Snacks & Candy

How to Increase Trips Down Seasonal Candy Aisles

Strategies include variety in flavors, colors and packaging designs; baking, decorating and crafting products; eye-catching displays; and early offerings
Seasonal candy
Photograph: Shutterstock

After a strong 2021 driven by increased holiday gatherings, 2022 saw declining unit sales of 3% throughout all seasons, Dan Sadler, principal of client insights at Circana, said in a report from the National Confectioners Association (NCA). Dollar growth was boosted by higher price points, with chocolate and non-chocolate products experiencing a 10% increase in dollar sales.

More variety in flavors, colors and packaging designs has led to increased trips down the seasonal aisles, a trend that is expected to continue throughout the coming year.

Still, 18% of consumers who regularly purchase chocolate and non-chocolate candy products are not buying seasonal products. Capturing these shoppers is crucial for gaining more seasonal growth, Sadler said. Converting these households into seasonal candy shoppers represents a $170 million opportunity.

Halloween Season

Fewer people are celebrating Halloween by purchasing candy than in the past; however, those who do buy the holiday treats are buying more and more often. Last year, grocery and drug channels pulled back on seasonal items. Mass retailers, who opted to invest in assortment, outperformed both channels.

The holiday saw increased dollar sales boosted by double-digit inflation, while volume and unit sales were down for both chocolate and non-chocolate products.

This year, key economic indicators point to a challenging market for the holiday.

To optimize customer participation, manufacturers and retailers should continue offering innovative baking, decorating and crafting products, Sadler said. Seasonal Halloween treats continue to increase in popularity, and both online and brick-and-mortar are delivering growth.

Winter Trends

Last year, winter holiday seasonal item dollar sales were up 8.3%, with volume and unit sales on the decline. Retailer support was strong, and more items were kept in stock, except for the drug channel. This increased merchandising resulted in a greater share of pounds sold on promotion and improved efficiencies.

E-commerce sales will continue to experience growth during the winter holidays. Novelty products are a key area for opportunity, and non-chocolate novelty items experienced a strong holiday performance for four consecutive years, reaching $114 million in sales in 2022.

While very few candy sectors managed to shake the declining volume and unit sales trend last year, most remain above the baseline in 2019. Keeping seasonal candy trends in mind is crucial to staying ahead of the curve and meeting the shifting needs of shoppers. Doing so will enable retailers to anticipate demand and optimize inventory levels, leading to greater customer loyalty and brand recognition, Sadler said.

To drive sales during peak holiday periods, retailers and manufacturers should remain flexible and innovative to keep their customers coming back for more, season after season.

Valentine’s Day

In the seven-week Valentine’s Day period in 2022, candy sales reached $4.1 billion, with chocolate, the season’s best seller, accounting for $2.5 billion, according to Circana. Seasonal chocolate brought in $613 million in sales, an 8.2% increase compared to the year prior.

In 2023, many retailers opted for new items and flavors alongside traditional favorites to drive growth and set up seasonal displays early in the season, Sadler said. Elevating visibility through ads and social media played an important role and will continue to be essential for capturing target shoppers. Quality merchandising, eye-catching displays and keeping shelves stocked are also key.

Easter Insights

Consumer engagement with the Easter holiday soared last year in part because the season was two weeks longer than usual. Yet, sales also had to contend with high inflation, supply chain disruption and comparison to a strong 2021.

In 2022, Easter candy sales reached $4.7 billion, up 7.7% from the year prior. Inflation boosted chocolate dollar sales, which were up 2.9%, while volume declined by 6.2%. Non-chocolate also experienced growth, increasing 13.1% in dollar sales, 3.3% in units and 2.4% in volume.

This year, the holiday selling period was reduced by one week. To win with Easter shoppers, retailers should aim to get products in front of them early, inspire them with new items and proven classics and make omnichannel a vital part of their strategy, Sadler said.

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