When it comes to candy, chocolate is still the best place to be. The category dominates the sector, with $14.1 billion in sales.

That’s according to IRI data for the last 52 weeks, ending March 24. Although that’s down -1.3 percent over the last year, it still far and above any other category.

The same data shows that non-chocolate candy saw $7.4 billion in sales, which was up 0.8 percent. And gum had $3.1 billion in sales, up 2 percent from last year. Meanwhile, breath fresheners had $776 million in sales, down -3.8 percent from last year.



When it comes to better-for-you confections, the segment remains difficult to navigate.

For example, research from Mintel, which specifically looked at Canadian consumers, shows people remain confused over what the term “natural” means. That in turn has spurred companies to use more specific benefit claims on new product launches in Canada.

Mintel also said there was a 366 percent increase in “GMO-free” claims on natural food/drink launches in Canada from 2007-17, while “no additives/preservatives” claims grew 21 percent. Meanwhile, less specific claims such as “all natural product” declined 62 percent in the same time period.

Although 42 percent of shoppers seeking natural or organic products are most likely to agree that foods and beverages with these claims are better for you, shoppers are just as likely to think natural/organic foods and beverages offer clear benefits (22 percent) as they are to think foods with these claims are a gimmick (19 percent).

And, consumers have an easier time defining organic claims than natural claims, as shoppers are more likely to consider organic products as being free of pesticides (53 percent vs. 35 percent natural), preservative-free (46 percent vs. 39 percent) and hormone-free (41 percent vs. 30 percent).

“Natural claims are evolving to provide greater clarity about the benefits of these products as consumers increasingly demand total transparency from food and drink companies, as noted in Mintel’s 2018 Global Food and Drink Trend ‘Full Disclosure,’” said Joel Gregoire, associate director, Canada Food and Drink Reports, at Mintel. “Manufacturers, companies and brands are responding by providing more defined positioning, including substituting vague claims like ‘all natural’ in favor of more specific claims such as ‘GMO-free’ or ‘preservative-free.’ As such, focusing on free-from positioning appears to be a more direct means to communicate the inherent value of natural/organic products.”

Mount Franklin’s Sweet Valley Organics is designed to be both indulgent as well as better-for-you, with flavors that include: Chewy Bananas Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon Praline Pecans Dark Chocolate; Sea Salt Cashews Dark Chocolate, Sea Salt Toffee Almonds Dark chocolate and Tart Cherries Dark Chocolate.

Another notable launch in the category is the ONE White Chocolate Truffle Protein Bar from ONE Brands. It features white chocolate with dark chocolate drizzle and dark chocolate chips in every bite. Combining the perceptions of indulgence and healthy in one product, the White Chocolate Truffle bar is packed with 20 grams of protein and contains only one gram of sugar. Nonetheless, it provides fans with rich taste and a guilt-free experience, since it’s made with high quality and gluten-free ingredients. This addition fits perfectly in the brand’s family of mouthwatering bars including Birthday Cake, Almond Bliss and Maple Glazed Doughnut.

Tru Fru also launched Tru Fru Indulge on the Go. Tru Fru freeze-dries real fruit to lock in vitamins, nutrients and flavor and then immerses them in dark chocolate. The Indulge on the Go range includes Raspberries, Whole Cherries, Strawberries, Bananas, Whole Cranberries and Coconut Melts. A 4.5-oz. package has a suggested retail price of $4.89.

Sugar-free also continues to gain traction, with low-carb and keto diets dominating the current culture. Sugar-free chocolate candy sales increased 19.4 percent to $138 million, according to data from IRI for the last 52 weeks ending March 24, 2019. That’s in large part due to Lily’s Sweets, which was the No. 2 selling sugar-free chocolate. It saw an increase of 152 percent with $13.7 million in sales.

However, Russel Stover Sugar-free chocolates continue to dominate the sugar-free chocolate category as the top-selling product. Specifically, it had $95.4 million in sales, up 13 percent over the last 52 weeks.

— Crystal Lindell, Editor



Portability, connections to long-loved brands and the addition of unique flavors and inclusions continues to make chocolate bars a popular format for consuming chocolate.

According to IRI, a Chicago-based research firm, chocolate candy packed in bars, bags or boxes less than 3.5 oz. pulled in $4.37 billion in the year ending March 24. That represents nearly a third of the $14 billion U.S. chocolate market.

chocolate bars

With an average price per unit of $1.32, the less-than-3.5 oz. category remained virtually flat (-0.6 percent) during that reporting period. The overall U.S. chocolate market didn’t see much growth, either, posting a 1.3 percent dip in dollar sales in the year ending March 24.

Snickers, the category’s top-selling candy bar, according to IRI’s data, pulled in $444.39 million over the reporting period, commanding just over 10 percent of the market share. Kit Kat, a chocolate and wafer product, pulled in $331.54 million, earning 7.59 percent of the market share.

Known globally for its flavor innovation, Kit Kat made strides by being one of the first brands to make use of Barry Callebaut’s Ruby chocolate. Kit Kat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby became available in Japan and South Korea for a limited time in January 2018.

In April, the Hershey Co. announced it would introduce the first new year-round Kit Kat flavor in the U.S. in a decade: Kit Kat Duos Mint + Dark Chocolate.

“Our fans in the U.S. have been requesting new Kit Kat flavors, and we’re excited to share we are adding to the Kit Kat family with the launch of Kit Kat Duos Mint + Dark Chocolate,” said Christopher Kinnard, Kit Kat senior brand manager. “But here’s the best part — we are just getting started. Keep your eyes peeled; there is more to come from the Kit Kat brand.”

Chocolate bars also offer an opportunity for premiumization, whether it’s through interesting inclusions or ethically-sourced, high quality cocoa. Divine Chocolate, for example, launched its first line of organic chocolate bars in the UK and the U.S. this year, sourcing cocoa from CECAQ-11, a co-operative of farmers on the island of São Tomé, located off the coast of West Africa.

Divine’s new organic line is made with a higher cocoa content (85%) and is Fairtrade certified, certified organic by the USDA, Non-GMO Project Verified and vegan. It features four flavors: Refreshing Lemon, Turmeric and Ginger, Blueberry and Popped Quinoa, and Cocoa Nibs.

European manufacturers of wafer products continue to post strong showings. Based in Hannover, Germany, Bahlsen earned the 32nd spot in Candy Industry Magazine’s 2019 Global Top 100 with estimated net sales of $659 million. Loacker, based in South Tyrol, Italy, took the No. 64 spot with estimated revenue of $301 million. Vienna’s Josef Manner & Co. KG follows at 72, up from 79 in 2018. The company’s estimated net sales are $240 million.

— Alyse Thompson, Managing Editor



Innovation in texture and format has helped draw interest to the U.S. chewing gum category.

In a December 2018 report, market research firm Packaged Facts estimated chewing gum sales comprise 11 percent of the total U.S. retail candy market. Total retail dollar sales of the U.S. chewing gum market reached roughly $4.1 billion in 2018, representing a slight rise over 2017.

Due in part to health concerns over snacking calories and sugar consumption, sugar-free gum accounts for 85 percent of dollar sales, compared to 15 percent for “regular” (sugared) gum. It’s a trend that will keep the category relevant in coming years, Packaged Facts predicts.

“Gum marketers are developing fun and flavorful products and are innovating with non-caloric sweeteners, as well as stressing the potential benefits of dental and nutrition-bearing gums,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

In the year ending March 24, 2019, Chicago-based research firm IRI reported the sugar-free gum market generated $2.64 billion in dollar sales, up 3.6 percent from a year ago. More than 1.3 billion units had been sold.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s Extra brand topped the list with just over $500 million in dollar sales during the reporting period. That represents a nearly 10 percent increase over the previous year.

Building on the recognition of the brand, Mars Wrigley launched Extra Chewy Mints in December 2018, which featured a crunchy outer shell and a chewy core. Debuting in May, the company launched Extra Refreshers, a soft-chew gum available in Spearmint, Polar Ice and Tropical Mist.

Trident, a Mondelez International brand, pulled in $373.55 million in the year ending March 24. The company introduced Trident Vibes at the end of 2019. The cube-shaped gum features a crystal coating for extra pops of flavor. It’s available in Spearmint Rush, Ooh La La Lemon and Tropical Beat flavors.

