Circana’s Sadler Looks At Top Trends In Seasonal Confections


Understanding seasonal candy trends is essential for brands and retailers to develop strategies that meet the evolving needs of shoppers. Circana’s Dan Sadler breaks down the current situation.

Washington — Confectionery trends have shifted significantly during the past few years as several factors, including the pandemic, supply chain disruptions and inflation, have impacted consumer consumption habits. After a strong 2021 driven by increased holiday gatherings, 2022 saw declining unit sales of 3 percent throughout all seasons. Dollar growth was boosted by higher price points, with chocolate and non-chocolate products experiencing a 10 percent increase in dollar sales. 

As we head further into 2023 and beyond, it will become essential for brands and retailers to understand seasonal candy trends to develop strategies that meet the evolving needs of shoppers. Consumers are becoming increasingly discerning with their purchases, and rising costs have caused many to dip into savings for everyday expenses. 

As the seasons change, so do the flavors and treats consumers crave, and offering the right products at the right time is key. Keeping consumer preferences top of mind will enable industry leaders to tailor their product offerings and promotions to maximize growth. 

Seasonal Items Drive Growth 

Despite an overall decrease in unit sales, seasonal candy items drove growth across all sectors in 2022. More variety in flavors, colors and packaging designs has led to increased trips down the seasonal aisles, a trend that is expected to continue throughout the coming year. 

Still, 18 percent of consumers who regularly purchase chocolate and non-chocolate candy products are not buying seasonal products. Capturing these shoppers is crucial for gaining more seasonal growth. Converting these households into seasonal candy shoppers represents a $170 million opportunity. 

Chocolate Leads Valentine’s Day Sales 

Candy continues to play a prominent role in Valentine’s Day gifting. In 2022, sales during the seven-week Valentine’s Day period reached $4.1 billion. Promotional levels during the season were affected by supply chain challenges, and base sales drove growth across all confection sectors. 

Chocolate was the top seller of the holiday season, bringing in $2.5 billion in total sales, with seasonal chocolate raking in $613 million alone — an 8.2 percent increase over the year prior. Overall, seasonal items had a mixed performance, with total sales reaching $760 million, up 6.2 percent. 

In 2023, many retailers opted for new items and flavors alongside traditional favorites to drive growth and set up seasonal displays early in the season. Elevating visibility through ads and social media played an important role and will continue to be essential for capturing target shoppers. Quality merchandising, eye-catching displays and keeping shelves stocked are also key.

Easter Confectionery Insights 

Consumer engagement with the Easter holiday soared last year in part because the season was two weeks longer than usual. Yet, sales also had to contend with high inflation, supply chain disruption and comparison to a strong 2021. 

In 2022, Easter candy sales reached $4.7 billion, up 7.7 percent from the year prior. Inflation boosted chocolate dollar sales, which were up 2.9 percent, while volume declined by 6.2 percent. Non-chocolate also experienced growth, increasing 13.1 percent in dollar sales, 3.3 percent in units and 2.4 percent in volume. 

This year, the holiday selling period was reduced by one week. To win with Easter shoppers, retailers should aim to get products in front of them early, inspire them with new items and proven classics and make omnichannel a vital part of their strategy. 

Tricks For Halloween Success 

Fewer people are celebrating Halloween by purchasing candy than in the past. However, those who do buy the holiday treats are buying more and more often. Last year, grocery and drug channels pulled back on seasonal items. Mass retailers, who opted to invest in assortment, outperformed both channels. 

The holiday saw increased dollar sales boosted by double-digit inflation, while volume and unit sales were down for both chocolate and non-chocolate products. 

This year, key economic indicators point to a challenging market for the holiday. To optimize customer participation, manufacturers and retailers should continue offering innovative baking, decorating and crafting products. Seasonal Halloween treats continue to increase in popularity, and both online and brick-and-mortar are delivering growth. 

Winter Holidays Trends 

The winter holidays are a time for celebration, gift-giving and indulging in all things sweet. Yet, consumer participation was mixed last year as inflation prompted more money-saving measures. Those who did celebrate took more trips to the candy aisle and spent more money per trip. 

Winter holiday seasonal item dollar sales were up 8.3 percent, with volume and unit sales on the decline. Retailer support was strong, and more items were kept in stock, with the exception of the drug channel. This increased merchandising resulted in a greater share of pounds sold on promotion and improved efficiencies. 

Ecommerce sales will continue to experience growth during the winter holidays. Novelty products are a key area for opportunity, and non-chocolate novelty items experienced a strong holiday performance for four consecutive years, reaching $114 million in sales in 2022. 

While very few candy sectors managed to shake the declining volume and unit sales trend last year, most remain above the baseline in 2019. Keeping seasonal candy trends in mind is crucial to staying ahead of the curve and meeting the shifting needs of shoppers. Doing so will enable retail leaders to anticipate demand and optimize inventory levels, leading to greater customer loyalty and brand recognition. 

To drive sales during peak holiday periods, retailers and manufacturers should remain flexible and innovative to keep their customers coming back for more season after season.

Contributor Info: Dan Sadler is a principal of client insights at Circana. With more than 25 years of experience, he provides insights and solutions to the CPG industry. He has been the Circana-NCA liaison for the past eight years, where he manages partnerships between Circana and many confectionery manufacturers. He can be reached at [email protected].