Innovation, Indulgence Carry Chocolate Into 2021

By: CSD Staff 

While pandemic-mired treat lovers bought big and confectioners thought big, self-reward and innovation are keeping chocolate top of mind as treat lovers search for the old normal moving into 2021.

Overall, chocolate candy held firm during pandemic-plagued 2020 with relatively flat growth of 1.6%, per IRI. While snack-size and novelty chocolate saw large dollar sales drops of just over 35%, gift boxes maintained sales, losing less than a percent. Sugar-free chocolate candy experienced a huge dollar sales jump of 54.3%.

“Throughout the past year, people across the country have turned to chocolate and candy for little moments of normalcy and joy in an otherwise uncertain time,” said Carly Schildhaus, manager of public affairs for the National Confectioners Association (NCA). She explained that during the pandemic (measured from March 15 to Sept. 6, 2020), chocolate sales gained 5.5%, outperforming the confection category as a whole, which rose 4.1%.

And candymakers have plenty of sweet somethings to choose for every member of the family. Innovation in candy is running at a fever pitch, especially with new forms and flavors colliding with classic favorites.

“Snickers is launching the new Snickers (Peanut) Brownie that’s out in stores now,” noted Tim Young, category manager with Newcomb Oil’s Bardstown, Ky.-based Five Star Food Mart with 87 stores in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee.

He also pointed to ongoing innovation in Hershey’s Reese’s products, including the Reese’s Big Cup with Pretzels in stores now and the upcoming Reese’s Big Cup with Chips, which is stuffed with potato chips. Other noteworthy innovations include Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate and the Whozeewhatzit, a version of the Whatchamacallit bar that includes a peanut butter crème layer and rice crisps coated in chocolate.

Permissible Indulgence

It’s all about comfort, Young stressed. “You just want to come in and get a candy bar and just take your mind off the madness. You can walk in and find a lot of items and a lot of brands that are just very comfortable.”

Young calls it “permissible indulgence.” Simple items. Small price tags. Guilt-free rewards.

Numbers from the NCA agree. According to Schildhaus, more than nine in 10 Americans — 92% of consumers — have purchased chocolate since the start of the pandemic.

Pandemic or not, chocolate will continue to be a customer ‘go-to’ for a quick break and sweet reward.

Source: CStore Decisions

Bigger Bags, Price Bumps Make for Sweet Non-Chocolate Outlook

By: CSD Staff

Despite drops in some non-chocolate candy segments, retailers are hopeful for 2021 as consumers have proven willing to spend more and buy bigger.

Dollar sales of non-chocolate candy grew 4.4% during 2020, according to IRI liquid data for the calendar year ending Dec. 27, 2020. Unit sales in the category as a whole, though, saw a 4.6% drop.

Pandemic lockdowns have affected consumer buying habits of gum and mints. Convenience channel dollar sales of plain mints dropped nearly 14% in 2020, with unit sales down almost 20%. Gum sales really felt the bite, with dollar sales down 23.9% and units down even more ( -29.2%). 

Jodi Leibowitz, center store category manager for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Robinson Oil’s Rotten Robbie 34 stores, pointed out the switch to remote working has decreased sales of gum and mints.

“Our stations are located in counties that are still pretty locked down a year later, and many tech companies will work from home the remainder of 2021, which has had a huge impact on gum and mint sales,” explained Leibowitz. “We adjusted planograms this year to reduce 10% in this category and chose to move to king-size candy and more peg candy.”

Between March and September 2020, non-chocolate candy sales ticked up by 1.6%, according to data from the National Confectioners Association (NCA). Eight of 10 consumers have purchased non-chocolate since the start of the pandemic, the NCA reported.

“We’re adjusting sets to increase the number of stand-up packages offered in our stores,” said Category Manager Joe Bortner of York, Pa.-based Rutter’s, with 78 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. “We’ve seen consumers willing to purchase higher-priced items throughout the store.”

Non-chocolate novelty items saw a boost of 12.7% in 2020. “We constantly bring in novelty candy and hold a few spots in our sets to allow for in/out every month,” Leibowitz noted.

It also pays to tailor candy offerings to local preferences, Leibowitz advised.

“We added a third (candy) location to house local Hispanic candy through a local direct-store-delivery rep, and this sells out monthly,” she said. “Great way to be part of the community and bring them into our sites for candy and add-on items.”

Rutter’s Bortner is optimistic for 2021. “We’re predicting private label, peg, gum and mint to all hit double-digit growth on same stores.”

Source: CStore Decisions