Tim Lebel_Mars WrigleyWhen Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S. sought to update an earlier survey conducted by the company on consumer behavior, it did so to see “how Millennials and Baby Boomers experience treats, the role of social media in treating and more.”

When 98 percent of 1,000 Americans surveyed last year said that one can lead a healthy lifestyle and still have a treat, it was comforting to hear that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Moreover, nearly three out of four people (73 percent) indicated that they indulge in treats “just because they want one.”  

Additional bullet points from the survey included the following:

  • Most Americans (53 percent) said that if pressed to choose either chocolate or coffee, they would rather give up coffee.
  • Nearly half of Millennials (47 percent) choose a treat to boost their mood, compared with 36 percent of Gen Xers and 28 percent of Baby Boomers.
  • 42 percent include treats in special occasions, like birthdays or holidays.
  • Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans think a treat is sweeter when shared with a friend.
  • More than one-quarter (28 percent) of Americans bought a treat because they wanted to share a picture of it on social media; 52 percent of Millennials have purchased a treat to share on social media

Candy Industry’s Bernie Pacyniak asked Tim LeBel, Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s president of sales, to add his perspective to some of the insights gleaned.

CI: Given the new data provided, particularly as it applies to sharing, can we foresee more “mini” sizes being rolled out by Mars across all its brands?

TL: There are a few ways we’re meeting consumer demand for more choices from our brands. We are seeing consumers’ preference for options like 100-calorie packs, share size and resealable packaging (these are our fastest growing packaging options across the category) — these choices allow people to treat themselves now and later. Over the last two years we’ve launched 100-calorie bars for Dove, Twix and Snickers to continue to provide consumers with more choices and transparency. We’ve seen a great response from consumers. 

Looking ahead, by 2022, we have pledged that half of our individually wrapped products will be less than 200 calories and will report on our progress to the Partnership for a Healthier America. Treats have been enjoyed for generations, and we believe in providing better, healthier choices alongside all-time favorites.

CI: Some interesting info about Millennials, especially involving social media. How are you approaching “treat-sharing selfies”? Can we expect specific campaigns taking advantage of this phenomenon?

TL: It’s interesting to see that 52 percent of Millennials have purchased a treat because they wanted to share a picture of it on social media. This is one of the many insights that inspired our first ever candy-inspired pop-up salon in New York during Valentine’s Week. We created the “Sweet ReTREAT,” a full experience for our brands – from Instagram-able candy installations and candy-coated mirrors, to free salon treatments and confectionery treats; the pop-up was a fun experience that indulged all the senses.

This overall trend from Millennials as they share their experiences is something we keep in mind when it comes to creating campaigns and even product packaging.

CI: While on Millennials, I found it really interesting that 47 percent choose a treat to boost their mood. What opportunities do you see for your brands with this info?

TL: Treats can not only inspire an improved mood, but they can be a champion of spreading kindness. The 3 Musketeers’ #ThrowShine campaign is a great example of this. The campaign is designed to give young people a chance to spread positivity and good will.

CI: When I see that 53 percent of respondents would rather give up coffee than chocolate, it makes me think why can’t you combine both, as in cold-brew coffee-flavored chocolates, which some companies have? Is that something Mars is looking into?

TL: Coffee-inspired treats are something Mars Wrigley Confectionery has been a big fan of. For example, in 2016 Coffee Nut was the winner of our first Flavor Vote challenge for M&M’S. Some of our other brands incorporate coffee flavors into treats such as Ethel M Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans and Caramel Macchiato Toffee or Chocolate Fudge Coffee from The Cocoa Exchange. [Editor’s Note: M&M’S is launching three brand-new, limited-edition flavors with its second Flavor Vote campaign, one of which is Crunchy Espresso. The other two are Crunchy Raspberry and Crunchy Mint, all of which will be available April 1].

CI: When we talk about a healthy lifestyle and treating, organic confections and better-for-you ingredient labels come to mind. Is that a niche Mars could eventually play in?

TL: Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S. knows that consumers and retailers are demanding even greater choice, seeking more variety across a range of formats, calories and price options. That’s one of the reasons why we introduced a new product hitting squarely on this demand for more options in the health and wellness space — goodnessKNOWS snack squares, a delicious and amazingly satisfying snack.

CI: When it comes to recent trends, rewarding oneself parallels permissible indulgence. At the same time, it seems each one could have its own product set. Do you agree?

TL: There are many ways someone can treat themselves or another, depending on their mood. For example, when I’m looking for something refreshing I reach for one of our gum or mint products, such as Altoids and Extra. But when I want a satisfying treat, I’ll have a Snickers. We’re also seeing growth in giftable products and packaging, as more people look to gift treats with friends and loved ones. 

CI:  As a Baby Boomer, I’m having issues with one stat that shows up on the survey, that Millennials are more likely to consider brand loyalty that Baby Boomers? Does a proclivity for social media amongst Millennials skew that statistic? And if the survey is correct, how is Mars addressing a lack of brand loyalty among Boomers?

TL: Our treats have been enjoyed for over 100 years and we are very fortunate to have fans across all generations. What you’re saying about social media and Millennials sounds like an accurate assumption – it could be possible that Millennials think about brand loyalty in terms of who they would follow on social media, which differs from Boomers. Based on our Treat Report findings, Baby Boomers prioritize taste and price when purchasing a treat and are loyal to many of our iconic brands.

CI: Finally, back to sharing and “throwing shine,” as was the case with the 3 Musketeers bar. Given today’s climate, do you see a need for more such campaigns?

TL: The #ThrowShine campaign is a wonderful example of how we can leverage the power of our brands to create a platform that inspires change. With 3 Musketeers, we see the campaign inspire an environment of positivity. We’ve also seen some of our other brands inspire action in different ways – such as our M&M’S Fans of Wind campaign to engage consumers on how renewable energy can counteract climate change. This is something you might see more of from Mars Wrigley Confectionery in the future.