Brits have munched their way through 120 million more boxes, bags and bars of sweets and chocolates in the past year.

Supermarket sales of sweets soared almost 5% year-on-year to a whopping 2.9 billion packs, while the value of the market rocketed 7.4% t0 £3.2bn [Kantar 52w/e 10 July 2011] as so-called ‘mindless munchers’ have taken to guzzling bigger bags of confectionery at home rather than snacking on smaller packs while out and about.

While volume sales of chocolate confectionery were up 5% for the second successive year, the most significant growth was in the sugar category, with suppliers upping NPD and increasing their adoption of the sharing bag format to reverse last year’s slight decline.

Following the lead from Haribo and Kraft’s The Natural Confectionery Company (TNCC), many sugar confectionery suppliers have launched into sharing bags this year. Rowntree’s rolled out packs of jellies, sours and foams in April this year, while Italian confectionery giant Perfetti Van Melle expanded its Fruittella brand into the sharing market in May.

And the NPD didn’t end there, with innovative products such as TNCC’s Guzzle Puzzle hitting shop shelves in August. “After decades in the wilderness, sugar has produced a series of quality innovations Rowntree’s Randoms, and anything by Haribo,” said Emma Brock, head of client services at brand design agency Coley Porter Bell.

The move towards larger pack sizes and munching at home out-of-home snacking has plunged by almost 16% year-on-year, according to Kantar has gone hand-in-hand with a decline in impulse sales.

“We are seeing a greater focus on confectionery purchases at the big four, with people making ‘planned impulse’ purchases and buying bigger packs or multipacks,” Symphony IRI analyst Matt Willingham said. “Shoppers appear to be seeing confectionery more as a treat to enjoy with other people or at home.”

He added that sugar confectionery had also benefitted from an increase in promotional activity, with deals on bags of sweets replacing chocolate promos on gondola ends a trend he expected to continue. This has been accompanied by heavyweight offers for example, shoppers can currently buy four sharing bags of Maynards Wine Gums for £2 at Asda.

Such deals might be welcomed by sweet-toothed consumers, but multipacks and larger packs sizes were branded as “deplorable” by Hull University health psychologist Dr Marie Reid. “My clients find it difficult to stop eating chocolate once they start. It is disgraceful to sell confectionery in units tempting people to eat too much.”

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Focus On Confectionery (1 October 2011)