NCA 2010 Candy Show: The Sweetest Spot on Earth

June 25, 2010
Candy and snacks sales flourish in 2009.

More than 2,000 new confectionery creations and snack sensations were on display at the 2010 Sweets & Snacks Expo held in Chicago in May. The annual trade show, presented by the Washington-based National Confectioners Association, brought together 486 confectionery and snack exhibitors to preview new products, explore the latest trends, review industry performance and forecast the future of the industry. The show attracted some 15,000 attendees, all happily bouncing off the ceiling to get to the next booth more quickly.

Chocolate sales worldwide defy recession

Worldwide chocolate sales continue to grow, according to a December 2009 Mintel report, defying economic belt-tightening. In China and the Ukraine—two countries not necessarily recognized for their rampant chocoholic populations—chocolate confectionery sales rose 18 percent and 12 percent, respectively, and continued growth is expected through 2013.

Brits drove their chocolate market up 5.9 percent in 2009, while Americans purchased 2.6 percent more chocolate than in 2008. Argentinean sales rose 1.8 percent from 2008, while in Belgium, a country that claims to produce some of the world's best chocolate, sales increased by 3.2 percent.

"It's clear that despite economic trouble this year, the world's chocolate lovers didn't deviate from their favorite treat. Chocolate is a small, affordable indulgence for shoppers who are cutting back on spending elsewhere. Even in countries not known for chocolate consumption, sales are on the rise," says Marcia Mogelonsky, global food and drink analyst at Mintel.

It's the Swiss who flash the most cash for chocolate, forking over the equivalent of $206 per person per year, followed by Brits ($106) and Belgians ($90), to satisfy their chocolate cravings. In the U.S., individuals spend just $55 each, while Argentineans devote an average of $35 per year on chocolate confectionery.

Manufacturers are determined to keep consumers melting over new chocolate varieties. Despite worldwide economic troubles, Mintel's Global New Products Database reports that manufacturers launched nearly the same number of chocolate products in 2009 as in 2008, and more new chocolate products rolled out in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa in 2009 than the year before.

According to Datamonitor's Product Launch Analytics online database of new product SKUs in 2009, 2,843 new confectionery products debuted. Of those, 1,760 were chocolate, 969 non-chocolate, and 114 gum products. Also offered last year were 2,980 new snack, cookie and cracker products. Of those, cookies led the pack at 808, followed by cereal bars (401), potato chips (300), nuts and seeds (289), crackers (159) and popcorn (96). Other snacks (including pretzels, puffed snacks, fruit snacks, meat snacks, etc.) totaled 927.

Based on Symphony IRI and NCA data, the confectionery industry posted a 3.6 percent gain in 2009 -- excellent growth in a slow economy with low consumer confidence. Meanwhile, salty snacks experienced even stronger growth with a 7.8 percent gain over 2008. Salty snacks and confectionery rank third and fourth overall in food sales, and first and second among snack foods. The cookie category (ranked fourth among snack foods) also experienced a 1.1 percent growth last year; snack and granola bars (ranked fifth in snack categories) grew 3 percent.

Major sales trends that helped shape the category in 2009 include: Dark chocolate sales slowed compared to previous years, but still grew an impressive 9 percent; Coconut and nut confectionery grew 12.1 percent, gummy and chewy candy up 11.6 percent, theatre-box candies grew 6 percent (indicates increased attention to value brands and sizes in keeping with the economy), sugar-free gum grew 7.3 percent, and licorice was up 4.7 percent.

Unlike the snacks category, which has focused on making products healthier in the past few years, candy manufacturers mostly have concentrated on portion control -- after all, who wants their indulgent treats reformulated? Certainly not anyone who takes his or her candy seriously. This year, the obesity challenge propelled candy makers to add more sugar-free options and more fruit, nuts, probiotics, omega-3s and phytonutrients to their lines.

But portion control is still the No. 1 health positioning for candy. Perfect examples are Mars' Snickers 2-to-Go (the package contains two smaller bars, designed to be consumed separately) and Nestlé's Butterfinger Snackerz, (crispy bite-size squares filled with a Butterfinger crème center, wrapped in chocolate and drizzled with Butterfinger candy) and Sweetriot's dark chocolate-covered Cacao Nibs (about the size of a pencil point and only two calories each).

Speaking of calorie control, Mars' sugar-free Dove chocolates also made their debut. Consumers will love Hershey's Reese's Minis, marble-size unwrapped chocolate peanut butter cups, ideal for portion control, if you have willpower. Ditto for Hershey's Drops, tiny bits of Hershey candy in milk chocolate or cookies 'n' crème varieties.

Give me more dark chocolate

Chocolate candy sales in 2009 within food, drug, mass merchandising channels, including Wal-Mart, were $4.3 billion, a 3.6 percent increase, up from a 4.7 percent increase in 2008, according to Nielsen, even though unit sales were off by 7 percent. Chocolate miniature sales of about $1.1 billion were up 8.7 percent, following a 1.2-percent boost in 2008, while unit sales dropped 3 percent. Dietetic chocolate sales of $172 million climbed 3.6 percent compared to a slight 0.4 percent increase in the prior year, and unit sales were up, but only by 0.2 percent.

Consumers increasing seek organic and fair trade chocolate, and want to know more about the health benefits, particularly dark chocolate loaded with flavanols, which help to lower blood pressure, promote healthy blood flow and balance certain hormones in the body.

There's no doubt candy manufacturers – including Mars, Hershey and Nestlé USA -- are working to put some candy favorites on a calorie-reduction diet in the near future. All three of those companies recently joined the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a CEO-led national, multi-year effort designed to help reduce obesity – especially childhood obesity -- by cutting some 1.5 trillion calories from food by 2015.

We'll be writing in depth about some of the new products in Rollout; meanwhile, you can check out more confectionery and snack trends and new products from the show.

And if you wonder what happens to all the leftover candy and snacks, they are donated to Operation Independence, a nationwide non-profit organization that supports troops serving on the frontlines, military families and veterans.

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