This is brutal, we are all feeling it. The worst part is the uncertainty. What will happen? When will it happen? How do I deal with it? I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and decided to write out my thoughts about the future as it relates to the confectionery market in North America. Hopefully, you will find some use, and more importantly some hope, in these thoughts.
The spread of the virus and shutdown of business will end and the world will get back to some version of normal. When and how, I have no idea. I remain positive that the majority of the population is taking the necessary precautions and that the brightest minds in the world are working together and will find a solution. There will be many battle scars once it is done. Companies that did not have solid financial foundations will close. Unemployment will be high. Stocks will remain depressed. However, it is not all negative. After being cooped up for so long, people will want to go out again and rebuild with hopeful enthusiasm. Many companies will have a tough time, but will survive and welcome back their staff to service their markets.
Consumers are scared and spending has stopped for anything that is non-essential. Habits have changed. While once they were out trying new things, now they are doing and eating similar things every day. Adventure and risk-taking were entertainment before it was actual risk to leave your house. This wartime philosophy will linger for some time.
People will return to conservative values including family, friends and traditions. They will turn to things that comfort them and remind them of the past when the world wasn’t as scary. They will also want to make up for lost time with smaller get-togethers, celebrations and parties. Travelling abroad for vacation or to destinations that are very heavily visited will remind people of the fears they are experiencing today. Whether it is true or not, Europe and Asia are currently portrayed as high-risk places. Today, staying at home is the only safety that exists. That will be remembered as people are planning their leisure time. Remote, domestic destinations could be a solution for those looking to travel. More people will be home for the holidays in the near future.
In terms of the holidays that run the rhythm of the confectionery business, I think that they will be highly celebrated once we are past this crisis, with a couple of exceptions. Easter 2020 will be more or less be cancelled. People are going to miss that holiday and want to celebrate with their families that they have been cut off from at the next possible opportunity.
I am concerned about Halloween 2020. People being the primary risk of this virus may create hesitation for trick-or-treating. Parents could be concerned about bringing their kids to strangers' houses and then having their kids eat candy that was touched by someone they don’t know. Stranger danger! Smaller parties with close friends and family could be the way that many celebrate Halloween 2020.
Now to the good part…Christmas 2020 will be highly celebrated. Travel and large purchases will be decreased due to fear and financial ability, but indulgences and reasonable gifts will be high on shopping lists come November. Families will want to shower children with gifts since they missed Easter.
Valentine’s Day 2021 will be big. Showing appreciation to the person you love is going to be something that many will connect with and want to celebrate. Parents having some time alone, couples being reunited or new love will be something that is going to be deeply needed this year, more than ever.
Easter 2021 will be the Easter to make up for the Easter that was missed. Having missed this holiday this year, it will become more important than ever in 2021. Taking Easter back and making it the best it can be will be important to many families. Grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles will spoil their children with chocolate and candy to show them how the holiday should be celebrated.
Product selections should focus on traditional products with some opportunity for some lighthearted products. A little levity may play well. Wild new flavours will probably not be something people will want. There has been enough excitement and new things this year. Licensed product, unfortunately, will be too risky. Many companies will take a hit from the lack of theatrical releases for the Easter season. Staking large guarantees and over-saturating brands at retail is something both licensors and licensees will think twice about it in the future. Products that feature comfort, family and tradition should be front and center.
Retailers have another huge opportunity in the economy this year. Smaller businesses make up a massive portion of the workforce. The big, multinational confectionery companies will survive or be merged. They will find a way. Smaller companies need support from retailers now more than ever. A few new listings could make the difference for a smaller company’s year and future. Buyers can make a massive impact on keeping family businesses that have been around for decades going and their staff’s futures secure with just a few POs. Give them the opportunity this year and retailers will have plenty of choices of companies to buy from in the future. Dedicate space to feature their products and tell the consumers you are supporting these smaller companies. Consumers will embrace this! Many of them work for small businesses themselves.
Our confectionery industry has an important role to play in the healing after this crisis. Above all, the thing I have always loved most about my job is that the products we make get to be a part of people’s best time of their year; their holidays! Thinking about one of our chocolate pops, a stick with a tiny piece of chocolate left on it, in the background of a picture of Christmas morning fills me with pride. We were given the opportunity to come into that family's most cherished time and bring a little joy to those kids. I love that idea. That keeps me going during these times. Let’s work together to preserve everything that makes our industry great and bring consumers the products they will want in the coming holidays.
Stay safe and look to the future,
Doug Liberman is the President of Splendid Chocolates. Splendid Chocolates is a BRC, Organic, Gluten Free and Kosher certified, 3rd generation family-owned business that offers truffles, bars and molded novelty items in solid, pop, and hollow forms made with real premium quality chocolate. Products range from small truffle pieces to 2ft hollow pieces. All of our chocolate decorating is done by hand with white chocolate. Our retail focus is on premium seasonal novelty items, but we also offer contract manufacturing and private label opportunities.