Sharing bags? Pah. More than half of us (54%) eat confectionery from packs intended for sharing, according to an exclusive poll for The Grocer. But an alarming number of us do not share them at all.

The article is part of our Confectionery Report 2014.

Nearly one in four (22.1%) of those who buy sharing bags eat them in one sitting alone (see below). Young people are bingeing the most: 35.7% of the 16 to 24-year-olds who buy sharing bags – typically weighing between 150g and 230g – eat them themselves in one go. That’s the equivalent of up to five standard chocolate bars in one sitting.

Sharing: 54% of Brits say they eat confectionery sharing bags; 76% of 16 to 24-year-olds say they do. How do they consume them?

In one go, alone 22.1 In one go, alone 35.7
Over several days, alone 24.7 Over several days, alone 24.3
In one go, sharing 24.5 In one go, sharing 26.5
Over several days, sharing 28.6 Over several days, sharing 13.0

“Sixteen to 24-year-olds are bingeing on sharing bags of confectionery, either as a meal replacement or on top of their regular meals,” says Lucia Juliano, head of consumer & retail research at Harris Interactive, which polled 2,081 shoppers on their confectionery eating habits for The Grocer.

“Either way, this is a huge amount of sugar and fat to consume in one go. With a 230g pack of Maltesers containing over a 1,000 calories, 58g of fat and 122g of sugar ( ), do these young people realise quite how much they are taking in? With soaring obesity levels amongst young people, this figure is a real concern.”

Less so for confectioners, it seems. “Your numbers are more or less in line with the figures we see,” says a senior source at a leading confectioner with a range of lines in sharing formats. “I’d add that the majority of consumers share them with friends and family.”

Brands point to pledges they’ve made under the government’s Responsibility Deal for proof of how they’re trying to address Britain’s growing weight problem. Mondelez, for example, says it will axe the Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar and Half line and bring all its single serve portions beneath a 250 calorie limit by the end of 2015.

And, as The Grocer revealed last December, Mars has cut the size of its key countlines by more than 10% in the name of the Responsibility Deal. While keeping prices the same, standard Mars bars were reduced from 58g to 51g; Snickers were cut from 58g to 48g.

Health: What should confectioners do about obesity? 

Reformulate products to reduce sugar, fat, salt, etc 64% 62% 66%
Reduce portion sizes 9% 7% 10%
Add vitamins and minerals 4% 4% 3%
Put their prices up 4% 3% 4%
Do nothing 20% 23% 18%

Britain’s love of chocolate shows no sign of abating either. If shoppers were allowed just one treat, a third would choose chocolate, according to our poll, making it the country’s favourite indulgence (see below). If shoppers had to give up one treat for health reasons, just 11% would choose chocolate; most would opt for cakes and biscuits. 

Health: If you were only allowed one treat, what would you choose?

Chocolate 33% 29% 37%
Cheese 18% 19% 17%
Cakes/biscuits 13% 12% 14%
Ice cream 13% 13% 12%
Crisps 10% 9% 10%
Chips 8% 11% 5%
Sweets 4% 5% 4%
Other 2% 2% 1%

Health: If you had to give up one food to improve your health, what would it be?

Cakes/biscuits 19% 17% 20%
Crisps 17% 19% 15%
Sweets 17% 18% 15%
Cheese 11% 12% 11%
Chocolate 11% 10% 13%
Chips 11% 11% 11%
Ice cream 9% 7% 10%
Other 5% 5% 5%

Despite our ongoing love of chocolate and sweets, most of us object to being tempted by it at the checkouts of the supermarkets (see below). Sixty nine percent say retailers should not use so-called ‘guilt lanes’ as a means of driving impulse sales of confectionery, a tactic Tesco abandoned in May.

“This isn’t about demonising confectionery,” says Tesco’s UK MD Chris Bush. “It’s about doing something that’s responsible and doesn’t get in the face or people at the till.” Our research suggests that most of us agree.

Yes 31% 38% 25% 54% 41% 33% 29% 22% 18%
No 69% 62% 75% 46% 59% 67% 71% 78% 82%
 ScotlandNorth EastNorth WestYork -shireMidlandsWalesSouth WestEast of EnglandLondon
Yes 27% 28% 30% 38% 37% 32% 25% 31% 34%
No 73% 72% 70% 62% 63% 68% 75% 69% 66%

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Harris UK Interactive is a full service, consultative custom market research agency working internationally out of offices in the UK, Europe and the US. With in-house expertise covering all areas of research, design, implementation, analysis and reporting, it has particular strengths in loyalty and brand. For more information, visit the Harris UK Interactive website.

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