The giant American candy market is being forced to redefine the concept of impulse buying in the face of the twin threats from the growth of online shopping and health concerns.

The $35 billion-dollar-industry has traditionally relied in large part on the temptation it provides shoppers – and especially children – by being the last display of products in the checkout aisle of supermarkets.

But, as AdAge reports, candy shopping habits are changing.

"This is probably the hardest time to be in this category that I've experienced in the last 20 years," said Tom Schoenwaelder, principal at Deloitte, where he leads the strategic growth transformation group. 

Amazon now accounts for 30% of all online grocery shopping in the US, according to Brick Meets Click, an advisory firm focused on grocery and technology's impact on the way consumers shop. That’s about the same share of the online grocery market as all supermarkets together.

In an attempt to replicate the in-store impulse purchase, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, the world's largest confectionary maker, has trialled a range of ideas, including online gift certificates to reward a friend with candy, and having sweets readily available in a variety of novel places, like a Lyft or an Uber taxi.

They’ve also piloted campaigns with Spotify, targeting audio ads at customers for Snickers by calculating what mood the listener is in based on what music they’re playing.

Mondelez International (maxim, “our purpose is to empower people to snack right”) is trying a similar but more ambitious approach, using data to predict exactly when someone will crave a snack and then exposing them to an appropriate ad. This can be via social media, TV, or during a video game, AdAge reports.

Mondelez is using a proprietary tool called Demand Spaces to understand snacking. It looks at who, what and where people are snacking, then hits consumers with highly targeted messaging.

Spotting when a person has an urge to snack is one thing; satisfying that craving in short order remains a challenge, however.

But impulse purchases are perhaps more important than ever because of the second big attack candy brands are facing – consumers are eating far fewer sweets than 10 years ago.

In the main, the industry is responding to this trend with an age-old message: all things in moderation. And, the National Confectioners Association says its members plan to sell 50% of individually wrapped candy in packs that contain 200 calories or less by 2022.

Sourced from AdAge; additional content by WARC staff