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Food Trends Impacting Seasonal Traditions

Seasonality is alive and well in the consumer products industry. Most relevant this week, with the 31st of October fast approaching, is the impact of seasonality to chocolate and confectionery manufacturers. Sales and marketing teams have been prepping with conversations on trade promotions and demand; supply chain has been focused on supply planning, manufacturing, and logistics. Sales are being monitored with upcoming business reviews measuring ROI for this season’s investment. But, will planning for seasonal holidays like Halloween need a makeover in coming years based on industry macro trends toward healthy, allergen-free snacks and transparent ingredients?

When thinking about Halloween, brands like Reese’s, M&M’s, and Snickers, come to mind. Influenster, a product discovery and review community featuring over five million products and over 1.5 million members, recently published America’s Favorite Halloween Candy State By State. The poll shows the traditional Halloween staple brands coming out on top: Reese’s, Kit Kat, M&M’s, and Butterfinger.

Take another look at these results from a manufacturer’s perspective:

  • Mars led the poll; its brands represented the number one spot in 15 states across eight brands. Mars chocolate represented five brands and Wrigley’s represented three brands.
  • Following Mars was Hershey (12 states across eight brands), Nestlé (10 states across seven brands), Mondelez International (six states across four brands), Ferrara Candy Company* (five states across one brand), Perfetti Van Melle (two states across one brand), and Tootsie Roll Industries (one state across one brand).
  • Hershey and Nestlé were the only manufacturers where at least one of its brands was voted for in each state.
  • There are no “health-conscious” brands leading any state.

While looking at the current state is interesting, the question becomes: will the trends impacting the food industry at large become relevant to seasonal event traditions like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Super Bowl, and Independence Day? Will consumer demands for more natural foods and improved ingredient transparency warrant changes around how the industry deals with these seasonal events?

Take Halloween for example. Consumers that choose natural and organic products may not make the same purchases they do for themselves or their families, when purchasing treats during Halloween. However, as the millennial generation—a driver of the natural and organic consumer market—purchases treats to give out to the neighborhood, expectations may change from one of personal consumption to one where they want to influence their personal network with health-conscious alternatives. A recent example is the rise in the “Teal Pumpkin”, indicating houses where allergen-free treats are offered.

Earlier this year Hershey revealed that it was transitioning to simple and straightforward ingredients that have “thoughtful and responsible sourcing”. The day before Hershey’s disclosure, Nestlé communicated its commitment to remove artificial colors and flavors from all of its chocolate and candy products in the United States. In addition, making a presence in retail locations like Whole Foods is Unreal Candy. Founded from experiences with traditional Halloween candy, Unreal is on a mission to “reinvent America’s favorite candy” using ingredients that are sustainably sourced and free of GMOs, gluten, soy, etc.

There are segments of the food and beverage industry that are making investments that improved transparency will win over the full transition to organic and natural options. Other segments are seeking M&A opportunities or making investments in innovation to bring healthy options to their portfolio. While consumption trends are being applied to business strategy at a macro level, the question becomes the impact of these trends to those important seasonal spikes that have driven sales in the past?

*Note: There are multiple brands of candy corn, assumed Branch as the brand of Candy Corn (Ferrara Candy Company) based on the link referenced in the Influenster report.

Tags: Retail Planning and Execution