State of the Candy Industry 2021: Chocolate bar sales are up overall compared to pre-pandemic levels
There’s something about The Hershey Co.’s newest candy bar that exemplifies the tumultuous times the world seems to be enduring.
There’s no question mark on the candy bar, but it’s the exact question I have been asking myself every time I check the news these days.
The candy bar, which is the first new line extension of the Whatchamacallit brand in more than a decade, was named as such after The Hershey Co. asked fans to submit their most creative naming ideas for the new bar in return for $5,000 and a year's supply. After receiving more than 43,000 entries, the Whatchamacallit brand declared the name Whozeewhatzit, submitted by Lisa M. from Framingham, Mass., the winner.
It’s easy to imagine that Lisa M. was tapping into the same sense of uncertainty many are feeling these days, after enduring a global pandemic, a contentious U.S. election cycle, wild weather events, and all the ways those things have impacted the confectionery industry.
Trying to figure out all that? Whozeewhatzit now?
The candy bar, which features an added peanut butter crème layer and rice crisps, all covered in a chocolatey candy, is just one of the many innovations launched in the chocolate bar and wafer sector over the last year.
Consumers have been receptive. For the confectionery industry, one small silver lining over the last year is that as consumers absorbed the news in disbelief, asking Whozeewhatzit, they often reached for chocolate.
According to the latest data from IRI, a Chicago-based research firm, the chocolate bar category is doing well overall.
The data, which looks at the last 52 weeks ending June 13, 2021, shows sales are up in the three main categories that include chocolate bars. Sales also are up compared to pre-pandemic levels. IRI data from 2019 shows the very real growth in the sector. That data was for the latest 52 weeks ending Sept. 8, 2019.
Chocolate candy box/bag/bar less than 3.5 oz.
- June 2021: $4.62 billion in sales, up 2.9 percent.
- Sept. 2019: $4.39 billion in sales, up .7 percent at the time.
Chocolate candy box/bag/bar more than 3.5 oz.
- June 2021: $6.07 billion in sales, up 8.4 percent.
- Sept. 2019: $5.30 billion in sales, up 1.1 percent at the time.
Chocolate candy snack size
- June 2021: $1.17 billion, up 2 percent.
- Sept. 2019: $1.06 billion in sales, up 0.6 percent at the time.
Hershey is the top selling manufacturer in all three categories. According to the IRI data, Hershey also has gained dollar share in all three categories, with:
- 49.51 percent of the chocolate candy box/bag/bar category less than 3.5 oz., up 1.18 percent.
- 39.18 percent of the chocolate candy box/bag/bar over 3.5 oz., up 0.27 percent.
- 58.29 percent of the chocolate candy snack size sector, up 2.26 percent.
Mars comes in second among manufacturers in all three categories, but the company also lost dollar share in all three categories compared to a year ago, with:
- 32.84 percent of the chocolate candy box/bag/bar less than 3.5 oz. category, down 2.5 percent
- 28.75 percent of the chocolate candy box/bag/bar over 3.5 oz. category, down 1.43 percent
- 31.5 percent of the chocolate candy snack size category, down 4.31 percent
Chocolate candy box/bag/bar less than 3.5 oz.
The 2021 IRI data shows that the top five brands for chocolate candy box/bag/bar less than 3.5 oz. include:
- Reeses's (The Hershey Co.), $671.1 million in sales, up 13.8 percent.
- M&M's (Mars), $568.4 million in sales, down 4.5 percent.
- Snickers (Mars), $423.74 million in sales, up 0.2 percent.
- Hershey's (The Hershey Co.), $378.7 million, down 1.5 percent.
- Kit Kat (The Hershey Co.), with $294.9 million in sales, down 5.1 percent.
Chocolate candy box/bag/bar more than 3.5 oz.
The 2021 IRI data shows that the top five brands in the chocolate candy box/bag/bar over 3.5 oz. include:
- M&M (Mars), $989.7 million in sales, up 7.7 percent.
- Hershey's Chocolate (The Hershey Co.), with $503.7 million in sales, up 6.4 percent.
- Reeses (The Hershey Co.) $438.1 million in sales, up 16.3 percent.
