The non-chocolate novelty category, as well as marshmallows and specialty nut and coconut candy, have experienced growth over the last year.
Sales of non-chocolate novelty candy just missed $1.2 billion in the year ending May 15, according to IRI, a Chicago-based research firm. That represents growth of 27 percent. Unit sales increased almost 18 percent to 572 million. The average unit price also increased $0.15 to $2.08.
Ferrara topped the category with $369.4 million, up 59.2 percent from a year ago. The Topps Co. followed with $221.6 million, up 1.4 percent over the same period. Tootsie Roll took third place with $61.8 million. Mars Wrigley and Just Born rounded out the Top 5 with $50.5 million and $40 million, respectively.
IRI reported that the Nerds brand leads the non-chocolate novelty category, pulling in $251.9 million in the 52 weeks ending May 15. That represents growth of 145.7 percent. While IRI didn’t offer sales data for specific SKUs, Ferrara has reinvigorated the Nerds brand with the introduction of Nerds Gummy Clusters.
After a successful launch in 2020, Ferrara launched the Very Berry flavor extension at the 2022 Sweets & Snacks Expo.
“Research showed that consumers were seeking out gummy and multi-textured candy, so we created Nerds Gummy Clusters to deliver on both,” said Greg Guidotti, chief marketing officer, Ferrara. “This one-of-a-kind, crunchy, gummy, yummy invention became the latest breakthrough innovation to embody the spirit of the Nerds brand.”
Following the Nerds brand are three Topps Company brands: Juicy Drop at No. 2 with $70.3 million, Push Pop at No. 4 with $51.1 million and Baby Bottle Pop at No. 5 with $47.5 million. Tootsie Roll took the third spot with $61.7 million.
The latest offerings from Bazooka Candy Brands, a division of the Topps Company, feature gummy candy and packaging with added entertainment value. In April 2021, the company introduced Juicy Drop Gummy Dip ‘N Stix. The packaging features a center compartment filled with fruit-flavored sour gel. It’s surrounded by chewy candy sticks, allowing consumers to dip to create their own sweet and sour experience.
Bazooka expanded its Push Pop Gummy Roll range with a tropical flavor in May 2022. Featuring an interactive “pull, press, push” system, it dispenses a chewy rainbow belt with the flavors of Apple, Raspberry, Lemon, Orange, Cherry and Watermelon.
At this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo, Bazooka introduced Push Pop Gummy Pop-its. Airy, cone-shaped gummies are stored in an interactive refillable container. Consumers can flip open the container lid, pull it up, and push it back down to reveal a gummy. The gummies come in four flavors: Strawberry, Blue Raspberry, Berry Blast and Watermelon.
“Push Pop Gummy Pop-its is a true example of our company mission at Bazooka Candy Brands to keep bringing edible entertainment to new levels," said Becky Silberfarb, vice president of brand marketing for the Americas. "More than just a differentiated gummy product in a fast-growing category, Push Pop Gummy Pop-its delivers just what our fans love — a really unique and fun new eating experience."
Marshmallows are having a moment, thanks to surging popularity of the s’mores flavor profile and other innovation in the space.
The National Confectioners Association reported in May that s’mores-flavored treats were one of the top four trends it expected to see at the Sweets & Snacks Expo. A quick search of the show’s new product gallery returned seven products, including Stuffed Puff’s S’mores BIG Bites.
Introduced in October, Stuffed Puffs S’mores BIG bites feature marshmallows stuffed with chocolate and graham pieces that are rolled in graham for the perfect s'more on the go.
"Since we first launched our Classic Milk Chocolate Stuffed Puffs, the most frequent comment I've heard from our fans is that they ate the entire bag before ever making it outside to the campfire,” said Michael Tierney, CEO and founder of Stuffed Puffs. “We thought we'd take that ethos and design a product line around it and Big Bites were born.
Hershey’s also celebrated s’mores season by partnering with Pandora to create playlists designed for building the treats around a campfire.
"We all have those heartwarming memories while making the perfect s'more," said Alyssa Smith, manager for Hershey's. "The ones that include the sound of laughter, the smell of a campfire, and the taste of that classic combination of a Hershey's milk chocolate bar between a roasted marshmallow and graham crackers.”
Jet-Puffed sought to solve the problem of building s’mores in the dark by introducing glow-in-the-dark Camp S’mores packaging in June.
“We wanted to give fans a way to enjoy their s’mores no matter if it’s day or night,” says Samantha Mills, associate director of brand communications at Kraft Heinz. “The new glow-in-the-dark packaging makes it easy to find your bag of marshmallows when the sun sets around the glowing campfire.”
Earlier this year, Chicago Vegan Foods expanded its Dandies marshmallow line with a Maple variety, flavored with real maple syrup. Like the brand’s original, top-selling vanilla marshmallows, Dandies Maple Marshmallows contain no artificial flavors or colors, no corn syrup, no gelatin and no gluten.
Meanwhile, beverage bombs — hollow chocolate spheres filled with miniature marshmallows — had another strong season in late 2021.
Frankford Candy, which registered the BOMB® trademark in October, introduced autumn-inspired hot chocolate bombs in Pumpkin Spice and original flavors, with fall foil packaging. Both contained vanilla miniature marshmallows. The company also partnered with Dunkin’ introduce Mint and original flavors for the holiday season.
“Over the past few years and with the growth in social platforms, consumers have been looking for innovative, experience-based food and treats that they can share with family and friends,” said Molly Jacobson, director of business development at Frankford Candy. “As a long-time leader in the cocoa gift-set market, we saw an opportunity with our Hot Chocolate BOMB® to put a twist on the classic hot chocolate and create a new experience that would break the mold and surprise and delight consumers.”
A’cappella Chocolate has also tapped into the beverage bomb trend, introducing seasonal varieties for its BevBomb range. In addition to Classic Chocolate, the brand introduced Pumpkin Spice, White Chocolate Peppermint and Chocolate & Raspberry Duet, as well egg-shaped bombs for Easter. Each is filled with mini marshmallows.
Specialty nut and coconut candy
Dollar sales of specialty nut and coconut candy increased 6.6 percent over the year ending May 15, representing total sales of $335.2 million.
The Hershey Company, maker of PayDay, leads the category with sales of $151.1 million for that brand. That represents a 5.3 percent increase over the same period.
Private-label nut and coconut candy followed with $30.8 million, up 26.6 percent from a year ago. Atkinson’s took the third spot with $15.6 million, representing an increase of 16.8 percent. Pearson’s and True North complete the Top 5 with $14.7 million and $11.3 million, respectively.
Following the launch of Spicy and Cinnamon Churro Salted Nut Roll in May 2021, the company debuted limited-edition autumn-inspired flavors in September. The Apple Pie flavor combined peanuts, caramel and nougat, while the Pumpkin Spice variety balanced pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg flavors with peanuts, caramel and nougat.
“Both customers and consumer taste tests have shown that these two new flavor additions will have strong appeal at the shelf,” said Randy Klemann, Pearson’s senior VP of sales, said in September. “The comforting taste of apple pie and cult-favorite pumpkin spice will be fun flavors for our Salted Nut Roll fans to seek out this fall.”