Within the candy category, gum and mints certainly took the worst beating in c-stores and beyond. Dollar sales declined by double digits in all IRI-measured brick-and-mortar channels and overall by 22.7%.

Why? “Fewer people were going through airport stores. They were staying home. They were wearing masks. They were around other people less often,” said Anne-Marie Roerink, principal and founder of 210 Analytics, the San Antonio-based data firm that produced the NCA’s 2021 State of Treating Report.

“When we have some sense of normalcy this year, all those reasons will go away, and we will see the normalization of gum and mint sales,” she said during NCA’s State of the Industry Conference.

Manufacturers agree, and Dodge at Mars Wrigley says even science will play a role.

“Health and wellness took a new meaning amidst the pandemic, and we recognize it’s something that will continue to dominate in 2021 and beyond,” he says. “With gum, for example, most people chew gum for fresh breath, but few know about the self-care and wellness-related benefits of products like Extra and Orbit. In fact, there’s extensive science that shows that gum can play an important role in one’s well-being by helping improve focus, boost your mood and enhance your smile.”

Laura Nye, director of e-commerce and category development for Perfetti Van Melle U.S.A., Erlanger, Ky., sums up the conversation with some simple advice for retailers.

“Confections should be a very positive story for convenience stores in 2021 and beyond. It will likely be above average in growth, being a small luxury that everyone can afford, even as we figure out how to help the economy recover,” she says. “Gum and mints have traditionally been some of the best sales per inch of shelf space; don’t give up on these categories as foot traffic will return, as well as people getting back to face-to-face meetings.

However, do consider how you can disproportionally gain during this return time as people are establishing their new habits coming out of COVID, and you likely want to be their store of choice for these purchases.”