Washington — The seven-week Valentine’s Day selling season resulted in total candy, mint and gum (CMG) record sales of $4.1 billion, according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) multi-outlet channel sales. This is the first time the holiday has broken the $4 billion mark, reports Anne Marie Roerink, founder of 210 Analytics, LLC.
All product sectors contributed to the sales record, with chocolate being the largest seller, non-chocolate being the fastest growth area and gum/mints having completed a full comeback from the 2020 declines, Roerink says.
In 2020, the Valentine’s Day season was already a wrap when the pandemic started in the early weeks of March. That meant the 2021 Valentine’s Day season was the first one during pandemic times. Despite severe winter storms in the Northeast in the days leading up to the holiday, chocolate and non-chocolate did well.
Roerink points out that more shoppers shifted their purchases to the week before the holiday with an eye on avoiding crowds and mitigating out-of-stocks. Additionally, online sales provided an 85 percent boost in 2021. That meant the 2022 season had a tough road to continued growth. Additionally, the 2022 season was plagued by supply chain challenges resulting in below-average order fill rates — especially for season-specific items.
“Inflation across every aspect of life brought another unknown to 2022 Valentine’s Day engagement. Yet, the holiday delivered big,” Roerink says.
Total CMG Performance
Chocolate contributed $2.5 billion to the total $4.1 billion seasonal period sales. Despite being the biggest contributor to sales and having the best performance in 2021, chocolate sales still grew 8.7 percent. Non-chocolate sales amounted to $1.2 billion, up 12.5 percent. Non-chocolate had the strongest growth across all channels and did particularly well in the drug and convenience channels. Shoppers shifted some of their purchases to larger pack sizes, with volume for total CMG sales up 3.3 percent but units down 0.5 percent. Perhaps this can be attributed in part to the return of classroom exchanges, but the shift to larger pack sizes is certainly being seen during everyday and other holiday periods as well.
Seasonal Item Performance
Seasonal Valentine’s Day items generated $729 million in the seven-week period, which was an additional $45 million versus year ago — increase of 6.2 percent. Chocolate was, by far, the biggest seller in seasonal items, at $613 million, with growth of 8.2 percent. Seasonal non-chocolate sales decreased for the second year in a row. Additionally, seasonal chocolate grew 1.6 percent in volume, while seasonal non-chocolate volume sales declined 9.9 percent. When comparing the first five weeks of the selling period to the last two, it is clear low inventory levels/out-of-stocks played into these results. Across channels, the last two weeks saw a rapid deceleration of sales for both seasonal chocolate and non-chocolate, while everyday item sales started accelerating.
Key Performance Drivers
- Inflation had a tremendous impact on the Valentine’s Day results. Across IRI’s multi-outlet channels, the price per pound for chocolate increased 8.8 percent and the price per unit increased 11.2 percent. Increases for non-chocolate for similar, up 9.3 percent per pound and 11.3 percent per unit. Inflation was highest in the drug store channel and lowest among convenience stores.
- Assortment and inventory pressure changed sales patterns. For instance, the average number of items for seasonal non-chocolate was down 20 percent in the multi-outlet channels and as much as 24.8 percent in the food/grocery channel. Therefore, the remaining assortment has to work extra hard to pull even with last year’s numbers to offset the loss in items. The average item count was down across all areas but affected non-chocolate (-11.6 percent) more so than chocolate (-3.3 percent).
- Consumer engagement with confectionery was mixed. While consumers who participated took more trips and spent more dollars per visit, the overall household penetration was down about 1 percent for total chocolate and non-chocolate; down 5.8 percent for seasonal chocolate and down even more for non-chocolate, at -9.4 percent. This is another sign that shoppers shifted from seasonal to everyday items.
- Ecommerce continued to deliver a boost for the holiday, up 22.7 percent to reach $495 million. More people bought online and they bought online a little more frequently during the seven-week period.
- Snacks proved to be a distraction, with the Super Bowl falling one day before Valentine’s Day instead of a week earlier as it did in 2021. Total snacks generated $7.4 billion, up 11.1 percent for the seven weeks.
- Retailers promoted less and when they did the price cuts were not as deep as during past holidays. This resulted in a reduction of trade efficiency and promotional lifts.
A look at ahead at 2023, shows continued weekday timing for the holiday, which tends to favor retail, says Roerink. As children are back in school, classroom exchanges may continue to make a comeback. Today, schools have mixed policies of disallowing treating altogether or having rules in place, such as individually wrapped treats.
High inflation is definitely on consumers’ minds, Roerink adds. “No less than 92 percent of consumers believe prices are somewhat or a lot higher than they were last year, of whom 95 percent are worried. To date, this has not affected confectionery demand, underscoring the importance of being seen as an affordable treat,” she says.