Growth Continues In Lollipop Sector


Washington —  Lollipops have come a long way since they first came on the scene more than a century ago. Today, the candy-on-a-stick ranges from miniature offerings, filled varieties and large all-day swirly treats to versions with dried-fruit inclusions, such as mango and pineapple. 

In fact, flavors in the sector are limited only by the imagination and include dessert flavors such as banana split and tiramisu, cocktail flavors including mimosa and margarita, childhood favorites cotton candy and bubble gum, and exotic flavors such as lulo (a tangy tropical fruit from Northwestern South America). The treats are also perfect for taking on shapes that can fit a theme and can be found to resemble ice cream cones, lobsters and lips to name just a few.

While such innovations build on the original hard candies disks and balls mounted on sticks, the essence of lollipops remain constant: long lasting treats that appeal to multigenerational consumers, ultimately a strong and stable segment.  

What’s Trending?

“The lollipop market is doing well and enjoying the same tailwinds as the broader non-chocolate category,” says Craig Cuchra, vice-president of marketing at Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc., maker of Chupa Chups lollipops. The segment, which hit $568 million in sales for the 52 weeks ending November 27, according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), has grown 28.7 percent since 2020. “Growth is coming from everyday products in larger laydown bags and the premium and specialty lollipops,” Cuchra explains.

Commenting on the demographics, Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics, LLC, notes: “About 30 percent of baby boomers and 60 percent of Gen Z and millennial consumers purchase lollipops throughout the year.” Citing data from the NCA’s Getting to Know Candy Consumers 2022 report, she says lollipops continue to be a favorite purchase among parents, with 58 percent of households with children buying lollipops.

Roerink notes another finding from the NCA report — 50 percent of consumers prefer classic fruity flavors, such as orange, strawberry and watermelon, but when it comes to unique flavors such as blood orange, spicy infusions that include hot sauce and tabasco and bacon lollipops, more younger consumers are on board. Twenty percent of Gen Z and millennial consumers purchase these flavors versus just 7 percent of boomers. 

Sebie Denson, managing director at Cima Confections Corp., points to several flavor trends, including dessert options, as well as hot-and-sour combination lollipops.

Such flavor innovations help ensure evolution in the sector and broaden consumer appeal, which is also being driven by no/low-sugar offerings and value-added products containing vitamin C, antioxidants, probiotics and organic ingredients.

“Until recently, lollipops were thought of as a nostalgic indulgence,” says Alina Morse, CEO of Zolli Candy. “That’s being flipped with newer healthful and innovative offerings being introduced.”

Yet another trend is the popularity of seasonal offerings. “We’re seeing dramatic growth when it comes to such products as organic candy cane-flavored lollipops for the winter holidays,” says Jeff Grossman, vice-president, sales and brand development, at YummyEarth, Inc.

Easter and Valentine’s Day are also strong seasonal opportunities, say company representatives. Still, it’s the everyday lollipops that drive growth, reports Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president and practice leader at IRI. These products experienced a 25 percent rise in dollar sales volume for the 52 weeks ending December 4, while seasonal dollar growth was at 6 percent.

Lyons Wyatt notes packaging plays an important role in sector growth. “Laydown bags continue to dominate, with 52 percent of sales and strong dollar sales growth (23 percent) and volume growth (11.5 percent),” she says. 

Meanwhile, standup bags hold a 9 percent share and have the distinction of being the fastest-growing pack type, with dollar sales up 51 percent and volume up 31 percent. In addition, lollipops in boxes maintain a near 11 percent share and show dollar sales growth of 31 percent and a 19 percent uptick in volume.

Such pack options must be considered when addressing various distribution channels such as convenience stores, supermarkets and warehouse clubs, explains Cesar Caicedo, CEO and owner, Colombina S.A. “It’s important to have the correct Price Pack Architecture (PPA) — package type, quantity and size — for the different retailers we serve and their customers,” he says.

Toni Worobel, vice-president of marketing at Original Gourmet Food Co., Inc., adds: “Today, everyday and seasonal offerings, plus organic lollipops, are attracting a broader and health-conscience demographic.”

Not only are the products evolving, so too are the ways companies reach consumers, with social media playing a greater role. “In the past few years social media fans have confirmed that they are looking for lifestyle brands,” says Worobel. “More and more, they’re using lollipops as extensions of their personalities, as they match outfits, make-up, emotional states and social settings with lollipop colors and flavors.”

There’s also a well-being element contributing to the success of lollipops, she adds: “With the world being so uncertain, people tend to find comfort in treats that remind them of easier times.”

“Social media in general, and TikTok especially, are making a big splash in the lollipop space,” says Steve Casey, vice-president of retails sales at Melville Candy Co. “Our 2023 plans call for stepping up our social media efforts beyond Facebook and Instagram as we look forward to creating TikToks. We’re committed to making that happen,” he tells Candy & Snack TODAY.

Bullish Optimism Is Widespread

Unlike some confections that experience a decade of popularity before becoming a retro favorite for certain age groups, lollipops will always be a part of the candy landscape, says Denson. “The satisfaction that comes from eating a lollipop remains off the charts,” he adds.

That sentiment, shared by sources, bodes well for the long-lasting treats even during inflationary times. “We’ve seen a 25 percent increase in the cost of key ingredients this past year, some of which we’ve passed along to consumers, and yet we haven’t seen any real price sensitivity as our sales continue to grow,” says Tom Morse, managing director at Zolli Candy. “Candy, unlike big-ticket items such as cars and houses, haven’t been hit hard by inflation.”

Victor Garcia, vice-president of operations at Florestal USA, concurs: “Candy remains an achievable gift. Some parents may not have hundreds of dollars to spend on a Play Station or iPad, but they probably have $5 or $10 to spend on candy. And when we need to pass along a 10 percent price increase on a 99-cent item, the consumer remains willing and able to absorb that.” He adds that the sector is aided by its versatility and ability to engage consumers for longer periods of time than other confections.

If innovations in flavors, shapes, pack formats and textures continue, lollipops will thrive, conclude both Casey and Caicedo.