There have been so many “new normals” over the years that Mintel has retired the phrase. After COVID-19 there won’t be a “new normal” there will be a “next normal.”

That’s according to Marcia Mogelonsky, Director of Insight at Mintel, who recently discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the confectionery industry during a Candy Industry Webinar, “State of the Industry: Challenges Facing the Industry as the Pandemic Lingers.”

“At Mintel, we're tired of talking about the new normal because the new normal is old,” she explains. “We've already done this new normal. We did the new normal in 2009, remember? We did the new normal in 2012. How many ‘news’ can you have? What we really have is the next normal. And the next normal after that. Because things are going to keep on changing.”

The virus, and what happened with it, is a moving landscape. 

But that doesn’t mean confectionery companies can be prepared to navigate it. And some of the data Mogelonsky shared during the webinar can help. 

According to Mintel’s latest research, which ended Aug. 4, 55 percent of U.S. adults over 18 are still limiting the time they spend in store. And while that’s down from the April 24 data showing 67 percent limiting time in store, it’s still more than half. 

“They're in and out as fast as possible,” Mogelonsky said. “No one is comfortable spending extra time in stores. Everybody is masked, everybody's nervous. Everybody's following the dots on the ground to make sure they go in the right direction. And everybody has their eyes open to see if someone else isn't following the rules.”

Mintel’s Aug. 4 data also showed that 44 percent of shoppers were still shopping more online. 

“People are still relying online to make sure they've got what they need, when they need it and that they don't have to go out in public.” Mogelonsky explained. 

So what does this mean for the industry? Well, one of the major concerns is that the new shopping behaviors have drastically limited the opportunities for sampling. 

As one of the presentation slides explains:

“Even after months of lockdowns and the potential for multiple waves of infection, some consumers are leery about exposing themselves to germs. And this fear manifests itself in a number of behaviors, including a reluctance to handle or touch products in-store.

For categories such as chocolate confectionery, which thrive on sampling, "fear of trying" will be a challenge, and will slow down the uptake of new flavors and textures.

And the same is true for sugar confectionery; new launches will face challenges by missing the attention of consumers who are attracted by new packages, shapes, and flavors.”

“The sampling is a big thing in the industry that we have to find a way around,” Mogelonsky said. “How do you get more samples to people without making them commit to something they're afraid of not liking?”

She did share some possibilities in another slide, which said: 

“Sampling could rely on the internet: offering free samples of new products through company or third-party websites. 

It could also rely on checkout areas of supermarkets, or work with foodservice outlets to include samples along with food orders. 

And given the preponderance of food appearing in other channels, from office supply stores to garden outlets, there are other opportunities to team up there as well.”

"Candy is everywhere, chocolate is everywhere and the mission is to find a way to get it to the consumer," Mogelonsky explained.

View the entire webinar for free OnDemand anytime on the Candy Industry website. During the presentation Mogelonsky also shared insights into the upcoming holiday season, Staycation product ideas, and the quartermaster mentality that’s inspiring shoppers to stock up on products.