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Chocolate satisfies with a balance of trend and tradition

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 2.47.08 PMCanadians’ love for chocolate is alive and well, as they visit convenience stores for old favourites, as well as new flavours and sizes to satisfy cravings for the “food of the gods.”

The latest figures from Nielsen Canada show that sales of chocolate in the convenience and gas channel in Canada for the year ended March 2, 2019 grew by 2% to $178 million. Sugarless chocolate led the growth (up 35%), followed by seasonal chocolate products (6%), and every day/sugared chocolate products (2%). Only every day seasonal chocolate showed a decline in sales (3%).

There are several new trends emerging in the chocolate category. Joel Gregoire, associate director of Mintel Canada Food and Drink Reports, says there’s been an evolution in chocolate confectionary with the introduction of larger-sized tablet chocolate bars, thins and more seasonal chocolates. 

“This can be interpreted as being a shift in the formats that Canadians are turning to for their chocolate fix and points to the importance of chocolate confections that are sold not just at the checkout line, but in other areas of the store,” he says, 

In addition, chocolate manufacturers can learn from the makers of alcohol beverages, who are infusing products with exotic new flavours and highlighting interesting twists, such as cask-aged bourbon and strawberry champagne. 

Ruby chocolate, for instance, is taking the industry’s colour palette beyond white, milk and dark. Barry Callebaut introduced ruby chocolate in September 2017, calling it “the biggest innovation in 80 years.” Artisan chocolate makers quickly embraced the flavour and now confectionery manufacturers are giving old favourites a new spin.

“The new ruby Kit Kat, made from the natural ruby cocoa bean, has a characteristic pink hue and unique flavour that consumers are raving about,” says Ryan Saunders, vice-president marketing, confectionary at Nestlé Canada.

Flavour infusion is also the secret to creating popular better-for-you products. “While white chocolate will always be an indulgence, there are ways to infuse elements of nutrition through superfood ingredients, such as chia seeds, matcha, honey lavender, turmeric, orange chunks and coconut into dark chocolate, which now has a well-established reputation for offering added antioxidants,” says Gregoire. 

In addition, convenience retailers have an opportunity to drive sales and satisfy customers’ desire for new experiences by mixing chocolate delights with other snacks, such as pretzels, popcorn and nuts.

“We know that indulgence is a key driver of food selection in the evening for a snack in front of the television, for example,” says Gregoire, adding the picture is more complex in the afternoon when people are looking for a boost. Convenience stores can answer all needs by offering snack kits with chocolate, as well as a solid mix of new format and entrenched brands “to satisfy conflicting wants of convenience, portability and energy.”

The chocolate category is abuzz with new tastes and trends, however old favourites still reign.Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 2.46.52 PM

“While there are always fun and interesting new products in the category, nothing comes close to the old classics,” Saunders says. “While we sometimes get excited about what is new, if you don’t have the top pr
oducts within arms’ reach you’ll lose sales opportunities.  Retailers can maxmize sales and profit by continually understanding and responding to local and macro trends as they change and evolve.”


Tips for adjusting to changing tobacco trends

Cigarettes Generic Lg_100517The tobacco industry is changing at a rapid pace. Cigarette sales are declining year after year, while vape and smokeless products have been on the rise. Now, there are new products out there that fit into the growing “ANDS” (alternative nicotine delivery systems) category, such as nicotine toothpicks, pouches and dip (no tobacco leaf present in any of these).

Modernizing categories and planograms will be a necessity for convenience retail chains looking to hold onto revenue.

While consumers are quitting cigarettes in droves, most would agree they are not quitting nicotine. Many consumers switched from cigarettes to ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems) such as Logic, blu and Juul. Other consumers have moved into smokeless tobacco products such as dip and spitless snus.

The rise of smokeless tobacco options and ENDS products in the past 10 years is a clear indicator that consumers aren’t quitting their nicotine altogether, but instead they have become open to finding their nicotine in other products.

Some of these products I like to call “ANDS” products. These are non-combustible alternative nicotine delivery systems that would otherwise not be able to be categorized into current and obsolete product groupings. ANDS are a fairly new subcategory of other tobacco products (OTP) and are increasingly gaining customers. People are tending to move away from tobacco leaf products, both combustible and non-combustible, and move to products that deliver nicotine.

Nicotine toothpicks and pouches are very similar. Both are flavored oral nicotine products that did away with the tobacco leaf. The toothpicks are infused with nicotine and food-grade flavorings, while the pouches are tea bags that are filled with powdered nicotine and food-grade flavorings.

Another ANDS product is nicotine dip that is made using mint leaves instead of tobacco leaves.  Nicotine dips are made with nicotine applied to chopped mint leaves. They can be used just like traditional tobacco dips like Skoal, Copenhagen or Grizzly.

ARE ‘ANDS’ RIGHT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

So, should your business sell ANDS? It all comes down to whether your convenience store or chain is positioned to make the investment to secure customers for the present and future.

In discussions with CEOs of many of these ANDS manufacturers, they say consumers are constantly asking them where they can buy the product. Store owners should embrace this and use it to their advantage. A retailer can acquire new customers just by carrying a product that is newer to distribution. This is especially true when the products being considered have already started to take sales away from cigarettes, moist snuff and ENDS products.

By adding new SKUs to their tobacco categories, retailers will need to eliminate others or increase the real estate space for their tobacco products section as a whole.

When choosing new product lines in the ANDS category, a category manager should evaluate a manufacturer or a brand based on such factors as sell-through, branding, customer experience, customer adoption, marketing, and point-of-sale (POS) merchandising support.

Behind-the-scenes items that are also crucial toward the long-term success of the store(s) and the brands they carry include Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance, quality control, shelf life, liability insurance and vendor/retailer support.

We already know that Juul has emerged as the leader in the ENDS category. Which ANDS products are in line to solidify a spot on your shelf? Which ANDS manufacturers and brands meet the qualifications stated in the previous paragraph?

With sell-through and compliance being the most important direct and indirect items of importance, there are certain brands and products leading the pack on this newly paved road. Here are three types of ANDS that hold promise for the convenience channel:

Nicotine Pouches

Nicotine pouches have created a nice following throughout the country — both online and in stores. Nicotine pouches function just like spitless snus.

Nicotine Toothpicks

While nicotine toothpicks might seem like a new idea, they have been around since 2013. When merchandised and branded properly, nicotine toothpicks see sell-through. They also function as an upsell that increases a store’s average order value.  Toothpicks are one of the few products being used by smokers, dippers and vapers alike.

Nicotine Dip

Nicotine dip is another product making its way into stores. I like the idea. Why have tobacco leaves pressed up against your gums when you can have mint leaves and nicotine instead? I can see these products leading to the abolishment of traditional tobacco leaf dips.

In the end, consumers want to feel empowered to make a choice. Nobody goes to the ice cream parlour that only carries three flavours when the parlour across the street has 15 flavours plus 10 different topping options.

With the guidelines and requirements mentioned earlier, choose one to three items from each of the three ANDS subcategories (pouches, toothpicks and dip). Find products that aren’t selling well on your shelves and remove them.

The way I see it, ANDS are the future of the category. The status quo has changed. Non-combustible ANDS products should be part of your offering in order to solidify your store’s ability to sustain long-term growth and success.

By: Evan Grossman is an entrepreneur and industry advocate. In 2013, he founded Pixotine Products, launching Pixotine Nicotine Toothpicks. Before founding Pixotine Products, Grossman co-founded Trans World Jets in 2011, a jet charter consulting and contracting business.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


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