It’s no secret that many consumers seek sweets and snacks that are better for their bodies and the planet.
As confectionery industry reporters, Editor Crystal Lindell and I have been shouting it from the rooftops, especially as manufacturers in all categories move toward removing high fructose corn syrup, palm oil, artificial colors and flavors — and even sugar — from their products. In fact, we have a story on better-for-you confections slated for our October issue.
But manufacturers aren’t the only ones responding to this trend. Raley’s, a grocery store chain in the Sacramento area, has reduced overall candy offerings in checkout lines by 25 percent and “fully eliminated conventional candy,” replacing it with snack options that consider nutritional value, portion control and sugar content.
In a press release, Raley’s pointed to shoppers’ inclination toward impulse purchases, noting the chain’s new checkout stand configuration offers a balance between nutrition and indulgence. Offerings range from lower-calorie sweets to protein-focused snacks with limited levels of preservatives.
Raley’s aims to expose customers to new products and lesser known brands, particularly those leading the industry in offering cleaner ingredient decks. Many of the products also meet Raley’s Shelf Guide standards, including nutrient density and non-GMO and vegan certifications.
“We want to make it easier for our customers to make better choices for their personal health journey,” said Raley’s President Keith Knopf. “We are already seeing customers respond favorably to our improved offering, which supports their ability to act on their own intentions and choose to eat well — whether they’re filling their carts or grabbing a quick bite.”
With Raley’s being an 10-store grocery chain based in California — a state known for its hyper-health-conscious population — it’s not a surprise the company would make this move. I imagine other small West Coast chains will follow suit, if they haven’t already. Aldi, a European chain, already has.
Of course, balance is key to a healthy diet, and it’s commendable that Raley’s is keeping their shoppers’ health, as well as their spending habits, in mind. It’s also a plus that the chain is shining a light on small and mid-sized manufacturers that often have a tough time elbowing their way onto shelves.
Still, it’s not great news for producers of “conventional candy.” Impulse sales are a boon to their businesses, and many large manufacturers have developed programs for retailers centered on driving checkout lane purchases.
Mars Wrigley Confectionery, for example, launched the Transaction Zone Vision program in 2016 to help retailers better understand shoppers' behavior while in line and increase conversion during that part of the shopping trip. Hershey also offers insights on maximizing merchandising opportunities.
But it’s not like conventional candy producers don’t see what’s happening. In collaboration with the National Confectioners Association and the Partnership for a Healthier America, many of the country’s biggest candy manufacturers have joined the Always a Treat initiative, meant to encourage them to offer a variety of portion-controlled package sizes and improve visibility of nutrition information.
As the initiative suggests, a treat is a treat. I don’t foresee consumers turning their backs on sweets they’ve enjoyed since childhood, but that’s no reason to ignore the shift toward healthier ingredients and products.
Manufacturers need to continue to play in both spaces as well as they can and as much as they can. That’s the best way to win in an ever-changing environment.