Many, many years ago, in a neighborhood now known as Bucktown in Chicago, there was this scrawny kid trolling the streets for pop bottles. You see, back then, retailers would give two cents for every bottle. Collect six bottles and you’ve got yourself 12 cents, a virtual fortune.
Of course, back then, penny candy actually cost a penny. As it so happened, there was a candy store right past the viaduct just a few steps away from where we lived. When the proprietor asked me whether I had purchased all these sodas at the store, I couldn’t tell lie…”Of course, sir!”
C’mon…this qualified as the whitest of white lies. Besides, I was contributing to the cleanliness and safety of the neighborhood…removing empty bottles from school yards, sidewalks and streets to promote recycling and eliminate any chance of broken glass.
I believe the candy store owner knew I was fibbing a bit, but he never denied me the pocket change. At that point, I would get my fix of candies, which ranged from licorice to gum. Oh yeah, I was also into baseball cards and comic books, you know, the kind that were packaged in a sleeve and sold three for 15 cents without their covers. Top-drawer comics, too, such as Marvel’s Avengers, Iron Man, Hulk, Spidey. But I digress.
What I’m getting at is the difference 55 years makes and how kids purchased candy. First, I’m not sure anyone lets children roam the neighborhood the way we use to in the past. Pick-up baseball games and sitting on front porches isn’t as common today as back then.
And, if my memory’s correct, my parents rarely bought me candy. They could figure out I had a way of getting my fix. Sure, on special occasions we’d have a piece of chocolate, but my influence on their grocery purchasing habits was next to nil.
Zoom forward two generations and we see it’s a different ballgame. As the Packaged Facts’ report on the food and beverage market for children reveals, which is our lead story in today’s newsletter, children exert a great influence on what parents buy.
"It's the circle of retail life. Child demands product, parent learns about product through child, household begins using product, child ideally grows up to encourage his or her own household to use said product—at least until their own kids start making requests," says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts.
In addition to children having greater influence today than in my youth, there are also several other differences. First, it’s the parents themselves. They are, dare I use the word, Millennials. They’re bit different from my first-generation immigrant parents (Gee, I hope The Donald isn’t reading this).
Although they are almost as financially strapped as my parents were, refugees who were trying to carve out a life in a totally new world, today’s Millennials are savvier and more in-step with “The times.” Moreover, as the report declares, “Millennials are willing to spend extra for perceived higher quality products and services. Notably, they value transparency, authenticity, and brands that represent them and their lifestyles.”
So confectioners, there’s a clue here. These Millennials, who are still in the process of having children, are willing to pay for good eats, in this case, good candies made by good people or good companies.
There’s an opportunity here: In addition to making it taste good, make it good inside and out. From all-natural ingredients to corporate citizenship, it’s clear Millennial parents will consider purchasing your sweet for their sweets even if the price is a bit sweeter.
This doesn’t mean iconic brands and products will fall by the wayside. No, favorites will remain favorites. It does mean that consumers, especially Millennial parents, want more options, more choices, to better reflect their lifestyles, which are more complex and involves more options and choices.
There you go. And you can thank me later.