Skip to main content

Collective Sweet Tooth Lifts Candy and Chocolate Sales

NCA releases annual report on confectionery segment
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Sales of chocolate and candy reached an all-time high, according to a new report from the confectioners' association.

The combination of comfort snacking and a return to celebrations helped propel chocolate and candy sales to an 11% gain in 2021, according to the annual State of Treating report from the The National Confectioners Association (NCA). Consumers’ cravings for these sweet treats led the category to top $36.9 billion in retail sales last year.

Released during the trade association’s State of the Industry Conference, the report outlined ways that the still unusual marketplace impacted people’s taste for chocolate and candy products. "In 2021, consumers found even more creative ways to celebrate holidays and special occasions, and they continued to turn to chocolate and candy to bring a little fun to those experiences," observed John Downs, president and CEO of NCA.

Performances were strong across the category. Sales of chocolate products increased 9.2% and sales of non-chocolate candies rose a robust 14.5% during that time frame. With the resumption of many activities in 2021 compared to 2020, sales of gum and mint items rebounded, as did seasonal engagement.

Grocery was a solid channel for growth in 2021. NCA’s research shows that 71% of consumers report that they mostly buy chocolate and candy at their primary grocery store. Sales at grocery reached $7.6 billion last year, with a 6.3% jump in dollar sales and a 0.1% bump in unit sales.

From an audience standpoint, the State of Treating report found that Baby Boomer consumers tend to over-index in the grocery channel. Younger Millennial and Gen Z consumers over-index for supercenters.

While sales are strong, there are new opportunities for growth in today’ ever-evolving marketplace, the research indicates. "The shift to home-centricity has meant new opportunities for confectionery companies and their retail partners as consumers seek new treating moments with new items, new pack sizes and new brands,” reported Downs. To that point, 72% of consumers agree that it is important for chocolate and candy brands to offer portion size variety.

Candy brands and retailers can also meet the interests of today’s and tomorrow consumers by sharing more information. The State of Treating shows that confectioners brands’ commitments to give back to the community or support special causes influence purchase decisions, according to 50% of consumers. An overwhelming 88% are interested in seeing information about confectionery brands’ commitments and practices in the areas of environmental sustainability, social responsibility and giving back.

Downs also underscored the potential for chocolate and candies to withstand further evolution and disruption. "A key takeaway from the report is that in contrast to rising costs for families related to inflation, health care and simply putting food on the table, candy remains a simple, affordable treat. Whether consumers found their inspiration on social media or in the grocery aisle, they reached for chocolate and candy as a means of self-care and enjoyment in an otherwise uncertain time,” he remarked.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds