Whether for comfort, indulgence or novelty, consumers are loading up on candy. Inflation and other worries are not preventing people from satisfying their sweet tooth. Manufacturers are responding with innovative new items while still appealing to shoppers’ desire for nostalgia.
According to the National Confectioners Association, in its 2023 State of Treating Report, in 2022 confectionery category dollar sales grew 11.1% compared to 2021. Citing sales figures from IRI, NCA noted that chocolate dollar sales increased 9.4% in the 52 weeks ending Feb. 26, while non-chocolate dollar sales increased 14.6%.
“It’s evident when consumers treat themselves, they want premium, and they are also reaching for the excitement of the non-chocolate segment,” said Lou DiMarco, executive vice president for Hilco, which makes Warheads Popping Candy, licensed candy and other treats.
DiMarco pointed to some innovative launches last year, such as mini candy cones with chocolate-filled centers, gummies with dextrose and new brands joining the popping candy segment. “It’s out of the box thinking,” he said. “These types of items are spurring new impulse sales in older categories.”
Non-chocolate leads the way
Manufacturers of non-chocolate items are enjoying much growth. “Overall we’ve seen a very good 2021 and a fantastic 2022,” said Jeff Greenwald, marketing manager at CandyRific.
Candy is the perfect moderately priced treat, so inflation has little effect on sales. “If something went from $2.49 to $2.99, it wasn’t a blow to your wallet,” Greenwald said.
He added that much of the growth comes from the emerging consumer segment of “kidults,” or adults who purchase products designed for kids. For these consumers, and kids, CandyRific offers candy fans featuring licensed characters from Star Wars, Marvel and Nickelodeon.
While nostalgia is appealing, so are new products. According to the NCA report, 61% of candy shoppers look for confectionery products they have never purchased.
“The candy category is in very good shape,” said Robert Swaigen, vice president of global marketing for Jelly Belly. “Innovation continues to be an important driver of category success.”
Swaigen added that among the trends driving innovation are global flavors of food and beverages, many of which translate well to confections.