Interview With a New Consumer

Confectioner’s exclusive 2004 Annual Chocolate/Candy Purchasing Survey reveals that the shifting diets of consumers are altering their needs for treats. Are you taking notes?
The winds of change have touched down on the candy consumer. And much like with Mother Nature, they can be both delightful and damaging. Changing diets, health concerns, nutritional information demands, childhood obesity, channel blurring, diabetes, and portion control — these are just some of the recent factors influencing the purchasing behavior in the candy industry.
The findings emerged this spring when — in search of a more accurate market map and forecast — Confectioner magazine commissioned an online research survey on consumers’ attitudes and behaviors relative to chocolate and non-chocolate confections. The following are some of the highlights from our nationally representative survey.
Before proceeding further with our findings, it should be emphasized that this is an attitude and perception survey. There are occasions when consumers’ perception of their purchasing behavior does not match with sales statistics from authoritative sources including Information Resources Inc. and ACNielsen. That is because consumers are reporting what they perceive their behavior to be, not necessarily what it actually is.
- The study shows that 93 percent of consumers purchased chocolate (defined as “products containing chocolate”) and 72 percent purchased non-chocolate candy (defined as “does not contain chocolate”) in the past six months. Among carb-counting consumers surveyed, 86 percent bought chocolate since November — more than the number of carb-counters who purchased low-carb foods in that timeframe.
In the past month, 81 percent of consumer survey participants purchased chocolate; 59 percent purchased non-chocolate candy. Three of four consumers treated themselves to chocolate in the past week; of those buying in the past week, 27 percent said they ate chocolate yesterday.
- Chocolate has an extremely high incidence of impulse purchasing — 44 percent. The data shows that 56 percent of people living alone say they purchase chocolate on impulse; 37 percent of food shoppers caring for a family of five or more buy chocolate on impulse. Higher incomes negatively affect impulse chocolate spending — 54 percent of survey participants with household income less than $45,000 purchase chocolate on impulse; among households with income over $75,000, an impulse buy occurs 40 percent of the time. (It should be noted that these figures represent consumers’ perception of their impulse purchases. Industry figures show significantly higher actual impulse purchase percentages, but many times a shopper doesn’t recognize that, in fact, in-store merchandising triggered their purchase.)
- Non-chocolate candy, too, has an extremely high incidence of impulse purchasing — 45 percent. The data show that 67 percent of people living alone say they purchase candy on impulse; 42 percent of families with five or more members report buying candy on impulse.
- Most respondents say they are spending about the same or more on chocolate and non-chocolate. Eight percent of consumers say they are spending more on chocolate in 2004 compared with 2003. Among people ages 35-44, 13 percent say they are spending more on chocolate this year versus last. Overall, 76 percent report spending about the same on chocolate, but 15 percent are spending less. Of the carb-counting consumers, 19 percent say they are spending less on chocolate this year.
“Increased cravings” was the main reason consumers said they were purchasing more chocolate. One in four said a feeling of prosperity motivated them, and one in five mentioned the health benefits of chocolate. For those who have curbed their chocolate consumption, health concerns were the main reason why.
As for non-chocolate candy, overall 9 percent of consumers are spending more this year (mostly buying treats for children). A total of 76 percent are spending the same on non-chocolate candy in 2004 as they did in 2003, and 15 percent have decreased their non-chocolate candy spending— motivated by health concerns.
- One in four consumers believes that people deserve a candy bar every day. Among carb-counters, only 17 percent believe this is a daily-deserve. In addition, 38 percent of carb-counters are eating more sugar-free chocolate/candy than they did a year ago. Among other consumers, 10 percent have increased their consumption of sugar-free confectionery. Overall, 11 percent of survey respondents said they are on a strict low-carb diet.