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As the vice president of trade relations for Mars Chocolate North America, Tim Quinn has unique insight into the latest chocolate trends. Here, he shares his thoughts on “King Size,” cocoa sustainability, and some of the products Mars will introduce in 2013.
► What trends have been really popular in chocolate over the last year?
At Mars, we’ve been tracking three major trends in the chocolate category.
First, shoppers are looking for options with their chocolate. They want portability, portion control and sharing size packages. The “king size” segment, which Mars calls “sharing size,” grew 10.7% over the latest 52 weeks (according to Symphony IRI data, ending August 12). We’ve seen significant growth in this segment, which includes our 2toGo and 4toGo size bars. Each package has two or four pieces, wrapped in a re-sealable twist-wrap package.
We’re also seeing an increase in demand for bite-size unwrapped chocolate. New products we’ve introduced to meet this trend include M&M’S Snack Mix and Dove Milk Chocolate Covered Raisins and Peanuts. In 2013, we’re adding to this category with new Snickers Bites and Milky Way Bites — they’re unwrapped, bite-sized cubes.
Another strong trend is seasonal candy. Seasonal sales are up 8.1% in the latest 52 weeks and account for 18.6% of total chocolate. To respond to the trend, Mars expanded its 1.1-ounce seasonal shapes offering, including items for all four seasons, such as Snickers Pumpkins, Milky Way Simply Caramel Snowmen and hearts, and Snickers Peanut Butter Eggs.
► What advancements has the chocolate industry made over the last one to three years?
The most pressing issue today is creating a sustainable cocoa sector that can meet the chocolate industry’s long-term demand for cocoa. At Mars, we invested $30 million in cocoa sustainability efforts in 2011, after spending more than $20 million annually in the previous two years. Revitalizing the cocoa sector for the world’s five million cocoa farmers will require everybody in the industry, especially branded manufacturers, to do their part.
Mars has led the way for a more sustainable cocoa industry with some key milestones: our commitment to purchase 100% certified cocoa by 2020, our memo of understanding with the Ivorian government, our precompetitive collaborations with industry peers, our investment in breakthrough cocoa science including mapping the cocoa genome and our aggressive investments to scale proven farm-level programs like Vision for Change.
We’ve made incredible progress in a short amount of time, and in 2012 we expect to become the world’s largest purchaser of certified cocoa.
With regard to packaging, in 2009 Mars introduced the innovative twist-wrap packaging. A consumer can eat part of a candy bar, twist the wrapper to seal it, and save the remaining portion for later. We use this twist-wrap package for our 2toGo and 4toGo sizes for bars.
► What kind of chocolate do you think will become more popular in the next three to five years?
I think we’ll continue to see consumers reach for snacks that combine sweet and salty flavors. This segment has seen quite a bit of growth over the last couple years. Several Mars products fit into this trend, including our very popular Snickers Peanut Butter Squared and M&M’S Pretzel Candies, as well as new items we introduced this year — M&M’S Snack Mix and Dove Milk Chocolate Covered Raisins and Peanuts.