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.”