While chocolate dollar sales grew 14% for the four weeks ending Jan. 28, 2023, according to NielsenIQ, consumers have been especially gravitating toward non-chocolate confections, including gum, mints and gummy candy.
Confection dollar sales were up 21.4%, while gum sales increased 37% and mint sales ticked up nearly 25% for the same four-week period, per NielsenIQ.
S&S Petroleum Inc., which operates 80 locations throughout Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California, is one c-store seeing a tremendous increase in candy sales so far this year.
“We are seeing an increase in the candy category as a whole because more and more consumers are out traveling and stopping for candy and snacks,” said Mike Jones, category manager for S&S Petroleum Inc. “Also, candy sales are increasing because consumers can buy their favorite candy and still be in their budget range. So in consumers’ minds, they can splurge on candy and still be in the $3, $4 and $5 range which is critical, especially with inflation.”
The Rutter’s Cos., which operates 83 locations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland, is another c-store chain seeing a rise in candy sales.
“The candy category is off to a hot start so far in 2023, seeing increases in both dollar and unit sales,” said Joseph Bortner, senior category manager for The Rutter’s Cos. “I’d anticipate units to see some softness in the second half vs. the first half of this year after another round of pricing from suppliers, but overall, it should be a strong year for confection.”
Big Candy Bags Are Back
Despite inflation, customers are increasingly selecting larger bags of candy that offer greater variety. Jones has also noticed customers gravitating toward big bottles of mints and larger packs of gum.
“As far as anything else, bag candy is on fire,” he said. “It really has to do with the different flavor innovations out now, including anything sour. I also think the reason consumers are going for larger bag sizes is because the price has decreased, allowing them to get more bang for their buck.”
But even with candy sales on the rise, c-store retailers must work to ensure they’re keeping candy customers engaged with the offering.
“The biggest hurdle for retailers will be how we can create value for our customers,” said Bortner. “With inflationary pressure all around, we need to ensure we’re creating offers that resonate deeply with our consumer base. As suggested retail prices rise, this will continue to be our biggest challenge to find what works best in the days ahead.”
S&S Petroleum and Rutter’s are continuing to enhance their candy categories by stocking new products and adding promotions to keep customers intrigued by their candy offerings.
“We are looking at different ways to promote our candy offerings,” said Jones. “So we are trying to do things like buy one get one for a dollar or some variation of that. We are also looking at opportunities to bundle our candy offerings with other categories, whether it’s with coffee or fountain drinks.”
What’s more, Rutter’s has even started incorporating candy into a few of its proprietary foodservice offerings.
“A staple of our foodservice option is to find new and unique ways to capitalize on the brands our market loves,” said Bortner. “Through the years, we’ve done this by incorporating our favorite confection items into shakes prepared in the kitchen. Thus far in 2023, we’ve taken it even further by creating a sweet and savory peanut butter burger.”
All-in-all, retailers are bullish on the candy category for the year ahead.
“We expect to see significant growth in the candy category as consumption continues to outpace per year, even with higher price points,” said Bortner. “If that pace continues through the rest of the year, we’ll see a record year in confection.”