March 22, 2022

Sales of chocolate and sweets reached an all time high in America in 2021 with consumers focusing more on seasonal celebrations, emotional wellbeing, sharing and gifting.

In 2021, sales were up 11% over 2020 and up 15.4% over 2019, according to the third annual State of Treating report published by the National Confectioners Association (NCA). The total confectionery category hit $36.9 billion in retail sales in 2021 and is projected to reach $44.9 billion by 2026.

The report, released in March, is the definitive source for confectionery category performance data and a deeper understanding of shifting consumer attitudes and behaviours in a disrupted marketplace.

NCA President and CEO John Downs said: “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.

“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.”

Sales of chocolate and sweets
Sales of chocolate and sweets rose 11 % in 2021. Credit Brooke Lark / Unsplash

Key findings from the report include a 9.2% rise in chocolate sales and a 14.5% increase for non-chocolate.

A total 71% of consumers mostly bought chocolate and sweets at their main supermarket and 66% researched sweet usage occasions on social media.

Some 78% of adults were onboard with the occasional chocolate or sweet treat while 72% considered physical health and emotional well-being to be linked.

And of the 91% of consumers who reported taking road trips, 83% said they sometimes or always include chocolate and sweets in their travels.

“Sales of chocolate and candy grew significantly this past year as consumers looked to prioritise their emotional well-being and created a special and unique place for these treats in their lives,” Mr 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 latest report on sales of chocolate and sweets

The 2022 State of Treating report is based on consumer studies carried out in November 2021 by NCA and 210 Analytics. This was based on a national sample of 1,525 consumers aged between 18 and 75. The survey data is complemented by retail measurement and household panel data provided by insights firm IRI for the 52 weeks ending December 26, 2021.

Study results offer a full picture of the resiliency of the confectionery category. It also 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.

Changing dynamics in the retail environment can also be seen from the data which presents opportunities for sustained category growth.

One example of this is National Candy Month in June which shows how manufacturers and retailers can collaborate to address the confectionery sales gap between Easter and Halloween, representing a £500 million incremental sales opportunity for the sector.

National Candy month is also a chance for companies to speak to consumers about the important role of chocolate and sweets in making summer moments like road trips and beach trips a little more fun.

The National Confectioners Association

The NCA is the leading trade organisation for the US confectionery industry, which generates more than $37 billion in retail sales each year. The industry employs nearly 58,000 workers in more than 1,600 manufacturing facilities across all 50 states, making chocolate, sweets, gum and mints.

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