Non-chocolate treats blazing a trail

Retailers have been sweet on the chocolate category, but non-chocolate sales also have been strong. The National Confectioners Association forecasts that while chocolate sales were ahead 4% last year, with $4 billion growth over the next five years, a number of non-chocolate candy segments also had a boost.

“In non-chocolate candy, fun, sweet treats are trailblazers,” said Jenn Ellek, a spokeswoman for NCA. “We saw three prevailing themes with significant gains over 2013. They include fruity, traditional/nostalgia and a continued emphasis on value through an increase in variety assortment purchases. Fruit flavors in general were up $83 million, with fruit flavors in gummies skyrocketing up $76 million.”

Non-chocolate chewy candy, which has a nearly 40% share of non-chocolate candy sales, had a nearly 6% spike in dollar sales last year, according to NCA. “Chewy items are driving sales, with fruit chew sales up 10% and gummy candies ahead nearly 9%,” said Melinda Lewis, VP marketing for gummies and fruit snacks at Ferrara Candy Co. “Within those forms, bite-sized offerings paired with consumer convenience (e.g., re-sealable packaging) are performing well.”

Hershey got a lift in the chewy non-chocolate segment last year with the launch of its Lancaster brand of soft crème caramels available n three flavors: caramel, caramel and vanilla, and raspberry. Hershey also continues to bring innovative muscle to its Twizzlers licorice brand and its Jolly Rancher hard candy brand. The confectionery giant has been finding ways to combine hard and chewy candies together with its Jolly Rancher Crunch ’N Chew and Jolly Rancher Bites Filled Gummies.

Seasonal non-chocolate, which owns 23% of the non-chocolate segment’s dollar share, grew 3%. “We have proven that jelly beans aren’t just for Easter, and merchandising and pack types have played an important role in expanding the category year-round. We offer a large variety of displays — everything from a 4-ft. wide permanent inline display to a disposable Power Wing — since different accounts have different requirements,” said Rob Swaigen, VP of marketing at Jelly Belly.

Novelty, while an everyday segment, plays a big part in the seasonal category. “The non-chocolate novelty category is experiencing extremely good growth,” said Larry Lindenbaum, VP of sales at CandyRific. “The driver for the category is licensing.” CandyRific’s Disney programs are perennials. The company also works with licenses with movie tie-ins.

While candy is hardly a “good-for-you” category, consumers are interested in natural ingredients when they indulge. More than half of consumers of non-chocolate confectionery think it’s important that products in the category are made with real fruit, according to Mintel research. “This represents an advantage the category has over chocolate, with many products having fruit flavors that can appear healthier than the fat and sugar found in chocolate confectionery,” stated Mintel’s report.

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