Sugarfree Is A Growth Leader In Chocolate, Results Mixed In Non-Chocolate


Cleveland — Chocolate had a solid 2020 with sales gains accelerating further in 2021. One of the contributors to growth has been sugarfree chocolate. While only about 1.4 percent of total chocolate sales, the sugarfree sector managed 27.4 percent growth in dollars and 19 percent in pounds, according to data from Information Resources, Inc. (IRI).

 Dollar sizeDollar growthVolume size (lbs)Volume growth
Total chocolate$15.8B+5.8%2.1B+0.8%%
Sugar-free chocolate$226M+27.4%19.0M+19.0%
Source: IRI, MULO+C, 52 weeks ending 8/8/2021

Reports indicate sugarfree chocolate sales are growing across channels. The share of total chocolate sales generated by sugarfree is the highest in the drug store channel, at 2 percent. Additionally, drug stores are seeing impressive double digit growth, at 28.4 percent for the latest 52 weeks. Conversely, sales through convenience stores are very low, representing less than 0.1 percent of total chocolate sales.

Sugar-free chocolateDollar sizeShare of total chocolate dollarsDollar growth
Multi-outlet plus convenience$226.2M1.4%+27.4%
Multi outlet$225.6M1.8%+27.4%
Drug stores$33.7M2.0%+28.4%
Convenience stores$0.5M<0.1%+60.7%
Source: IRI, MULO+C, MULO, Food, Drug and Convenience, 52 weeks ending 8/8/2021

The success in sugarfree chocolate is not a pandemic-only phenomenon, reports Anne-Marie Roerink, founder of 210 Analytics, LLC, but rather a multi-year area of growth. Gains have been in the double digits since 2018.

Sugar-free chocolateDollar sizeDollar growth
Source: IRI, MULO+C, calendar years 2016-2020
Success Mixed In Non-Chocolate

Sugarfree is an area of growth for non-chocolate in terms of dollars, but unit sales experienced some pressure during the latest 52 weeks. The sector represents 1 percent of total non-chocolate sales in the multi-outlet channels, according to IRI. Growth is far below average, at 0.8 percent in the past year.

 Dollar sizeDollar growthUnit salesUnit growth
Total non-chocolate$9.2B+8.8%4.7B+3.5%
Sugar-free non-chocolate$92.7M+0.8%36.1M-7.7%
Source: IRI, MULO+C, 52 weeks ending 8/8/2021

The drug channel has an above-average share of sugarfree as a percentage of total non-chocolate sales, at 2.7 percent. Sales of sugarfree non-chocolate represent less than 0.1 percent in the convenience store channel. Overall results are mixed, with the grocery channel experiencing sales increases of 1.7 percent, meanwhile sales declined for drug and convenience stores during the most recent 52 weeks.

Sugar-free non-chocolateDollar sizeShare of total non-chocolate dollarsDollar growth
Multi-outlet plus convenience$92.7M1.0%+0.8%
Multi outlet$91.9M1.4%+0.8%
Drug stores$22.8M2.7%-3.6%
Convenience stores$0.7M<0.1%-8.6%
Source: IRI, MULO+C, MULO, Food, Drug and Convenience, 52 weeks ending 8/8/2021

The longer five-year look shows that sugarfree non-chocolate sales have hovered around $90 million to $100 million for some time. Slight year-on-year dollar increases alternate with slight decreases, dollar increases tending to coincide with price increases.  

Sugar-free non-chocolateDollar sizeDollar growth
Source: IRI, MULO+C, calendar years 2016-2020