Seasonal innovation helps sweeten holiday sales pot

Left: Jelly Belly’s Cocktail Classics, Center: M&M’s pretzel chocolate, Right: Mars Mixed Heritage Tins

Seasonal candy is a big part of the confectionery category, accounting for one-quarter of the candy category’s $30 billion in annual sales.

The National Confectioners Association expected Halloween candy sales to reach $2.2 billion this year, an increase of 0.8% over last year, and Christmas candy sales to reach $1.4 billion, up 1.4% from 2009.

Drug store retailers felt the effects of the economy in the candy aisles last year. “Chocolate sales were down 4.2% in drug stores for Halloween, but non chocolate sales were up 5%,” said Jenn Ellek, an NCA spokeswoman. “That suggests that consumers were looking for the value buy.” Retailers who offer more value goods will be winners this Halloween season—whether it’s value-priced nonchocolate or discounted chocolate candy.

Leading candy segments*In millions; total across U.S. food, drug and mass (excluding Walmart) for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8Source: Infoscan Reviews, SymphonyIRI Group
Chocolate candy box/bag/bar > 3.5 oz.$2,083.944.21%
Chocolate candy box/bag/bar < 3.5 oz.1,048.9910.84
Nonchocolate chewy candy903.386.89
Chocolate candy, snack size620.693.07
Novelty nonchocolate candy266.841.77
Breath freshener266.01-1.01
Hard sugar candy/pkg & roll candy226.212.13
Licorice box/bag225.573.13
Gift box chocolates222.95-1.22
Plain mints144.485.65

Chocolate is a bigger part of the Christmas holiday picture, with individually wrapped chocolates and boxed chocolates seeing some of the biggest sales spikes in the year. Novelty candies also have a starring role as stocking stuffers. Thom Blischok, global president of innovation and strategy at SymphonyIRI Group, expected candy to have a big role in gift-giving this holiday season. “It’s been a great year for candy innovation, and consumers will spend on personal treats and affordable stocking stuffers,” he said. “Retailers should be pushing those products.”

Ellek said that the drug channel consistently merchandises the category well—a crucial strategy to boosting sales. “The drug channel does a stellar job with merchandising; it’s a real strength in the market,” Ellek said.

KoKo’s Confectionery and Novelty, which continues to expand its seasonal lineup, offers retailers shelf displays, peg spaces, clip strip aisle additions and free-standing shippers to maximize exposure and impulse purchases. This year, the company’s key novelties are a Christmas candy song card, candy puzzle bracelets and Rudolf ornament tins. The company already has sold out of its gingerbread houses, string pops and Glo Popcifier items. “The Glo Popcifier flies off the shelf,” said Angie Baer, product development manager at KoKo. “Light-up lollipops are a continuous hit in the marketplace.”

Blischok credited Mars with bringing steady innovation to the category. M&M’s pretzel chocolate and cherry cordial varieties, and Santa’s Lil’ Elf chocolate candy dispensers, are expected to be strong sellers this holiday season. Dove Promises Silky Snowflakes, which feature a snowflake design embedded in each chocolate, and the company’s Mixed Heritage Tins, which feature 4 oz. of fun-sized M&M’s, Snickers Minis and Twix Minis, also are key holiday products.

Jelly Belly also has a variety of novelty items that have appeal for the holidays. “The new Jelly Belly crayons will be popular all year, and we are forecasting a sales spike at Christmas since this item also makes a great stocking stuffer,” said Rob Swaigen, VP marketing at Jelly Belly Candy.

Swaigen said seasonal candy should have life after Dec. 25. “We like to offer items that are popular and relevant year-round that also have special appeal for the holidays. New Jelly Belly Cocktail Classics make a perfect holiday gift, party favor and New Year’s celebration treat,” he said.

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