Dollar sales for non-chocolate items at c-stores including candy, gum and mints showed a 15% increase in 2022 at more than $3 billion, according to IRI. Some 1.5 billion units were sold, down 0.1%. Non-chocolate unit prices increased 15.1%.
Joseph Bortner, senior category manager for The Rutter’s Cos., which operates 83 locations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland, said he expects to see strong growth in the double digits for the non-chocolate segment this year.
“With mounting success year over year, we look on ways to build and continue momentum in the category,” he said. “Gummies in particular continue to grow rapidly in our stores as there’s a ton of innovation from all manufacturers. Gum and mints have rebounded strongly through 2022, which is encouraging given the strain they had over the pandemic.”
In terms of customer preferences, Bortner noted, “core brands are winning,” but customers also seek “innovation through new flavors, forms and fillings.”
Looking ahead, Bortner said his company will be re-evaluating space allocations to categories.
“Given the non-chocolate segment growth, I would anticipate us expanding its terrain in-store,” he added.
Bortner sees an opportunity to grow the footprint across the board as the company strives to be the go-to retailer for consumers seeking the best selection for their non-chocolate needs.
Gum Prices Rise
Gum dollar sales grew 17.8% in 2022, and unit sales ticked up 4.2%, per IRI.
Kirk Matthews, vice president of foodservice and marketing for FriendShip Food Stores, noted that with gum in particular, while overall sales are good, unit numbers are down across the chain’s 27 stores in Ohio.
To boost sales, FriendShip is placing gum in areas where it might move more, such as in the tobacco section as cigarette customers typically buy a lot of gum and mints. Matthews has found that gum does not bundle well with other items as it has its own unique flavor. He has also noticed a trend toward repackaging, with consumers appearing to favor packaging where gum can be placed in a cupholder for ongoing access.
Matthews’ also observed new and different gum flavors coming onto the market again.
“But I’m just amazed at some of the price points on gum now — having to pay more than $5 for a container,” he said. “In my lifetime, I never thought I’d see something like that.”
Matthews expects the category to remain flat in 2023, a continued holdover from manufacturers retracting two years ago as a result of the pandemic.
“Gum is still an important part of the business,” he said. “But the price point has chased people off. We have to try to balance the cost — everything just went up too fast.”