Hershey brand Ice Breakers earned the No. 3 spot with $313.73 million in the same reporting period. The brand launched the first-ever glitter gum in April 2018. Available in Cherry Snow Cone, flavor, the cube-shaped gum pieces were dusted with edible glitter.

Dollar sales of regular gum dropped by 6.4 percent to $461.13 million in the 52 weeks ending March 24. Mars Wrigley dominates the category, with more than 72 percent of the market share, thanks to brands such as Doublemint, Juicy Fruit and Wrigley’s Spearmint.

However, Big League Chew and Bazooka have updated their packaging with the goal of engaging more consumers.

Ford Gum & Machine Co. announced at the end of 2018 it would feature a female softball player on the Outta Here Original shredded bubble gum pouch beginning Feb. 1. The new player was brought to life by Amanda MacFarlane, a freelance character designer and the daughter of former Major League shortstop Bobby Bonner.

“Big League Chew is bubble gum fun for everyone, which is why we are so excited to introduce our newest character to the world,” said Rob Nelson, inventor of Big League Chew. “We often draw inspiration for future products from our dedicated fans and customers. Whether it is fun alternative name suggestions for our bubble gum flavors or new characters to feature, we hear you and we appreciate you. This new pouch is inspired by the girls who play hard and dream big.”

In April, Bazooka launched the Throwback pack, featuring nostalgic 1980s graphics and Original flavor bubble gum wrapped in classic comics.

“We are excited to offer our consumers a trip down memory lane with Bazooka Throwback,” said Matt Nathanson, Bazooka brand manager. “This new product is a great tribute to the bubble gum brand that has been cherished for generations by kids of all ages.”

— Alyse Thompson, Managing Editor



When it comes to the licorice category, Twizzlers continues to dominate. The brand accounted for three of the Top Five brands for the last year, according to IRI data ending March 24, 2019. Specifically, Twizzlers was No. 1 with $214.9 million in sales, Twizzlers Pull ‘N’ Peel was No. 3 with $47.1 million in sales, and Twizzlers Nibs was No. 5, with $14.3 million in sales.

gummies and jellies

No. 2 was Red Vines, with $60.8 million in sales. And overall, the licorice category saw $436.5 million in sales according to IRI, which is down 1 percent.

As for non-chocolate chewy candy, Skittles is the top-selling item, with $329.9 million in sales, according to the same IRI data. Although that is down slightly from last year, with -0.7 percent change.

It’s telling though that the No. 2 non-chocolate chewy candy was private label, with $271 million in sales, which shows that there’s a strong market for own brand products in that category.

That isn’t stopping companies from launching new, innovative name-brand products though.

One of the most exciting chewy launches this year is actually from Smarties, which is releasing Squashies, the first candy of its kind in the U.S. market. Not quite a gummy and not quite a marshmallow, this unique raspberry- and cream-flavored candy is fat-free, gluten-free and peanut-free. Smarties Squashies also feature a distinctive Millennial pink color created naturally from black carrot extract. The item, which is made in the United Kingdom, is low in calories at 70 calories per serving. Most importantly though, it is delicious!

“It’s no wonder they are a top selling candy in England,” Smarties Co-President Jessica Dee Sawyer said. “I had to hide our limited samples because people who tried them wanted more right away! Squashies were a hit from Day One, and we are delighted to be introducing Squashies to the U.S. market, which we believe is hungry for this change in chewy.”

gummies and jellies

They’ll be packaged in 5-oz. peg bags, retailing for $1.79.

Meanwhile, Bazooka is expanding its incredibly popular Baby Bottle Pop line with Gummy Blast. Packed in a tray, they feature sweet, bottle-shaped gummies and Strawberry popping powder for dipping. The gummies come in Watermelon, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry and Berry Blast flavors, and they retail for $1.79-$1.99. It’s a hybrid of novelty and gummy.

— Crystal Lindell, Editor



Though the growth in chewy candy captures headlines, the hard candy category continues to hold steady.

IRI, a Chicago-based research firm, reported the U.S. hard candy category generated $591.13 million in the 52 weeks ending March 24, 2019, representing a 2.3 percent increase over the previous year. That’s roughly 8 percent of the $7.43 billion U.S. non-chocolate candy category.

hard candies

Jolly Rancher, a Hershey brand, occupies almost 22 percent of the U.S. market share, pulling in $125.18 million in the year ending March 24, 2019. The brand saw a 1.3 percent increase in dollar sales over the report period.

