higher-weight versions: Milka Mmmax Nutty Choco Wafer 270 g and E.Wedel – strawberry-filled milk chocolate at 290 g. The offer of pralines has expanded as well to include a new variant of Toffifee; White Chocolate 125 g,” sums up Ilona Mazurek from CMR.
An important occasion
Although we need not look at the calendar to find reasons to please ourselves with a sweet delicacy, the calendar often defines dates special to the Polish people. The most important occasions, following the holidays, are Grandmother’s and Grandfather’s Day, St. Valentine’s Day, International Women’s Day, Men’s Day, and many others, only available in Polish calendars. There are also occasions that cannot be planned: a first date, an apology, a visit to friends – each of these moments are a perfect pretext to present some sweets that will improve special moments.
An important category in stores
Confectionery is a large category in small-format stores up to 300 m2. In terms of sales value, it occupies the fourth position after alcohol, tobacco products, and beverages.
Such a considerable number of products are due to the fact that confectionery is a large and extensive category. It includes products for children, for special occasions, for holidays, or for presents. There are chocolate and grain products, those which can be eaten right after exiting the store, and those better suited for a meeting with friends. A consumer will encounter the largest selection among cookies: about 50 types. More than 20 types will be found among chocolates and candy bars, and more than 10 may be chosen among impulse wafers, chewing gums, jellies and foams, as well as pralines. At the other extreme, there are such categories as fudge, flavoured jellies, or sesame seed bars. Here, on average, a consumer will find less than 2 variants.
The categories with the highest number of available variants coincide with those with the highest sales value. In this regard, the top 3 confectionery types are cookies, candy bars, and chocolates, with share values amounting to 18%, 13%, and 12%, respectively (in the first half of 2022). Regarding the number of packages sold, the ranking of the largest categories will change. The highest number of packages sold is accounted for by chocolate candy bars (17%), cookies dropped to the second position (15%), third is occupied by impulse wafers (15%). The following places are held by chocolates (8%) and chewing gums (7%).
As important occasions approach, shop shelves definitely have a wider offer of confectionery in occasional packages. The nearest occasions determine the selection of the appropriate assortment, with a view to general preferences of a wide range of consumers, but also taking into account the preferences of regular customers of a given trade establishment. A necessary element affecting the product rotation is proper exposure related to the approaching holidays, be it Christmas or other dates important to the Polish people. It is also worth paying attention to the impulse zone and to single-type packages which have made a comeback after the times of the pandemic.
Monika Górka, Deputy Editor-in-Chief