US State of Treating report 2022 reveals boost for chocolate and candy sales
Key findings from the National Confectioners Association’s annual State of Treating report revealed US chocolate sales rose 9.2% to $16.7 billion in 2021, as other segments grew even higher, up 14.5% to $9.1 billion, writes Neill Barston.
The study, which was revealed today to attendees of the NCA’s annual conference in Miami, demonstrated continued resilience for the sector, with factors including at-home consumption proving decisive in the positive momentum.
Reflecting on the pandemic trading period at this year’s State of the Industry event, John Downs, president and CEO of the NCA, believed the overall success for the sector was at least in part down to what has been described as ‘newstalgia’ – a thirst for comfortable products that also appear fresh.
Significantly, the research found that a total of 78% of Americans believed that chocolate and confectionery were considered acceptable as part of a balanced diet – though that fell to just 62% of younger ‘gen z’ consumers.
As the trade organisation noted, increased consumer mobility in the US last year compared against 2022 had been influential in the growth, with gum and mint sales also rebounding in popularity last year, registering a combined $3.1 billion sales.
These results were notable elements of the annual confectionery sales of $36.9 billion, with forecasts for the industry to grow to a predicted $44.9 billion in America, as the gains experienced during the pandemic appear to have held up.
In terms of trends, a total of 15% of consumers bought confectionery on a frequent basis within the ‘better-for-you’ category, though 47% made purchases occasionally.
The strong preference for occasional treating chimed with consumers’ desire for a greater balanced of physical and emotional wellbeing amid challenging pandemic times.
While overall, as Mintel studies found last year, pandemic pressures impacted on many manufacturers’ innovation pipelines for much of 2020 as businesses grappled with pandemic disruption (with levels of new product ranges down a reported 25% between Easter 2020 and 2021), there were subsequent encouraging signs with the return of Sweets and Snacks in Indianapolis last summer. This offered a key platform for many businesses to unveil their latest ranges.
Significantly, pandemic conditions of 2020 meant that many retailers reduced seasonal offerings (up 13.5% year-on-year in 2021 to $4.6 billion, with Halloween in particular gaining a major boost with sales up 49.9% as families resumed festivities surrounding the ‘spooky season,’ as Covid-19 conditions showed improvement in many locations around the US.
In total, between 80-90% of Americans said they would be celebrating the ‘big four’ annual celebrations throughout the year.
Such patterns helped contributed towards countering the fact many stores were closed for much of the 2020, which improved in 2021 further. The early period of lockdowns also fuelled a rise in internet sales, that last year began to slow as physical shops began to open up in many areas.
According to the NCA’s studies, online sales experienced a surge two years ago amid the peak of the pandemic, with 61% of families stating they bought at least some of their groceries online. This was up from 41% pre pandemic.
Speaking to Confectionery Production, John Downs conceded that while there had been ‘a lot of guesswork’ from all sections of industry and across the political spectrum for how to tackle the challenges of the past two years that has impacted on results, there had been a strong level of determination to succeed despite testing conditions.
Despite the world having been ‘shaken up completely upside down’ he felt the confectionery sector had responded commendably.
“We were agile and nimble, and moved with speed and agility – and as Anton Vincent of Mars said today at the conference, we focused on the core, but we augmented this with terrific inspiration and innovation, as it relates to the category and its products.
“The other thing we found out that whether you’re in good times or bad times, candy is an affordable treat, and with this home-centric environment where we had to stay home because of the pandemic, we learnt that the home is a hub for activities. This created an environment that was so conducive for the candy and chocolate occasions.”