- Lindt Lindor Chocolate (Linde & Sprungli) $259.5 million in sales, up 21.9 percent.
- Private Label, $244.4 million in sales, up 15.3 percent.
Chocolate candy snack size
The 2021 IRI data shows that the top five brands in the chocolate candy snack size category includes:
- Reese's (The Hershey Co.) $233.8 million, up 3.1 percent.
- Hershey (The Hershey Co.) $133.1 million, up 17 percent.
- Snickers (Mars) $127.7 million, down 2.3 percent
- Kit Kat (The Hershey Co.) $106.4 million, down 0.9 percent
- All Hershey's Products (The Hershey Co.) $80.9 million, up 1.7 percent.
Overall, sales have been mixed, and vary by company, which is to be expected during such uncertain times.
In May, Packaged Facts released information on the effects of pandemic on the chocolate sector as a whole in its report, “Chocolate Candy: U.S. Market Trends and Opportunities.” And despite increased sales, the chocolate sales may struggle going forward.
“COVID-19 impacts on the U.S. chocolate industry were affected by trends for both health and indulgence, with many consumers turning to comfort foods and extended seasonal and holiday celebrations to cope with the disappointments of the pandemic. 2020 turned out to be a banner year for the market, with sales growth of 12 percent pushing chocolate sales to $27 billion,” Packaged Facts said. “Packaged Facts projects that sales will decelerate over the next five years, although the pandemic boom of chocolate sales in 2020 and 2021 will affect the market for years to come.”
However, they do expect some changes caused by the pandemic to linger.
“The pandemic has led to more everyday occasions for chocolate as consumers have been snacking and baking more at home” Packaged Facts said. “Although people will resume many activities outside of the home after more consumers get vaccinated and COVID-19 cases become less common, many are expected to continue working at home on at least a part-time basis. This will lead to elevated levels of home baking and snacking activity compared to pre-pandemic trends.”
New products launched amid COVID-19
While legacy brands dominated the top spots in the sales rankings, companies of all sizes launched a variety of new products over the last year. The uncertainty of the pandemic did not seem to hold back innovation.
In addition to the Whozeewhatzit bar, Hershey also has launched a number of line extensions to its popular Kit Kat brand, including Key Lime Pie, Birthday Cake, Kit Kat Duos Mint + Dark Chocolate and Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate as well as Kit Kat Thins.
The company also launched a new Reese’s Big Cup with Pretzels, which won best new chocolate as part of the NCA’s Most Innovative Product Awards, which were given out during the summer Sweets and Snacks’ Expo event.
Meanwhile, the other large player in the sector, Mars Wrigley, launched Snickers Almond Brownie in August.
The brand’s newest addition features a chewy brownie filling, mixed with chopped almonds and topped with a layer of luscious caramel, all coated in dark chocolate.
The innovation follows the release of two other products in the Snickers brownie lineup: Snickers Peanut Brownie, which features a chewy peanut-brownie filling, a layer of caramel and a classic Snickers chocolate coating, and the Snickers Peanut Brownie Ice Cream, which features brownie-flavored ice cream with chewy brownie bits, topped with a thin layer of caramel and peanuts covered in a milk chocolatey coating, both currently on shelves nationwide.
"After seeing unparalleled excitement for the Snickers Peanut Brownie and Snickers Peanut Brownie Ice Cream launches, we're excited to deliver on our purpose of better moments and more smiles by unveiling a delicious variation of the bar for our fans," said Michelle Deignan, Mars Wrigley senior brand director. "The new Snickers Almond Brownie offers a deeply satisfying treat, with a taste and texture only Snickers can deliver on."
Ferrero also released a number of new products this year. It has found a lot of success in the chocolate bar and wafer sector with its Kinder Bueno bar, which features chocolate covered wafers. The product generated more than $100 million in sales and earned a spot as an IRI 2020 New Product Pacesetter.
In June Catherine Bertrac, senior VP, marketing, Kinder North America, discussed Kinder Bueno’s success with Candy Industry’s Managing Editor Alyse Thompson.