Jolly Rancher wasn’t always seeing dollar sales climb, however. To bring attention back to the brand, Hershey a few years ago launched the “Keep on Sucking” campaign, playing off the action of consuming hard candies and Jolly Rancher’s previously less-than-stellar sales performance.

“We needed a radical change in how we communicated the brand,” Bill Blubaugh, senior brand director of sweets and refreshments for The Hershey Co., wrote in a blog post on Hershey’s site. “We needed to do something innovative, something that could compete in this hyper-competitive set to break the clutter and position Jolly Rancher as a brand that the Millennial generation couldn’t live without — all while being smart, nimble and effective.”

hard candies

Werther’s Original took the No. 2 spot, earning $91.23 million during the reporting period. Along with its classic hard caramels, Werther’s Original has introduced in the U.S. a coffee-flavored variety and two filled hard candies: Creamy Caramel Filled and Caramel Apple Filled.

Globally, the sugar confectionery market is expected to reach $55.6 billion by 2022, according to data from Allied Market Research. In 2017, Technavio, another research firm, estimated the hard-boiled sweets category occupied roughly 24 percent of the global sugar confectionery market.

“The global hard-boiled sweets market is driven by the growing retail sector and new product innovations that come with exotic flavors,” said Manjunath Reddy, a lead food research analyst for Technavio. “Besides, sugar confectionery products like hard-boiled sweets are often purchased on impulse and instinct; one can easily find these items near the point of sales and billing counters inside supermarkets, retail stores, and convenience stores.”

hard candies

Hard candy has also become an ideal format for manufacturers seeking to offer clean-label sweets. Natural colors and flavors, along with other organic and non-GMO ingredients, have elevated products within the category. And, manufacturers looking to forgo sugar are using natural sweeteners such as xylitol and erythritol.

Stamford, Conn.-based YumEarth has developed a variety drops and lollipops that are USDA-organic certified and made with natural colors and flavors. Torie & Howard, also based in Connecticut, offers organic hard candies in unique flavors such as D’Anjou Pear & Cinnamon and Pink Grapefruit & Tupelo Honey.

— Alyse Thompson, Managing Editor



This past year, chocolate novelty has increased a stunning 226 percent, to $199.1 million, according to IRI data ending March 24, 2019.

And it’s due in large part to one product finally taking off in the U.S. — Kinder Joy. The U.S. version of Kinder Surprise Eggs, Kinder Joy features the same egg shape, but the package has two separately-sealed halves, with one containing a surprise toy and the other containing two hazelnut wafer balls and two layers of cream. That way it can meet U.S. regulations.

kinder eggs

It was the top-selling chocolate novelty product, with $182.1 million in sales. The next closest chocolate novelty product was Frankford Shopkins, with $3.8 million in sales, IRI reports.

Meanwhile in non-chocolate novelty, the best-selling item of the last year was the Tootsie Roll Childs Play, with $56.5 million in sales, according to IRI. And Baby Bottle Pop came in second, with $49.3 million in sales. Overall, that category saw $763.4 million in sales, an increase of 0.9 percent, according to IRI.

A couple of notable new novelty products this year won Candy Industry Magazine / ECRM Awards.

Imaginings 3/Flix Candy Mini Selfie Lip Pops won for best novelty candy at the Kids Choice Awards this year. The miniature version of Lip Pops, they’re perfect for taking selfies with. And with six pieces in a bag, they’re also perfect for sharing both in real life, and online — the company encouraged candy lovers post pictures with the hashtag #lippopselfie.

They retail for $1.99-$2.99.

And Koko’s Confectionery & Novelty DC Comics Light-Up Spray Candy won the Buyer’s Choice award. The buildable figurines can be played with long after the 0.68 oz. of spray candy is gone, which is one of the perks of a lot of novelty candy. The spray candy comes in Strawberry and Blue Raspberry. The buildables come in a mix of Superman, Batman, Robin, Joker, Green Lantern and The Flash. They retail for $2.99.

