(Bloomberg) -- Mondelez International Inc., which rode the pandemic snacking boom to boost online sales of cookies and candy, says the retail trend will continue to grow even after mobility restrictions are lifted as people have become accustomed to using their digital devices to shop for food.
Consumers who were stuck at home became more savvy at using e-commerce channels to satisfy their snack cravings, which were a source of comfort as well as a “lifeline during the pandemic,” said Maurizio Brusadelli, executive vice president and president of Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
E-commerce sales for Mondelez -- which produces Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers and Cadbury chocolate -- jumped by about 30% so far this year in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and even more in some places, he said in an interview. In China, e-commerce comprised 20% of total sales, helped by partnerships including with TikTok and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which gave consumers wider online access to its products.
Growth in digital sales is expected to continue at these levels even as the pandemic wanes, as customers have shifted toward at-home consumption, he said. In China, consumers are using e-commerce platforms to shop for biscuits and gum, Indian consumers sought out chocolate and Australians opted for healthier, low-sugar snacks, both online and in stores.
“People were forced to buy online during the pandemic, and then they continued to buy online,” Brusadelli said.
Chocolate sales in Asia, especially India and China, will see strong growth in the coming years as consumers become more affluent and average consumption remains “very low” compared to Europe and North America, Brusadelli said. Demand per capita is around 9 kilograms a year in Europe (20 lbs), compared with just 200 grams in India.
“Asia continues to offer significant potential and opportunity for growth. I see a lot of opportunities for chocolate,” he said. Mondelez has the biggest chocolate market share in India, Malaysia and Australia, company data show.
The snack food giant has an 11% share of the global confectionery market, including chocolate, gum and candy, trailing Mars Inc.’s 13.1%, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jennifer Bartashus. Its greatest competitive strength is a leading 12% share of the $103 billion global market in sweet biscuits, snack bars and fruit snacks, she said in a report published in March.
Besides tailor-made snacks for Asian tastebuds, such as wasabi-flavored Oreos in China and pandan coconut chocolate in Malaysia, Mondelez is looking to roll out healthier snacking options to meet rising consumer demand, Brusadelli said. The company has already introduced snacks that are portion-controlled, low in calories, sugar-free or vegan.
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