With the holiday season approaching, consumers are looking for inexpensive gifts and treats. Retailers have an opportunity to offer an assortment of candy and chocolate that can serve as a fun gift, and provide relief for the harried shopper.
According to a December 2022 report from the National Confectioners Association, more than half of U.S. consumers surveyed said they planned to celebrate the winter holidays by gifting chocolate and candy. Also according to NCA, 93% of Americans said chocolate and candy “make the winter holidays sweeter.”
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People bought candy and candy-related novelty items as gifts, in an effort to spend less money and still feel festive.
“When you look at 2022 numbers, there was a pretty sizable increase in units and dollars for $10 to $20 gifting,” said Jeff Greenwald, marketing manager for CandyRific. “It’s attributed to the state of the economy. People are cutting back.”
Last holiday season, CandyRific saw healthy sales of its M&M’S dispensers, which retail for $10 to $20. Retailers also ordered a wider variety of items, as consumers bought many different products for people on their gift lists. “People are picking up impulse gifts more than they have in the past,” Greenwald said. “I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Consumers shop early for holiday candy, and they buy treats for various purposes. “Starting in November, 82% of consumers begin looking for holiday treats and 63% will put out a holiday candy dish,” said Mike Gilroy, vice president of trade development and sponsorship at Mars Wrigley. “Throughout December, we see consumers taking part in holiday rituals, with 80% taking part in holiday baking and 73% buying and giving stocking stuffers.”
Gilroy said Mars makes sure retailers have a range of products on shelves early. The company also redesigned product display boxes to maximize shelf space and save labor, with the goal of improving product sell-through.
Another way to improve product turnover is to offer a variety of items that reflect current trends. Global flavors are popular right now, so Jelly Belly launched Boba Milk Tea-inspired jelly bean flavors including Mango Milk Tea, Taro Milk Tea, Matcha Milk Tea, Strawberry Milk Tea and Thai Milk Tea. “With more international flavors sweeping people’s palettes, Jelly Belly is keeping a close eye on those that rise to the top so our flavor innovators can hit the ground running,” said Robert Swaigen, vice president of global marketing for Jelly Belly.
Retailers can hit the ground running by merchandising a variety of flavors and pack types to suit various occasions.. “Holiday gatherings and travel are expected to be very strong,” Swaigen said. “Consumers will need that perfect sweet for holiday gifting, travel, stocking stuffers and more.”
Drug stores have an advantage in holiday candy sales. “Holiday shopper satisfaction is high among drug retailers,” said Mark Pestana, senior director, team lead drug customers for The Hershey Company. “There is a channel opportunity to convert more everyday shoppers to shop the holiday assortment.”
Citing Hershey research, Pestana said drug retailers get credit for convenience, deals and selection as top reasons for being favored among shoppers. Drug retailers can merchandise candy for holidays, for treat-yourself moments and to play a role in bringing people together during social events.
Hershey research also indicated that even as consumers are tightening their wallets in light of inflation, they are spending more on groceries and cutting back on dining out. Pestana noted that chocolate ranks as the second most resilient treat, with 44% of consumers claiming to eat it as a treat at least once a week.
Gummies are also popular, especially among younger shoppers. “Gen Z is loving gummies that aren’t traditional,” said Molly Jacobson, director of business development at Frankford Candy. “They want innovation that’s going to excite them.” Among the company’s products are Gummy Lunchables and the Krabby Patties Combo Meal.
Manufacturers and retailers will pay close attention to holiday sales. “All eyes will be on sell throughs this holiday season in hopes that product assortments, pricing and timing has been planned accordingly to successfully meet consumers’ reaction to inflationary pressures,” Jacobson said.