Bulk Up

Cleanliness has got to be bulk candy’s middle name.
As a $1.1 billion market with 40 to 45 percent margins, bulk candy still hasn’t realized its full potential yet, according to category experts. Its two major sales inhibitors — lack of availability and consumers’ hygiene concerns. A retailer’s mission must be to resolve these issues — and watch sales bulk up.
The Imperatives
Of course, many retailers don’t make bulk candy available to their customers because of the (lack of) freshness perception. But those who are successful in the category know that retailers who shy away from it are looking at it all wrong. It’s up to the retailer to position freshness as an asset rather than a liability.
The aging population is predicted to be a major force in the future of bulk candy. Many older consumers don’t want to buy “family size” bags of candy. Rather they want to pick and choose how much they buy. Bulk allows them to control the purchase, in variety and price. This will become more of an issue with the aging population because of their reduced household spending and/or diet restrictions. (Many say they would rather have a little of the real thing, rather than a bag of “diet” candy.)
Quality display manufacturers are ready with solutions for retailers to keep the department pristine. Portion control gravity bins are designed with a tight lid seal to ensure product freshness and to keep bugs out. Some also offer a UV light-block to keep nutrients intact and food fresh. Other systems allow for automatic product rotation — with first-in, first-out flow of product. One such system resembles a merry-go-round and enables bulk candy to be displayed with a minimum amount of square footage space because of its circular nature. The point is that even stores with clean store policies can creatively merchandise bulk candy.
Bulk candy should be a fun, positive experience for shoppers. Many companies are working on trying to put the fun back into it — especially now that shoppers are getting more accustomed to servicing themselves thanks to the proliferation of self-checkout lanes. Many believe the future of bulk lies in developing greater interactivity with the consumer.

Merchandising Musts

Consider a perimeter location.
The produce department is a good option. Shoppers buy bulk candy the same way they buy produce — choose the quantity they want, weigh it, and put it in a bag. Consumers associate produce with product freshness — so if bulk is on the perimeter with it, consumers are more apt to make a logical connection between the two and ultimately help the store achieve the best sales results.
Frequently rotate and keep it pristine.  
Retailers must make sure the bulk department is frequently merchandised and perfectly pristine to gain the most from the category. Cleanliness is a real driver for bulk candy. The best way to keep it in tip-top shape is to have a store employee dedicated to the section. That person should be responsible for cleaning it, keeping it full, rotating products and eliminating slow sellers. Some successfully go with an outside source, but experts say bulk candy is much more successful if the retailer has a person at the store level that specifically takes care of it.
Sample it.  
Especially for retailers who are just embarking on the category, in-store product sampling has proven to be one of the best promotional strategies for bulk candy. It lets the customer experience first-hand how freshness can enhance the shopper’s candy enjoyment.