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Chocolate and sugar confectionery are very old, well established markets and remain an essential category for independent retailers.


Chocolate is a resilient category which has maintained its value even during challenging economic times, as it offers consumers an affordable treat. Sugar confectionery has always been one of the cornerstones of independent retailing as stores have capitalised on the impulsive nature of the category.

The chocolate category is very well established in the UK, and the vast amount of NPD that comes into the market helps to add new interest, with consumers looking for innovative products to try.

Even as consumer tastes and habits change, chocolate remains a popular treat, with the industry proving to be very capable at keeping up with, or anticipating, those trends to keep the market in growth.

A key driver of the growth in the UK chocolate market is the popularity of the ‘big night in’ occasion, with families looking to recreate the cinema experience without having to leave the house.

This has contributed to the incredible, consistent growth of sharing bags, which continue to be a strong proposition at almost £1.1 billion.

“We capitalise on this popularity by launching seasonal variants of our sharing bags throughout the year, such as limited-edition packs of our Kinder Choco-Bons for Easter and Halloween,” comments Levi Boorer, Customer Development Director, Ferrero.

Traditional boxed chocolates also continue to be a popular choice for those opting for a night in, especially among shoppers looking for a more premium experience. “For those seeking a high-quality product to either give as a gift, or in the case of a ‘big night in’, to share, Thorntons Continental, Thorntons Classic and Ferrero Rocher remain among the most popular choices all year round,” adds Boorer.

“As part of consumers putting a greater focus on treating as part of a balanced approach to lifestyle choices, we have seen some take a ‘quality over quantity’ approach, whereby they favour premium confectionery products over others,” Boorer comments. “It is therefore important for retailers to continue to offer a wide range of confectionery products as part of the impulse singles fixture to cater for as many shoppers as possible.”

Sharing formats

“Chocolate sharing formats, like bags and tablets, are a key part of retailers’ range,” says Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelēz International. “In fact, bags are the fastest growing standard chocolate segment.”

As category leader (Nielsen), Mondelēz is helping drive growth through its Cadbury and Green & Black’s brands.

Bournville has moved into the sharing bag format for the first time with the launch of new Bournville Giant Buttons, following the launch of the Bournville Orange 100g tablet in January. The Bournville brand is worth £15.3m, with sales growing at 6.6% (Nielsen).

The Cadbury sharing bag portfolio is now worth £126m and growing at 6.6% led by Cadbury Dairy Milk Giant Buttons which is the no 1 product in the segment (Nielsen).

Mondelēz International also introduced new size £1 promotional price-marked packs within its chocolate bags range, helping retailers to improve price perception among shoppers and help increase speed of sales.

The new £1 (RRP) 95g promotional PMPs are now available across some of its bestselling bags; Cadbury Dairy Milk Giant Buttons, Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel Nibbles, Cadbury Twirl Bites, Cadbury Bitsa Wispa and Terry’s Chocolate Orange Minis.

Maynards Bassetts recently announced its first ever sour Soft Jelly product – Soft Jellies Fizzy Fish. The product is the second in the Soft Jellies range, after Soft Jellies Wild Safari was launched in 2018. This new product is designed in the shape of fish to tap into consumers’ playful sides. Each bag contains a selection of flavours for sharing including consumer favourites orange, strawberry, blackcurrant and lime, made with natural colours and flavours.

Strong growth

“2018 was another strong year for the both the chocolate confectionery category and for Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK,” says a company spokesperson.

Over the past twelve months, the total chocolate confectionery category has continued to show its strength, with the overall market growing 5.5% year-on-year.

This year, Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK announced the launch of Mars More Protein and Snickers More Protein.

With consumers increasingly looking for products that match their busy lifestyles, the new products can be enjoyed on the go. The new products will help introduce a new demographic, offering Mars and Snickers products in lower sugar and higher protein versions.

David Manzini, General Manager, Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK, said: “With the protein category continuing to grow every year, these exciting new innovations provide retailers with a great opportunity to tap into this trend, boosting those all-important impulse purchases. Brits’ consumption of protein at home has increased by 2.8% in the last year, so we are looking forward to responding to the needs of these consumer behaviours with our two new products.”

