In such a crowded market, what are the key drivers for purchase? This was the question put to consumers by shopper behaviour consultant Visuality.

Confectionery is dominated by habitual purchases. Time and again, researchers saw shoppers selecting their confectionery products quickly and with a mere cursory glance to see that they had selected the right one. They found that 88% intended to purchase a product that day; and that 54% exhibited grab-and-go behaviour.

Asked about their purchase, 44% of these shoppers claimed they only ever bought these products. Although there is security in always buying the same item or brand - one knows exactly what is in the pack, and risk of disappointment is low - many can be tempted to change brands. More than 40% said they would do so if their intended purchase were not available. Predictably, a main driver for this is promotion. But there is also a sense of experimentation at play.

Self-treating is a clear trend, with 89% of shoppers regularly 'treating' themselves or others. Typical self-treat purchases include Ferrero Rocher (older generation) and toffee or truffles (middle-aged). All types of chocolate blocks may be used for self-treating, but they do not feel like a treat unless it is somehow 'special'.

Sometimes special-looking products are bought and hoarded for a special occasion, or sometimes for an emergency self-treat.

Own label is viewed favourably in this category: 88% of shoppers will consider buying it. On basic sweets, it provides a more cost-effective alternative to staple purchases such as soft mints or jelly babies.

There is also little snobbery over the premium own-label ranges vs branded goods. Generally, shoppers seem to find the retailers' premium own label offers a very appropriate gift. The mid-range own-label offer is used more for basic sweets or on darker chocolates that seem to offer less risk of disappointment. The display appears clear and straightforward to most shoppers, who do not engage with it to any great degree, unless looking for gifts.n