To journey through the average department or grocery store is to be bombarbed with hundreds of decadent products that we’d love to buy for their great taste, if only they weren’t so darn bad for us (and specifically for our waistlines). Whether it’s Oreos from Mondelez International Inc. (NASDAQ:MDLZ), chocolate bars from Hershey Co (NYSE:HSY), or Tootsie Rolls from Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc. (NYSE:TR) (or all of the above), shopping is a constant battle of wills between the rational part of us that wants to be healthy and the sugar freak part of us that wants to go all YOLO.
That battle reaches its peak at the checkout aisle, where we’re often stuck waiting to have all of our healthy purchases rung up while vile candy, gum, and magazines with Kim Kardashian plastered on them stare at us without remorse everywhere we look. Is there a man or woman among us who hasn’t cracked under the pressure of the checkout aisle and its strategically-placed impulse buys, sheepishly tossing a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on top of their kale? No, no there isn’t.
However, there’s a looming threat facing candy makers. Since it obviously isn’t a sudden wave of reason overruling YOLO (like that will ever happen), it’s clearly something else, and that something is the growth of online grocery shopping. Research conducted by Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen found that just under half of all survey respondents had purchased consumer packaged goods within the last three months, more than double the rate from just over a year earlier. Unsurprisingly, millenials are leading the charge, with over 60% of that group having done so as of the latest survey. That rapid growth had FMI and Nielsen predicting that the overall figure could top 70% by 2022.
Interestingly, it’s not just Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) that is driving the online grocery shopping boom, but also major U.S retailers like Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT), Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR), and Target Corp. (NYSE:TGT). Indeed, the very companies that once tempted us so mercilessly may yet be our salvation, and not just because of online shopping; the rise of self-checkout aisles, which are often devoid of chocolatey frills, is also contributing to lagging sales.
Why is online shopping bad news for candy makers? Because by and large, those shoppers don’t give in to impulse buys like candy the same way that physical shoppers do. It’s much easier for them to navigate only to the items they mean to purchase and stick to that list, partly because there’s no immediate gratification from giving in like there would be at the checkout aisle. You still have to wait for your goods to be delivered when ordering online, while if you give in at checkout, you could be tearing open that Twix in your car two minutes later.
Those headwinds are among the reasons why candy-coated ETFs like PowerShares Dynamic Food & Beverage (NYSE:PBJ) have gone nowhere over the last three years and the future outlook for the industry doesn’t look very sweet. We’ll look at the prospects for Mondelez International Inc. (NASDAQ:MDLZ), Hershey Co (NYSE:HSY), and Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc. (NYSE:TR) on the next page.
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