— Crystal Lindell, Editor



When it comes to chocolate, peanut/peanut butter is consumers’ favorite added flavor, while core fine chocolate consumers’ favorite is almonds. That’s according to the NCA report “Getting to Know Chocolate Consumers.”

So it makes sense that companies continue to create products featuring nuts.

One of the most notable nut launches this year is The Hershey Co.’s limited-edition Reese’s Chocolate and Peanut Butter Lovers Cups. The Chocolate Lovers Cups have the traditional milk chocolate shell and peanut butter filling, while Peanut Lovers Cups have a peanut butter filling and a half peanut butter, half milk chocolate shell.

“For years, we’ve heard people debate their favorite part of a Reese’s Cup. Is it the chocolate or is it the peanut butter?” said Natalie Perera, Reese’s brand manager. “So, we decided to settle the score and make both sides happy by giving them what they want — Reese’s Chocolate Lovers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Lovers. As if we’d actually choose!”


The product quickly went viral on social media, as Hershey kicked off the launch by giving fans a first taste of the new product at the Reese’s Swap Shop. Fans had to decide if they are a Peanut Butter Lover or Chocolate Lover, and then they were asked to swap something they love for an early taste of the Reese’s Lovers Cups.

Another company getting into the segment was Lily’s Sweets, which makes sugar-free chocolate bars and baking chocolate. The company added chocolate-covered nuts and peanut butter cups to its portfolio this year.

The chocolate-covered almonds and peanuts — each available in milk and dark chocolate varieties — contain 1 gram of sugar per serving. And, after seeing lovers of Lily’s Sweets Dark Chocolate Baking Chocolate make peanut butter cups, the Lily’s team decided to develop their own. Also available in milk and dark chocolate varieties, the peanut butter cups come in a convenient pouch with five servings ready to satisfy daily cravings. They have a suggested retail price of $5.99.

Dave’s Sweet Tooth also launched Peanut Butter Crunch Toffee, which features peanut butter chips for nutty flavor and almonds for crunch and a 4-oz. bag retails for $5.99.

— Crystal Lindell, Editor



“The core fine chocolate consumer is younger, more affluent, more likely to live in urban areas and greatly values social and environmental stewardship.” That’s according to the NCA report “Getting to Know Chocolate Consumers,” which says 70 percent of consumers enjoy premium chocolate, while 27 percent consume fine chocolate.

premium chocolates

Fine chocolate consumers, “value both the behavior and the certifications that come with it, and three-quarters are willing to pay more as a result,” the report says. “Experimentation is important. Fine chocolate consumers like dark, milk and white chocolate equally, tend to try items from different chocolatiers (even if they have a favorite), and go out of their way to purchase it. They visit festivals, farmers’ markets and buy online far more often than the general chocolate consumer. Core fine chocolate consumers favor the term “fine” to describe this chocolate type versus a preference for “gourmet” among occasional fine chocolate buyers.

One brand to watch in the category is Goodnow Farms Chocolate, which won six 2019 sofi awards, sweeping the Dark Chocolate category and earning two of four Chocolate Candy awards.

It was the first time a brand won six sofis in a single year since the Specialty Food Association began presenting the awards 47 years ago. And, in another sofi first, the Sudbury, Mass.-based company’s handcrafted single-origin bars took the whole the Dark Chocolate category, with the Ucayali bar bringing home Gold, Asochivite receiving Silver, and Coto Brus earning Bronze.

The Special Reserve Putnam Rye Whiskey bar was the only chocolate bar to receive two sofi awards this year: Best New Product and Silver in the Chocolate Candy category. The single-origin Almendra Blanca Hot Cocoa won Silver for Hot Beverage.

premium chocolates

Goodnow Farms co-founders and head chocolate makers Tom and Monica Rogan credited the strong showing to the steps they take to make a product of exceptional quality.

“True cacao flavor starts at the source, which is why Monica and I personally visit each farm to ensure we’re sourcing the best, most flavorful beans,” Tom said.

“People don’t realize chocolate comes from a fruit,” Monica added. “The best chocolate craftsmanship brings out the unique flavors of each bean, in much the same way a fine bottle of wine reflects the flavors of the grapes from which it’s made.”

— Crystal Lindell, Editor