The National Confectioners Association (NCA) has released a data-driven research report that delves into consumer trends, shopper insights and sales results.
The “Sweet Insights: State of Treating 2020” report is heralded as a first-of-its-kind deep dive into “the special nature and relationship of chocolate, candy, gum and mints in the American household,” the association said. It represents a new strategic plan called “Thrive in 2025” that outlines new goals for Washington, D.C.-based NCA, including strengthening its advocacy and communication capabilities, identifying disruptive trends of the future and developing positive and meaningful thought leadership, said John Downs, NCA president and CEO.
There’s a built-in advantage at work, considering chocolate and candy boast 99% penetration in American homes, with more than $37 billion in sales annually. That’s expected to grow by 2.4% by 2024, said the report, produced by the NCA and third-party firm 210 Analytics.
Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president for client insights for Chicago-based IRI, said the report can act as a “recipe for growth” for the confectionery industry if NCA members are able to pick up on four key mega-trends:
Well-being. Consumers, while expecting chocolate to contain sugar, are demanding better information on packaging, including calorie counts and organic, gluten-free or vegan ingredient profiles.
Social responsibility. Sixty-two percent claim that the way a company or brand “behaves” has an impact on their purchases.
Environmental sustainability. Consumers are increasingly asking questions about how products affect the planet. Does the product harm the planet? What about waste and deforestation? Brands need to be ready with a legitimate reply, Wyatt said.
Transparency/traceability. More questions abound: How are chocolate bars being produced? Have cocoa farmers, the people at the beginning of the supply chain, been paid? Have any children been forced to work on the farm? In floating these queries, Wyatt said that “brands that can offer full transparency and traceability, through a QR code on the packaging, for example, are likely to be more popular, particularly with Gen Z and millennial consumers.”
In 2019 U.S. convenience store scan data, chocolate dollar sales totaled $2.93 billion, up 1.2% for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 29, 2019, according to IRI. Unit sales totaled 1.7 billion, down 3.1%. Nonchocolate products in the c-store grew dollars 4%, while units were off 1.2% for a market that amassed $2.14 billion in 2019 sales. Novelty chocolate candy saw a 3.9% boost in dollar sales and a 15.6% climb in unit sales for the same period. Sugar-free chocolate saw dollar sales grow 12.7%.
In March 2020, the announcement of several new varieties added a charge to the category: M&M’s fudge brownie flavor, reintroduced after an LTO trial during summer 2019; Dove Chocolate’s new Silky Smooth Pudding & Pie Filling, which are pudding mixes that come in four varieties and are modeled after some of the brand’s iconic chocolate flavors; and Cadbury's naming of a two-legged dog named Lieutenant Dan as its 2020 Easter Bunny after a contest involving more than 4,000 submissions.
Read ahead for a snapshot of seven additional and recent convenience-store chocolate and nonchocolate confection debuts during the first quarter.