January is quickly drawing to a close, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to look at a few trends that are expected to shape consumer behavior this year.
In its latest report — “Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2018” — Euromonitor International narrowed its projections to 10 specific trends and types of consumers expected to emerge or gain strength this year.
Technology will continue to play a role, the research firm says, pointing to improvements in virtual and augmented reality systems and devices, DNA testing kits and social media. Shoppers are also expected to seek products and brands that promote wellness, transparency and sustainability.
“Overall, 2018 will see consumers continuing to question their values, priorities and purchasing decisions; deepening their engagement in the brands and issues that matter to them,” the report reads.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but the report’s worth reading, no matter which industry you involved with. For the sake of our readers, I’ll highlight a few that are bound to impact the confectionery industry.
Clean Lifers
These consumers, many of them educated Millennials ages 20-29, pursue “clean,” minimalist lifestyles where moderation and integrity are key. 
“They feel they can make a difference, and this influences their spending choices,” the report says. “This means more saying no: no to alcohol; no to unhealthy habits; no to animal-based products; and, increasingly, no to unmeasured or uninformed spending.”
When they do spend, they’re likely to seek experiences such as weekends away, festivals and trips to restaurants. Clean Lifers are also “hard core” in their abstinence-based choices, Euromonitor says, whether they’re refraining from recreational drugs, alcohol or animal products.
“They are influential, and the trend will spread to others, who will dip in,” the report reads.
If Clean Lifers decide to indulge, they’ll likely look to make it count, purchasing high-quality confectionery products with clean ingredients that have been sourced responsibly.
Sleuthy Shoppers
Euromonitor classifies this type of shopper as “investigative consumers” who belong to the Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z generations.
“Skeptical of mass-produced products and the motivations of the companies that create them, tired of empty rhetoric and soothing words of assurance, they are taking action to find out more,” the report reads.
When each purchase these consumers make is a representation of their beliefs, manufacturers and other companies have to make sure any information they might want or need is immediately accessible.
“Shoppers have unlimited information at their fingertips, and can effortlessly investigate companies of interest,” Euromonitor says. “To build trust, companies must offer detailed evidence, preferably with pictorial or video support, on their supply chain and labor practices.”
This certainly applies to candy manufacturers, particularly when it comes to hot-button ingredients such as cocoa and palm oil. Pursuing certification under the USDA organic, FairTrade and Rainforest Alliance programs is also a great way to lay a foundation of trust for discerning consumers.
Discount retail
Consumers who fall into low income brackets or are experiencing food insecurity turn to resale shops, grocery discounters and value-based retailers, which are seeing continued success in the current retail climate, Euromonitor says.
“By catering to the poverty-stricken or price-sensitive, deep discounters are amongst the only retailers that have proved resilient to the rise of internet retailing, and are a disruptive force,” the report reads.
Euromonitor pointed to the aggressive expansion of value-added retailers such as Aldi and Lidl, as well as other global chains, including Daiso, which has 2,800 stores in Japan and 4,000 worldwide.
In the United States, dollar stores are one of the fastest growing areas in retail. Combined, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree had more than 27,000 stores in 2017. They’re continuing to expand their reach, targeting “cash-strapped Millennials.”
“Dollar General’s new box concept has a smaller format and faster checkouts, and offers take-away food and an expanded health and beauty section,” the report reads.
As consumers continue to evolve, it’s vital to understand what their needs and interests are, whether they’re in search of new clothes or a chocolate bar. Staying ahead of the curve ensures success this year and beyond.