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Visions of sugar plums and other candies are apparently filling the snack aisle this holiday season.

In fact, candy ranks as the number one snack item purchased for the holidays, with 50% of adults planning to buy something sweet during the season, according to NPD’s SnackTrack Holidays Christmas Profile, which looks at consumers’ activities, purchase behavior, and attitudes surrounding Christmas.  

Next, in rank order, are chips (purchased by 38% of adults); fresh fruit (purchased by 36% of adults); and crackers and nuts (each purchased by 31% of adults).

Of the 50% of adults planning to buy candy, 54% intend to eat it or for their family to eat it, while  44% of adults bought candy for gifting. The remaining candy was slated for holiday entertaining and other activities.

As for which specific type of candy shoppers will be reaching for this Christmas, 51% said they plan to eat some seasonal/holiday chocolates. They were followed by (in order) candy canes, snack-size chocolate candy bars, gift box chocolates, and then seasonal/holiday non-chocolate candy.

Candy shoppers also break the traditional rule of shopping from lists during the holiday season, according to the NPD report.  

Impulse is identified as the premier driver for 15% of candy/treat purchases and impulse candy shopping happens everywhere.

While women tend to gravitate to the seasonal candy aisles, men favor the regular candy section.

“Whether its stockings stuffed with chocolates or candy canes dangling from the Christmas tree, candy is a top holiday food tradition,” says Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst. “The winter holiday period offers manufacturers and retailers incredible potential for growth, and an opportunity to differentiate brands and drive additional sales by understanding consumers’ attitudes and behaviors related candy.”