Category Sets Dollar Sales Record In 2023; Unit Pressures Persist


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Washington — Total confectionery and gum sales reached a record $35.3 billion in 2023, an increase of 8.9 percent in multi-outlet plus convenience outlets, according to data insights firm Circana. Chocolate, non-chocolate candy, gum and mints all contributed to the rising dollars, but units and volume were a different story, reports Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics, LLC.

Confectionery unit sales fell 3.1 percent from year-ago levels in 2023. Chocolate unit sales struggled the most, down 5.2 percent year-on-year. Sales also continued to shift between channels, with convenience stores outperforming grocery and drug in 2023.

While the number of times consumers purchase food and beverages increased over the past few years, people are buying confectionery less frequently, Roerink says. Additionally, they are purchasing a little less when they are buying some chocolate, candy or gum. 

Chocolate sales reached $19.5 billion in 2023, an increase of 5.8 percent versus year ago levels. The largest increases were driven by smaller chocolate bags/bars and seasonal items. However, the dollar gains were generated by price increases, with unit sales declining for all subcategories, according to Circana. Seasonal items came closest to year-ago levels, while novelty, sugarfree and gift box chocolates had the sharpest declines in comparison to 2022.

Chocolate performed best in the convenience store channel. While units were down, the performance was substantially better than sales in the grocery or drug channels, notes Roerink. 

Non-chocolate candy continued to gain share with 12.3 percent dollar sales growth in 2023, taking the sector to $12.4 billion across multi-outlet plus convenience channels. Convenience stores again outperformed other channels in non-chocolate sales. Non-chocolate reflected a much larger share of dollars in convenience stores, driven by the sector’s above-average engagement with younger generations who over index for non-chocolate candy.

Virtually all non-chocolate subcategories saw gains in dollar sales for the year, with the highest growth coming in novelty, seasonal, sugarfree, and hard candy. Unit sales showed a 1.2 percent decline year-on-year overall, but a few of the subcategories managed to grow unit sales, including novelty, seasonal and sugarfree candy. 

Sugarless gum continued to stage its comeback with a 6.4 percent increase in units sales. This translated into a 16.3 percent increase in dollar sales. While regular gum experienced a decline in units, inflation boosted dollars by 5.7 percent for a combined total of $3.4 billion in sales in 2023.