Cleveland — Confectionery is among the big winners of 2021. Data from Information Resources, Inc. reveals record sales of $28.2 billion for the 52 weeks ending October 31, 2021. This is up nearly 8 percent from year-ago sales and the gains are only accelerating, according to Anne-Marie Roerink, principal for 210 Analytics, LLC.
During the shorter 12-week period ending October 31, dollars rose 11.5 percent for candy, gum and mints year-on-year.
Halloween was a big contributor to growth, Roerink points out, adding that Americans were ready to celebrate and in the days leading up to the holiday, shelves were empty at many retailers across the country. Looking at the four and 12 weeks preceding the holiday, Halloween seasonal chocolate sales increased by 50 percent year-on-year, while non-chocolate dollar sales increased 2.8 percent for the 12-week period and 20.9 percent for the four weeks preceding the holiday.
It is important to note that in 2020, retailers had pulled back on seasonal-specific merchandising, unsure about consumer engagement with Halloween during the pandemic, Roerink says. In 2021, retailers reinvested in the iconic orange and black seasonal items, resulting in big gains for seasonal confectionery. Additionally, many retailers have started to overlap merchandising for Halloween and Christmas, resulting in an early bump for winter holiday-themed candy as well.
But it wasn’t just seasonal candy that gained in the weeks leading up to Halloween. In chocolate, gift boxes sales rose 13.7 percent, large share bags were up 8.9 percent and sugarfree chocolate, which was up 31.1 percent, drove big gains for the latest 52 weeks ending October 31. Overall, this resulted in a gain for chocolate of 8 percent versus a year ago, reaching $16.3 billion in annual sales.
Non-chocolate had many areas of growth as well. Powerhouse chewy candy reached $4.5 billion in sales an increase of 13.7 percent from the past year. Other growth drivers include novelty candy, which was up 28.6 percent, caramel/taffy up 12.6 percent, hard sugar candy up 7.9 percent and licorice up 3.2 percent.
Even sugarfree candy, which has struggled during the past five years, is gaining in 2021, up 3.5 percent for the past 52 weeks.
Gum sales, perhaps hardest hit by shifts in consumer behavior, are nearing pre-pandemic levels. The 52-week view shows sales off just 4.6 percent year-on-year. In the latest 12 weeks, sales are up 9.9 percent versus a year ago.
Supermarkets remain the top selling outlet for confectionery, at $7.4 billion for the latest 52 weeks, which is up 4.6 percent. The trade class is seeing strong growth in non-chocolate but chocolate and gum are also growth contributors.
Drug stores are back in positive territory for total candy, gum and mints, up 2.7 percent for the latest 52 weeks. Non-chocolate is the biggest growth driver for the channel, up 5.1 percent.
The fastest growth, however, is reported by convenience stores. As consumer mobility has recovered, confectionery sales through convenience stores increased 10 percent during the past 52 weeks. These sales are largely generated by everyday items, with little seasonal business for most convenience stores, Roerink explains. Similar to other channels, non-chocolate is the primary driver of growth for convenience stores, with sales up 16.9 percent for the latest 52 weeks.
If the Halloween celebrations are any indication for America’s readiness to re-engage with seasonal celebrations, the fourth quarter holiday season could be big, notes Roerink. Christmas chocolate and non-chocolate sales are off to a strong start, up 53.7 percent and 164.6 percent, respectively.
It is, however, important to keep in mind that sales during the early weeks of the season are a fraction of the volume sold during the weeks leading up to the holiday. Additionally, the Winter Holiday season was the strongest of the four big confectionery in 2020 — resulting in a tougher road map for growth in 2021.