The Truth About Retail Checkout

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Washington — Recent data from market research company IRI shows consumers are embracing moderation at checkout. For every 10 trips consumers make to retail stores, on average they purchase candy at checkout less than one time.This comes on the heels of a report from vocal food policy organization Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that suggests consumers are not capable of making their own choices when paying for their items at grocery stores and other retail establishments.

However, a recent national survey from NCA shows consumers feel in control when they checkout at the grocery store and other retail locations where candy is sold. In fact, 63 percent of parents say they appreciate having the option to purchase candy at the checkout counter. And they feel in control when their children see candy in the store.

“Parents are more than equipped to deal with the challenge of getting through the checkout aisle without buying a treat for their kids,” says Julie Gunlock, senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum. “There’s nothing wrong with candy being placed in the checkout aisle. Parents face lots of challenges every single day.”

Gunlock continues on to say that she doesn’t think saying no to a child’s request for candy is the toughest challenge that parents face. “The food nannies might say this is an epic problem for parents, but moms and dads know it’s a pretty minor issue,” she says.

According to Cam Cloeter, an expert in the field of retail checkouts, those shopping with children tend to purchase less candy at checkout than they do in center store sections. “That pester power argument doesn’t have a lot of teeth to it, as demonstrated here,” he adds.

Front ends are complex store areas with limited space that must have products meeting a number of usage occasions, continues Cloeter.

“These instant consumables fill a plethora of need states, from refresh to reward,” he explains. “Front ends are really about helping shoppers make informed and responsible choices, while maintaining sales productivity.”

Although checkout merchandisers carry numerous categories, candy ranks among the most frequently purchased, accounting for more than 30 percent of the instant consumable market and having an 80 percent household penetration rate, according to Hank Cardello, senior fellow and director, obesity solutions initiative for think tank the Hudson Institute.

The policy brain trust evaluated the five consumer segments developed by Natural Marketing Institute that range from “well beings” to “eat, drink and be merrys.” Hudson found that regardless of consumer group, all segments buy and eat confections.

“For years, the industry has anecdotally said ‘consumers love our products.’ That’s not anecdotal anymore though,” Cardello says. “It moves the argument away from the misconceptions that are impacting the category.”

Further, his analyses note that candy does not rank among the top foods and beverages that consumers are avoiding due to health concerns.

“Whether consumers purchase confectionery items in the center of the store or at retail checkout, they are choosing to enjoy them in moderation,” says John H. Downs, Jr., NCA president and CEO. “Consumers understand the unique role that chocolate, candy, gum and mints can play in a happy, balanced lifestyle.”

Most Americans enjoy candy about twice per week, averaging less than 50 calories and about one teaspoon of added sugar per day from confectionery items. Candy accounts for less than two percent of the average American’s overall caloric intake.

Kelly Springer MS, RD, CDN, of Kelly’s Choice, LLC, says: “I think everything should be consumed in moderation. Every once in a while our bodies crave sweets and by having a little we stop those cravings.”

A self-professed “huge proponent of gum,” Springer notes the segment promotes good dental health and can help curb food cravings between meals.

“Gum is something I buy in the checkout line every time,” she tells Candy & Snack TODAY. “It can be a fantastic tool for weight loss and general healthy living.”

Confectionery companies are providing consumers with the information, options and support they need to make the choices that are right for them. With a front-of-pack labeling program, companies are putting calorie information right at consumers’ fingertips. And the companies make a wide variety of options — available in packages ranging from fun size to share size – that can bring a little enjoyment to any occasion.