Seasonal focus: 2014’s candy love-in

Money buys love in segmented US Valentine’s market

What’s at the heart of the matter for the confectionery industry this Valentine’s? Greencolander -Flickr

US Valentine’s candy consumers are expected to spend more than last year, but many will seek products on offer, while the rich will buy richer with more premium offerings.

US Valentine’s confectionery sales are projected to rise 1.9% to $1.057bn, according to the National Confectioners Association (NCA).

The average American plans to spend $133.91 on overall Valentine’s purchases this year, up slightly from $130.97 last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) - with men spending twice as much as women on their loved ones. The NRF expects that nearly half of Valentine’s consumers (48.7%) will buy candy.

But Valentine’s candy habits have changed dramatically compared to five years ago with reduced demand for mid-market products - people are tightening their purse strings or splashing the cash.

#4 US confectionery season

Valentine’s is the fourth largest season for US confectionery value sales behind Halloween, Easter and Christmas respectively.

Heartbroken: Premium and value divide

An NCA survey of 1,300 adult consumers found that 22% of Americans planned to buy more Valentine’s candy on sale, while 16% said they would opt for more higher-end seasonal products and packages.

The value and premium divide is evidenced in companies’ seasonal line-ups.

Nestlé USA Valentine’s assortments feature a series of “wallet-friendly” products such as Raisinets Treat and Card Kit and Wonka Mix-Ups Treats Bag Kit, which include stickers and Valentine’s themed pencils.

Other value products include Just Born’s limited edition Mike and Ike Passion Mix as well as Hot Tamales Cinnamon candy with special ‘Hottie’ Valentine’s Day graphics.

Hershey’s Valentine’s line-up also includes chocolates for under $5, such as Kisses Milk Chocolates Rose Cane ($2.50) and Hershey's Solid Milk Chocolate Heart $3.99.

At the other end of the market, Lindt is vigorously promoting its Lindor brand on social media, while Mars has been pushing its online premium chocolate retail business Ethel M.

Love is in the air for caramel

Top flavors in Valentine’s chocolates (NCA survey)
  • Caramel (34%)
  • Chocolate-covered nuts (24%)
  • Cream filled (13%)
  • Chocolate filled (13%)
  • Other (16%)

Chocolate accounts for an overwhelming 75% of Valentine’s confectionery sales, according to the NCA.

The organization’s survey found that caramel was the most popular flavor in boxes of Valentine’s chocolates.

Consumer preferences have also shifted in the past five years towards better-for-you products. 28% of respondents said they would buy healthier products such as dark chocolate or products with added fruit or nuts, while around 20% said they would purchase more portion-controlled candy than last year.

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