With millions of Americans hunkered down in their homes, waiting for the orders to restart some semblance of life as we knew it before the coronavirus pandemic roared into being, people have been dealing with the understandable stress of this time in myriad ways: binge-watching Netflix, cleaning their houses from top to bottom, and, yes, partaking of comfort foods that include candy and snacks. While even at the best of times, U.S. consumers enjoy treats as part of their overall diet, the public health crisis affecting the world has only made such accessible pleasures all the more meaningful.
- The coronavirus pandemic has led to a significant increase in online snack sales, with many consumers opting for healthier offerings.
- Candy and snack makers have had to change the way they do business, shifting much of their sales efforts online, while ensuring availability of trusted products in stores. Meanwhile, retailers interested in growing the categories can focus on multiple store placements and value-priced private-brand items that can be promoted for their wellness attributes and great taste.
- While short-term consumer habits have definitely evolved in response to the outbreak, it’s still unclear what the long-term behavioral impacts will be.
“In the current situation, snack discovery and impulse purchases have subsided, with consumers limiting excessive aisle browsing,” notes Bob DiNunzio, director of category strategy at Stamford, Conn.-based Daymon. “Snack purchase behavior has changed significantly due to COVID-19 — with a 46% increase in total core snack online sales versus last year.”
According to Resonate, a Reston, Va.-based provider of AI-powered consumer data and intelligence, shoppers who are particularly concerned about COVID-19, as evidenced by their media consumption, are demonstrating the following behaviors more than people who aren’t as concerned about COVID-19 (i.e., not consuming content about the virus): They’re more likely to buy filling snacks like meal replacements, nuts and seeds, and yogurt; they’re more likely to be buying snacks for their significant others than for themselves; and healthy and nonprocessed foods are becoming more important to these individuals.
Speaking of better-for-you (BFY) candy and snacks, makers of such products have stepped up to ensure that consumers are still able to purchase them.
“With the recent pandemic, and more consumers staying home, we are quickly shifting our business to focus on how we can improve our online presence with both retailers and our direct website,” says Ashley Dawkins, VP of marketing for West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle, whose forthcoming products include Brownie Brittle Keto and Brownie Brittle Protein, both launching by the end of the month. “That means offering more of our items on Instacart, extending coupon offers on mass retailer websites, and putting more marketing funds behind efforts of brand awareness online. There is definitely a shift in how we’re seeing consumers buy our product.”
He adds: “Across the globe, our brands have rallied to support front-line workers as well. ... In the U.S., M&M’s donated $50,000 to Operation Gratitude and will send 5,000 ‘thank you’ packs to front-line workers.”
When it comes to in-store merchandising, meanwhile, Mills points out that Mars Wrigley is “advising our retail partners [to] focus on the availability of the best-selling, trusted brands that shoppers love and that help them smile in difficult times.”
Noting that “[r]etailers have an opportunity to provide unique solutions in their private-brand programs by creating new varieties of protein-rich meat jerky and bean-based snacking formats (puffs, curls, etc),” Daymon’s DiNunzio counsels grocers to promote and sell “innovative private-brand snack products online, to increase visibility while addressing consumers’ ‘get in, get out,’ brick-and-mortar shopping mentality.”