Candy Industry Blog

The candy maker’s dilemma

A new study shows children are making purchasing decisions. What does that mean for candy companies?

April 23, 2014

Kid shopping

I have a secret that I need to get off my chest, but you have to promise not to judge me. Promise? Ok. Great.

Here it is: My name is Crystal Lindell and I know in my heart that my 14-year-old sister is way cooler than me.

She’s always telling me about the newest songs (#Selfie has the best beat, am I right?), she helps me pick out clothes (Legging aren’t just hip, they’re also super comfortable!) and she always, always has a say in what cosmetics I buy (the gel mascara she showed me rocked!). 

Crystal Lindell
Crystal Lindell

As a result of her inherent coolness, I obviously consult her before I buy, well, pretty much anything.  

What? It’s not like you don’t do the same thing — you know the kids in your house influence what you buy. Don’t try to deny it, because I have the data to back me up.

A new report from FONA International says kids across the country are having more and more say in what families purchase

“Parents are increasingly lettings kids dictate, or at least have a vote on, purchases ranging from breakfast food to large ticket items like TVs, cars and vacation destinations,” FONA’s report states.

And my sister is a perfect example of the types of kids who are having the most say — she’s a teen-girl with lots of informed opinions.

“Girls tend to have more influence because they are more aware of items in the house and have more retail experience,” Renee Weber, VP Consumer Strategy & Research for The Marketing Store Worldwide told FONA. “Older kids, not surprisingly, also have more influence because they have more knowledge and are able to form and state their opinions more clearly.”

And, even if you don’t have kids of your own, you should learn to accept this new trends. After all, confections are no exception. In fact, candy ranks third on the list of favorite items that kids shop for.

The report says that the purchase of sweet snacks for kids is often a reward, information I’m sure some marketing person somewhere is already figuring out how to use in advertising.

While the motivation is interesting, it’s the fact that it’s happening at all that should compel candy makers to sit up and take note.

But, herein lies the candy maker's dilemma.

Because even if confectionery manufacturers know that they need to win over kids to make a sale, they’re running out of ways to reach their target market.

For years now, candy makers have been trying to do the “responsible” thing by eliminating any candy ads specifically marketed to children. From phasing out any candy commercials during children’s programming to asking that users be over 18 to enter their website — candy companies have all but started completely ignoring what was once their target demographic.

The problem is, the more they pull away from marketing to kids, the more say kids seem to have in what families buy.

So what’s a candy maker to do?

Honestly, I have no idea. In an ideal world, everyone would see sweets as the treat they are. In a perfect world, sugar wouldn’t be as demonized as it is now, and people wouldn’t freak out about advertising candy to kids.

Alas, this is not an ideal world.

And so, instead, candy makers have to continue to strive for a balance. Maybe they pull all their ads from Nickelodeon, but they make sure to use bright colors on their wrappers to appeal to children at the store. Maybe they create a website for adults, and a Facebook page that targets kids.

Or maybe, just maybe, they ask their own kids which flavors they like, and then introduce those to the marketplace. After all, it’s only logical that once kids gain an equal vote at home, they’ll start to have a say in the business side of things.

Now excuse me while I text my little sister two different headline options for this column to find out which one she likes best.

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