How Are Shoppers Noshing on Confections?

NCA releases annual 'State of Treating' report signaling strong demand, even as price remains top of mind
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
NCA buying trends - candy
Consumers typically shop three or four channels for confections, led by supercenters and grocery stores, NCA's report reveals.

Shoppers are still sweet on confections. The National Confectioners Association (NCA) is out with its 2024 "State of Treating" report, which affirms an enviable household penetration of 98% for chocolate, candy, gum and mints. Conducted by 210 Analytics, LLC, the report includes research from a consumer survey taken in December 2023 combined with data from Circana and future predictions by Euromonitor.  

Inflation may have helped bump up the numbers over the last year, but the $48 billion in total confectionery spend reflects strong categories that resonate with shoppers. Chocolate has a large chunk of the market (no pun intended), ringing up $25.9 billion in total sales in 2023. Non-chocolate candy followed at $19.2 billion, while gum came in at $3.7 billion.

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Many of these products are being purchased in the grocery sector. According to the report, consumers typically buy most of their confectionery products at supercenters (78%) and supermarkets (68%), followed by drug stores (33%), value stores (28%), club stores (28%) and convenience stores (27%).

Other morsels in the report include the following data points:

  • Holidays remain big candy occasions, as Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and the winter holidays collectively account for 64% of total confectionery sales.
  • 86% of consumers surveyed said they believe that it’s fine to treat yourself with sweets as part of a happy, balanced lifestyle.
  • About 34.6 annual store trips included confectionery purchases in 2023, down a slight 0.3% from the prior year. 
  • 58% of consumers buy confectionery in-store only, while 36% shop both in-store and online for such items. 
  • The top three purchase drivers, in descending order, are price, brand and mood. 

John Downs, president and CEO of NCA, said that the report indicates steady demand in a market that isn’t quite back to normal following years of volatility. "Our new research shows that, even when faced with unpredictable environmental shifts and changes, consumers feel a strong connection to chocolate and candy – and they embrace classic favorites and innovative novelties with an emotional drive that keeps the category fresh and vibrant,” he declared. “Consumers seek out chocolate and candy to help enhance holiday seasons, family celebrations, and those important 'treat yourself' moments.”

Looking ahead, the State of Treating report projects that U.S. confectionery sales will increase $12.2 billion between 2024 and 2028.

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