Roerink Tells Expo Attendees Non-Chocolate Sector Continues To Outperform


Chicago — Living up to being an affordable and permissible treat, non-chocolate candy is outperforming most categories around the store. Additionally, the sales forecast for the sector is bright, according to Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics, LLC.

During the Getting To Know Candy Consumers learning session at the recent Sweets & Snacks Expo, Roerink told attendees that while current sales and consumption patterns are very similar across incomes, gender, ages, regions and ethnicities, sector growth is predominantly driven by Gen Z and millennials, with non-chocolate sales expected to reach $20 billion in the total market by 2027, according to Euromonitor International. 

Yet, candy purchases are not isolated from money-saving measures, she explained, pointing out that 62 percent of consumers now shop candy differently. She listed aiming to buy it less often, finding sales promotions, sticking to the budget and buying smaller pack sizes being the top measures. Buy-one, get-one and temporary price reductions are the most popular discount types. 

Consumers think of non-chocolate as being a fun treat to enjoy or share with others. Consumption is as much tied to everyday treating as it is to special occasions, Roerink pointed out. Gummies, chewy and hard candy have the highest cross-population engagement, but most consumers purchase across several different segments. “Variety is our superpower: people who consume candy more often tend to buy a wider range of candies,” she said. 

Classic fruity flavors draw the top preference at 50 percent, though younger shoppers are more likely to prefer unique flavors. “In gummies, 46 percent of Americans equally like both sweet and sour flavors, whereas 43 percent prefer sweet. The sour preference is much higher among Gen Z and millennials,” she revealed. 

Aside from sharing during the major candy holidays, seven in 10 consumers gift non-chocolate for special occasions, though only 35 percent do so frequently. “Forty percent of Americans say they are more likely to gift chocolate than candy, driven by chocolate’s reputation as being the more traditional and premium gift, as well as offering a better selection of giftable options,” she told the attendees. More non-chocolate gifting options would prompt 64 percent of consumers to at least explore gifting candy, Roerink added. 

Switching gears, Roerink noted that 45 percent of consumers believe there is such a thing as better-for-you candy. Definitions tend to center around no or less sugar, followed by better quality and cleaner ingredients and portion sizes. “However, just because they believe there is better-for-you candy does not mean people regularly buy it. In fact, only 10 percent of the population frequently purchase better-for-you candy options,” she said. 

While sales specials and secondary displays have long reminded people to purchase candy, the influence of social media has become substantial. Roerink said that 46 percent of consumers get inspired to purchase non-chocolate candy by ideas on various social platforms. “Brand, price and mood dominate the candy purchase decision, with brands being substantially more influential among boomers,” she explained, adding that private brands represent a very small part of the non-chocolate candy business at 4.5 percent. 

Wrapping up her presentation, Roerink told the crowd that consumers like browsing for new candies, with 45 percent doing so occasionally and 17 percent saying they check out the candy aisle frequently. “They are equally interested in line extensions from familiar brands and entirely new candy brands or items,” she said, pointing out that 58 percent of Americans chose new flavors, followed by new textures (16 percent).