Retailers looking to raise awareness and boost sales in store should ensure their core confectionery display is always merchandised in line with how a shopper navigates the fixture, Manzini suggests.

“In-store theatre and a tactical use of POS materials can drive additional sales, especially in high-footfall areas,” he adds. “As more and more consumers are buying chocolate confectionery for sharing and snacking, there is an opportunity for retailers to capitalise on this opportunity.”

Throughout the year it is important to be aware of current trends and ensure that popular products are always available to the consumer to increase sales, Manzini believes. Trends for 2019 include protein and premiumisation. NPD and new products are also always primed to capture consumers’ attention and imagination.

“Seasonal confectionery provides a good opportunity for retailers to stock up on new products, new brand extensions and SKUs and these will help maximise in-store sales at different seasonal peaks across the year,” Manzini comments.

Healthier treats

“While sugar confectionery still remains incredibly popular, consumers are becoming more interested in healthier treat options that don’t compromise on taste,” comments Russell Tanner, category and marketing director at Tangerine Confectionery. “This is not necessarily limited to sugar-free – products with reduced sugar content and controlled portion sizes are actually growing in market share at a much faster rate.”

At Tangerine, efforts have been made to reduce the sugar content of its products over the past few years with its latest NPD, the Softies Dip Dab, containing 46.1g per 100g.

The Bag of Bags range also seeks to make it easier for people to control their portion sizes, calorie and sugar intake.

The four ‘Bag of Bags’ multipacks each contain 11 mini bags, and are all under 65 calories.

These include Shrimps & Bananas (176g), Mini Bears (198g), Jelly Beans (165g), and the newly launched Strawberry Milkshake Bottles (176g).

The gifting category is also broadening, with more gift-worthy sweets formed to compete against chocolate for seasons such as Mother’s Day, Easter, and Christmas. The aesthetics of a product are becoming increasingly important, and are starting to influence the shopper’s decision making process in the same way as taste and quality.

Another trend which will continue to dominate is the demand for retro confectionery. Nostalgia has become one of the biggest drivers of the confectionery market as consumers are keen to recreate their childhood memories and purchase the sweets they loved when they were young. “We’ve previously identified ‘kidulting’ as a key market trend and reintroduced our Barratt brand of confectionery last year to cater to the brand’s loyal following,” adds Tanner.

Reduced sugar

“Numerous trends are changing the way we live, altering the shopper missions,” says Mark Roberts, Trade Marketing Manager at Perfetti Van Melle. “Most notably consumers are now more health conscious, and are looking for alternative products.”

The government is now focusing heavily on sugar, supported by Public Health England which is looking to reduce sugar in our diets; reduced and sugar free confectionery products are key to supporting this impulse category.

As a result, the Better For You (BFY) market is worth £45.1m and growing at +8.9% (IRI).

Research is already showing that 70% of sales in BFY are incremental to the category; implying people who previously may not have considered confectionery are entering the category (Kantar).

“We only expect the growth of BFY to continue in the spring season as consumers look to start making healthier decisions going into the summer months,” adds Roberts.

Share bags

“The 100g-499g share bag category remains the largest sector, worth £496m and in 4% growth, and Swizzels has a wide range of value for money sharing products so retailers can make the most of this sales opportunity,” comments Mark Walker, Sales Director at Swizzels.

Swizzels’ latest addition to its PMP range and the soft chew hanging bag category is Choos. Swizzels hanging bags are worth £36.4m, +11% with £1 PMPs driving growth at +21% YOY (IRI).

Choos bring a unique offering to the market, available in 2 variants with a choice of 5 flavours per pack. Drumstick Choos provide 5 double flavour combinations including Peaches & Cream and Strawberry & Banana, while Refreshers Choos offer 5 fizzy flavours with the unique sherbet centre, including Pineapple and Apple.

The soft chewy texture is in keeping with consumer demand for softer products, and Choos are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans which is hugely important as 7.8 million people in the UK are reported to be avoiding meat products. Also available in 150g non-PMPs, Choos are ideal for sharing.

Brand new for 2019 is the Drumstick Mixed Lolly Bag. This 175g bag is now available, containing individually wrapped Drumstick lollies in Original Raspberry & Milk, Cherry & Apple and Bubblegum flavours.