Category Dollar Sales Head For Record Year, Units Continue To Decline


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Washington — After a strong Halloween dollar performance, the year continues to track double digits ahead of 2021 with growth being seen in all sectors — chocolate, non-chocolate and gum/mints. According to NCA data insights partner Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), sales increased 10.8 percent over the 52 weeks ending December 4, 2022.

Confectionery sales are closing in on $32 billion for the year. However, inflation is a large part of the story, especially for chocolate, notes Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics, LLC. In November 2022, an IRI primary shopper survey found a record 84 percent of consumers indicated they are implementing money-saving measures in response to inflation’s impact on their spending power. These measures are felt in unit and volume pressure for the vast majority of categories around the store, including chocolate and candy, Roerink points out. 

Chocolate sales increased 8.6 percent for the latest 52 weeks. However, while during the first half of the year all sectors contributed to growth, several areas are now pacing behind, including gift boxes, novelty and seasonal winter chocolate. This is interesting because Halloween dollar sales paced ahead the entire period, but winter holiday-themed chocolate is off to a slower start, having fallen 6.2 percent behind 2021 sales in the latest four-week outlook.

Chocolate sectors experiencing continued growth are sugarfree, snack size and larger value packs. An analysis of pack size trends shows this two-fold strategy being mimicked across most departments and categories in the store, Roerink points out, adding that some consumers are switching to larger pack sizes to save, while others are moving to smaller units to manage their budgets.

The impact of inflation on the dollar performance is seen when switching to unit sales, which are now tracking behind in all subcategories. Chocolate units are down 4.1 percent, a substantially greater decline than that of total CMG, which is down 1.7 percent in units for the latest 52 weeks. 

The non-chocolate sector dollar sales continue to pace chocolate in both the longer and shorter time periods. For the latest 52 weeks, non-chocolate sales are up 13.3 percent. Every subcategory is contributing to growth in the 52-week view, with strong performances by chewy candy that now exceeds $5 billion in sales.

Sugarfree candy sales increased the most, up 18.3 percent, followed by caramel/taffy and plain mints. However, echoing the performance in chocolate, seasonal non-chocolate candy for the winter holidays is tracking behind. Though the big volume weeks typically happen closer to the holidays, sales are starting to lap the price increases of 2021, remarks Roerink. Unit pressure is also starting to set in for non-chocolate sales. While units are still positive in the latest 52 weeks, up 0.7 percent, they are trailing behind in the shorter four- and 12-week time periods. 

Gum and mint sales are consistently tracking about 15 percent ahead of year-ago levels in both the shorter and longer time periods. The bulk of sales and growth are being delivered by sugarless gum. Much like chocolate and non-chocolate unit sales have turned from positive to slipping 2.6 percent in the latest four weeks.