Candy is still a sweet category for supermarket retailers. Consumers turned to indulgent treats to take the edge off their pandemic panic — a trend that’s not likely to change any time soon — and seasonal candy remains a key segment of the category.
“Our data shows that chocolate is among the top categories that consumers are eating, in part because consumers turn to chocolate for comfort and because people are looking for ways to have more fun while they’re at home,” says Lynn Hemans, VP of consumer intelligence and strategy at The Hershey Company, in Hershey, Pa.
Mike Gilroy, VP of trade development and sponsorship at Hackettstown, N.J.-based Mars Wrigley USA, notes that nearly half of all treat and snack consumption occurs during screen time, like movie nights and streaming binges. “Mars Wrigley is finding new ways to connect with consumers in this moment,” Gilroy asserts. “We’re helping retailers prompt consumers to think of our category when shopping with in-store promotions, offering a variety of share-size packaging, and engaging people with relevant brand communications.”
While the pandemic might have shifted shopping habits, it hasn’t dampened consumers’ desire to make candy part of their seasonal celebrations. Food retailers won big in 2020 when it came to seasonal candy sales — the channel was the most commonly shopped channel for seasonal confectionery, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Confectioners Association (NCA). This past year, NCA data shows that online ordering through the local grocery store for delivery or pickup overtook online retailers as the biggest online channel for confectionery.
During a trying year, manufacturers and retailers found new ways to maximize in-store seasonal candy sales. According to Hemans, “The way we’ve all celebrated seasons this year has been different, but we’re all finding new ways to make special times of the year continue to feel special.”
This past Halloween, for instance, Mars Wrigley launched Treat Town, a digital platform that allowed customers to engage in fun activities and virtually trick-or-treat for credits, which could be redeemed at select retailers, including Walmart, Target and CVS. In addition to fan favorites, treats included seasonal items such as M&M’s Creepy Cocoa Crisp, M&Ms and Snickers in Glow in the Dark packaging, and Zombie Skittles