“With Kinder Joy becoming an immediate success in the United States, we knew we had to unveil Kinder Bueno to consumers,” Bertrac said. “Kinder Bueno is such a unique and upscale offering with a distinctive crispy-creamy, elevated taste experience, and it has been growing in popularity ever since it launched in the United States almost two years ago... Already established as an over $100 million brand in the United States after just the first year, Kinder Bueno is just getting started. We recently launched Kinder Bueno Mini and are driving incremental growth by expanding the brand’s footprint at stores, while also meeting the consumer demand for confectionery products that are great for sharing.”
Kinder Bueno Mini is the individually-wrapped, bite-size version of the Kinder Bueno chocolate bar. Beneath a blanket of milk chocolate lies thin, crispy wafer filled with a creamy hazelnut filling, all topped with a delicate, dark chocolate drizzle.
Another wafer product launched this last year was Loacker USA, Inc.’s new Tortina Caramel wafer treat. The gourmet snack is made with a milk chocolate shell that's 100 percent Alpine milk and Ecuadorian cocoa sourced from Loacker’s sustainable farming program. Its caramel cream filling is nestled between two crispy wafers. There are no added colors or flavors.
New launches from smaller chocolate bar makers will likely set future tures in the sector, as the flavors and concepts used in them become more mainstream in the coming years.
The Functional Chocolate Co.’s Brainy Chocolate Bars combine vegan, fair trade chocolate with vitamins, botanicals and other ingredients, extending the Functional Chocolate line with a new formulation designed to assist with focus and productivity.
"As we come out of such an unusual year, the challenge of balancing work or studies with outside responsibilities and passions is more difficult than ever before," said Nicole Smith, CEO, The Functional Chocolate Co. "Based on years of research and full of clinically-researched ingredients, our team formulated Brainy Chocolate as a delicious way to get your head back in the game."
With a combination of botanicals including ginkgo biloba, bacopa and rhodiola, paired with a proprietary blend of amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids and Chocamine, a patented cocoa-based ingredient that may help improve cognitive function, Zesty Orange-flavored Brainy Chocolate brings consumers back to center with calm focus.
Elements Truffles introduced its Classic Collection featuring six Ayurvedic chocolate bars.
Each bar is hand-crafted in micro-batches with 70 percent fair-trade Ecuadorian cacao. Sweetened with honey and made with superfoods, the chocolate bars are raw and organic. They’re also free of dairy, refined sugar, soy, preservatives, gluten, palm oil and GMO ingredients.
The bars are available in flavors that are among the most cutting edge in the category, including: Ginger with Black Pepper, Rose with Cardamom, Orange Quinoa with Turmeric, Peppermint with Lavender, Sea Salt with Turmeric, and Raspberry with Beetroot.
The collection retails for $40.
Sugar Plum Chocolates took a walk down memory lane with its new line of nostalgic chocolate bars, perfect for consumers seeking some comfort during these trying times.
Sure to bring back memories of childhood treats, the lineup includes: Fruity Flakes, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Pancakes & Syrup, Peanut Butter & Jelly and Apple Pie, available exclusively at Cost Plus World Market. Each set of two retails for $7.98.
Following the trend of comfort, Seattle Chocolate debuted a new seasonal chocolate collection, Summer Scoops, inspired by the flavors of nostalgic ice cream treats and carefree summers. And the line includes three new 2.5-oz. truffle bars, including:
- Mint Chip: A green double distilled mint center with micro chocolate chips encased in a layer of 60 percent dark chocolate
- Neapolitan: A three-layered bar featuring 60% dark chocolate, 30% cacao white chocolate, and strawberry white chocolate
- Vanilla Orange Cream: An orange-infused white chocolate center with a naturally-colored orange shell
With a mission to delight people across the country with chocolate, Seattle Chocolate Co. (the parent company of Seattle Chocolate and jcoco, led by CEO and owner Jean Thompson) decided on an ice cream theme for this collection to capture the joy of eating an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.
“This past year has only reinforced our dedication to brightening people’s days with chocolate,” Thompson said. “These new bars and truffles really taste like some of our favorite ice cream flavors, and we hope that every time someone unwraps one, they’re transported back to a special summer moment. We hope people have as much fun eating the chocolate from this collection as we had making it.”
Indeed, it sounds like they might be exactly what consumers are looking for, even as another shocking news story comes along making them wonder Whozeewhatzit?
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