Candy Sales See Big Gains as Consumers Seek New Treating Moments

Total confectionery sales reached a record $36.9B in 2021.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Candy sales reached an all-time high in 2021 as the total confectionery category reached $36.9 billion in retail sales. Chocolate and candy sales were up 11 percent in 2021 versus the prior year, according to the third annual 2022 State of Treating report published by the National Confectioners Association (NCA).

The NCA does not expect the trend to slow down, with confectionery sales projected to reach $44.9 billion in sales by 2026.

"In 2021, consumers found even more creative ways to celebrate holidays and special occasions, and they continued to turn to chocolate and candy to bring a little fun to those experiences," said John Downs, president and CEO of NCA. "The shift to home-centricity has meant new opportunities for confectionery companies and their retail partners as consumers seek new treating moments with new items, new pack sizes and new brands."

The 2022 State of Treating report offers a complete picture of the confectionery category, explores the influence of inflation and supply chain challenges on confectionery purchases and pandemic shopping patterns, and takes a closer look at the impact of social media on the category.

Key findings from the NCA report include:

  • Sales of chocolate grew 9.2 percent and non-chocolate grew by 14.5 percent.
  • Seventy-one percent of consumers mostly purchase chocolate and candy at their primary grocery store.
  • Sixty-six percent of consumers research candy usage occasions on social media.
  • Seventy-eight percent of all adults believe it is perfectly fine to occasionally treat with chocolate or candy.
  • Seventy-two percent of consumers believe that physical health and emotional well-being are interconnected.
  • Eighty-eight percent share with family and friends at least half the time when buying chocolate and candy.
  • Seventy-two percent of consumers agree that it is important for chocolate and candy brands to offer portion size variety.
  • Ninety-one percent of consumers report taking road trips, and of these consumers, 83 percent sometimes or always include chocolate and candy in their travels.

The NCA report also covers changing dynamics in the retail environment and presents opportunities for sustained category growth. For example, National Candy Month in June shows how manufacturers and retailers can work together to address the confectionery sales gap between Easter and Halloween and represents a $500 million incremental sales opportunity for the category, according to NCA.

"Sales of chocolate and candy grew significantly this past year as consumers looked to prioritize their emotional well-being and created a special and unique place for these treats in their lives," Downs said. "A key takeaway from the report is that in contrast to rising costs for families related to inflation, health care and simply putting food on the table, candy remains a simple, affordable treat. Whether consumers found their inspiration on social media or in the grocery aisle, they reached for chocolate and candy as a means of self-care and enjoyment in an otherwise uncertain time."

The report is based on consumer studies by NCA and 210 Analytics conducted in November 2021 among a national sample of 1,525 consumers between the ages of 18 and 75.

Washington, D.C.-based National Confectioners Association is the trade organization for the U.S. confectionery industry, which generates more than $37 billion in retail sales each year.