Which Snack and Candy Brands Are Most Popular Among Kids?

By 
Brett Dworski, Associate Editor

popular kids brands smarty pants

NEW YORK -- Nearly a third of the top 50 U.S. brands favored among children are snack and candy labels, according to a new study from market research firm Smarty Pants LLC.

Smarty Pants is a market research consultancy that conducts youth and family research and guides marketers on brand positioning, new product development, consumer lifestyles and trends.

The New York-based company’s annual Brand Love study explores kids’ favorite labels and why these brands are favored compared to others. This year, kids ages 6 to 12 ranked various brands based on specific “Kidfinity” scores, which measure brand awareness, popularity and love, as well as current and future potential use of the brand.

Here are the snack and candy brands kids enjoy the most …

Oreo

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Oreo was the top-ranked snack and candy brand, placing fifth in the top 50 overall.

Earlier this year, Oreo launched its #MyOreoCreation contest, giving fans the opportunity to vote on their favorite flavors to win various prizes. In May, the Mondelez International-owned brand released the final three contest flavors to retailers nationwide for a limited time. They included Cherry Cola Oreos, Kettle Corn Oreos and Pina Colada Oreo Thins. These flavors were selected by judging on taste appeal, creativity and originality, according to the East Hanover, N.J.-based company.

M&M’s

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M&M’s finished right behind Oreo in the overall rankings, placing sixth out of 50.

The Hackettstown, N.J.-based candy brand, owned by Mars Wrigley Confectionery, has been ubiquitous in 2018, starting with its Super Bowl LII commercial starring Danny DeVito. This summer, the candy label was named the second-most trustworthy brand among Gen Z and millennials in a survey conducted by New York-based research firm YPulse. And most recently, M&M’s was the top snack brand in London-based YouGov’s BrandIndex rankings, outpacing brands such as Quaker Oats, Pillsbury and Campbell’s.

Doritos

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Plano, Texas-based Frito-Lay’s Doritos chips placed seventh overall, the highest of any chip brand on the list.

Doritos has launched various initiatives in recent weeks, including its partnership with a celebrity. The brand debuted its "Blaze the Beat” campaign with rapper Busta Rhymes in late July. As part of the campaign, fans can submit their own original lyrics over the Blaze Beat at doritosblazethebeat.com. After submissions close on Aug. 17, Busta and his team will select five finalists to share the stage with a major headliner at the official Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival preparty on Sept. 20 in Las Vegas. From there, will choose one winner will be chosen and will receive a $50,000 grand prize.

This isn't Doritos first music-themed initiative, though. In April 2017, the brand debuted chip packages with built-in music players, featuring the soundtrack from the film “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

Hershey’s

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Chocolate giant Hershey's came in 12th place in the rankings.

Hershey’s has had a busy 2018, from partnering with 7-Eleven on a new coffee beverage to cutting its SKUs to save money—the latter of which was successful, said Michele Buck, president and CEO of the Hershey, Pa.-based company.

Cheetos

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Although Frito-Lay’s cheesy snack finished just outside the top 15, the brand ranked second in chip labels.

The crunchy and puffy snack launched its own fan-based competition this summer, offering various prizes if patrons found unique shapes in their Cheetos bag. To enter, consumers simply took a picture of the Cheeto and submitted it online via the brand’s website.

Lay’s

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Frito-Lay is making its mark among kids. The company’s namesake brand, Lay’s, placed 17th—right behind Cheetos—and is the third chip label to crack the list.

In February, Lay’s revamped its packaging to display happy faces—an initiative to support Operation Smile, a charity that helps provide surgical care to people with cleft conditions.

Reese’s

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Reese’s finished No. 18 in the rankings, six spots lower than its parent company, The Hershey Co. The chocolate-peanut butter candy made headlines this summer with the debut of its Reese’s Outrageous Bars, which are made with Reese’s creamy peanut butter, caramel and Reese’s Pieces candy and are coated in milk chocolate.

In early August, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts partnered with Reese’s to create the new, limited-time-only Krispy Kreme Reese’s Outrageous Doughnut.

Skittles

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Mars Wrigley’s sweet candy rounded out the top 20 brands favored among kids.

This year, Skittles expanded its offerings to the beverage aisle. The brand partnered with Irving, Calif.-based quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain Taco Bell in March to create a Skittles Strawberry Freeze, an icy beverage that delivers the taste of strawberry-flavored Skittles. The beverage joins Taco Bell’s existing Freeze lineup, which includes Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze and Orange Cream Pop Freeze.

Chips Ahoy

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Mondelez International’s perennial cookie brand finished 25th overall.

Earlier this summer, Chips Ahoy was one of multiple brands to partner with Breyers Ice Cream in a new “2in1” flavor launch for the ice cream label. Chips Ahoy was featured in a flavor combination with Oreo, while other mixtures included Reese’s & Reese’s Pieces, Snickers & M&M’s and Heath & Waffle Cone.

Kit Kat

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The chocolate brand, owned by Arlington, Va.-based Nestle, ranked No. 26 on Smarty Pants’ list of kids’ favorite labels.

Hershey, which owns the rights to sell Kit Kat in the United States, said the chocolate candy was a contributor to the company’s overall growth in 2017, seeing a 5% increase in combined retail takeaway for the year alongside Reese’s and Hershey’s Kisses.

Snickers

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Mars’ peanut-based chocolate bar placed No. 34 in the rankings.

This comes at the heels of product innovation for the candy bar. In June, Mars launched three limited-time only Snickers flavors as part of its "You're Not You When You're Hungry" campaign, which included Espresso, Fiery and Salty & Sweet. Each bar—made with peanuts, caramel and milk chocolate—was infused with either espresso, chili pepper or salt. Additionally, each flavor represented a hunger symptom on the brand’s packaging: irritable for Espresso, wimpy for Fiery and indecisive for Salty & Sweet.

Sour Patch Kids

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Sour Patch Kids ranked No. 36 on Smarty Pants’ list.

Innovation has been at the forefront for the perennial sour candy, which debuted two new additions to its roster in May. These included Sour Patch Kids Fire and Sour Patch Kids Freeze, which radiate heating and cooling sensations in its flavors, respectively. In January, Sour Patch Kids partnered with 7-Eleven to resurrect the Sour Patch Watermelon Slurpee flavor, which remained available for the following month.

Starburst

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The square-shaped candies finished at No. 39 on the list of kids’ favorite brands.

This summer, Starburst began selling packs that only contained Pink varieties of the treat. In October 2017, Starburst Gummies was named CSP’s Best New Product in the nonchocolate candy category.

Goldfish Crackers

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The “snack that smiles back” was the final snack brand to make the list, coming in at No. 44.

In March snacking company Snyder’s-Lance was acquired by Camden, N.J.-based Campbell Soup, which merged Campbell’s Pepperidge Farm products—Goldfish being one of them—with Snyder’s-Lance brands, such as Hanover, Lance and Cape Cod, into a division called Campbell Snacks.