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It’s National Candy Month: 3 Things Candy Brands Can Do to Save the Sweet Tooth

It’s National Candy Month: 3 Things Candy Brands Can Do to Save the Sweet Tooth

Mallory Diamond, Associate Director, Marketing & Business Development

June 1, 2018

I don’t know about you, but I could be paid in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and be perfectly happy. (My husband probably wouldn’t be too happy, but hey — happy wife, happy life.)

Every workplace has their communal candy drawer, and mine is often stocked by our receptionist (bless her) with shiny, golden, perfectly-sized-so-as-not-to-induce-too-much-guilt Reese’s Miniatures. And on stressful days, or busy ones, or even when I’m just too lazy to go get lunch, I frequent that drawer of treasure perhaps a bit more than I should.

But like many Americans in June, National Candy Month, I’m thinking a little more about what all those trips to the “stress drawer” are doing to my health. According to a May 2018 report from Mintel, growth in the non-chocolate confectionery segment is slowing down as consumers become more concerned with overall wellness and sugar intake. While Americans definitely still have a sweet tooth (the majority of us haven’t reduced our candy consumption), over a quarter of non-chocolate confectionery eaters are eating less candy this year than they did last year.

With obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a host of other nasty health hazards on the rise, the sugar in our food supply is under a big bright spotlight — and candy, a segment that stands for indulgence, is melting a bit under the heat. Research has shown that while addressing health concerns may help stave off some category decline (“Please enjoy MIKE AND IKE® responsibly”), it’s probably not the long-term solution.

Our collective sweet tooth is changing, and candy brands (especially those that can’t claim antioxidant benefits) have to pay attention and make some changes of their own. Lean into these strategies to avoid the sugar crush:

  • Make smart bets on innovative flavors: 63% of respondents in the Mintel study credit their increased candy consumption with a better selection of flavors. Sour and tropical flavors are gaining popularity, as are spicy flavors, flavor mashups, and textural innovations. At this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo, Big Chewy NERDS (which, I imagine, taste exactly what they sound like) from Nestlé USA/Ferrara Candy Company won Most Innovative Product Award in the non-chocolate category.
  • Pursue sugar reduction initiatives and cleaner formulations: Candy brands that can prove they’re a little better than their competitors in terms of sugar, fat, and calorie content, or how the product was produced, will have an edge when that candy lover’s resolve breaks in the checkout line. This Valentine’s Day, “healthy” candy newcomers like Unreal Chocolates, Justin’s, Little Ducks Organics, and YumEarth were grabbing headlines. Someone pass the ginger chews!
  • Munching on candy isn’t healthy, but snacking is still cool: The majority of candy consumption happens in the form of snacking, personal reward, or on-the-go. Interestingly, the emotional drivers we typically blame when we reach for that third handful of Reese’s Miniatures (“I need a mood boost”) were far less prevalent. More than half of shameless candy snackers like myself are motivated to snack as a way to treat ourselves. (“Because I’m having a hard day and I’m worth it, dammit!”)

The chocolate confectionery segment, on the other hand, is chugging along impressively — especially for a huge, mature food category with almost universal penetration. Mintel reports that sales of chocolate candy grew nearly 3% last year to nearly $18 billion, and more than 90% of adults have purchased chocolate in the past three months.

Well, I may not be unique, but if loving Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Hey Hershey Company, call me, ok?

Non-Chocolate Confectionery, US, May 2018, Mintel
Chocolate Confectionery, US, April 2018, Mintel