As consumers and confectioners navigate through a global pandemic, COVID-19 continues to have the most significant influence on packaging innovation for candy, according to recent analysis from Euromonitor International. 

Before delving into the three biggest trends, it’s important to note that plastic-based packaging and, in particular, flexible plastic, largely dominates the confection space, with pouches still the most dynamic pack type at 12 percent CAGR in 2020. Reclosability offers consumers the perception of value and makes “snackers” who might feel guilty about partaking in a sweet treat more likely to have one or two and save the rest for later.

The three trends in confectionery that the industry is seeing most are value and home snacking formats, sustainable packaging and a quality experience at home beyond just opening and eating candy.

 1. The boom in planned online shopping — e-commerce for snacks went from 3 percent in 2019 to 5 percent in 2020 — created fewer impulse buys as consumers shifted from single-serve formats to multipacks and larger pack sizes for better value. The pandemic also created new snacking occasions with families spending more time at home, sharing snacks while watching Netflix, etc. For brand owners, boosting margins and value sales when single-serve packs have lost momentum across retail and impulse channels means finding ways to add premiums to items.

2. A discernable push toward sustainable packaging was not visible in confectionery until 2020-21. Brand owners increased the use of materials with a higher recyclability profile to add premiums to products and make items stand out. While sustainability is not yet a priority in consumers’ minds across all demographics and markets, COVID-19 encouraged consumers to want more purpose from their food brands. Paper-based materials that are widely recycled are, in places, substituting for flexible packaging. For example, Kit Kat introduced flexible paper in Japan, and Mars repackaged its premium Galaxy chocolates into an envelope-style folding carton in the Middle East. There is still much to be done in sustainability, notably through clearer labeling and “better” plastic alternatives.

3. Another result of people seeking new options is packaging innovation that delivers a quality experience at home beyond the pure consumption of the product. This trend is an added way the boom in e-commerce is influencing future snacks packaging. Candy remains an escape, and consumers cannot socialize outside easily, give or receive gifts in person or go to a candy store. Confectioners need to look beyond the consumption experience and provide more consumer-product interaction through the unboxing experience. In Austria, for example, major sweets brand Manner offered customers its Mini Mix gift box for Easter in 2020. The pop-up folding carton opened into a board game using its chocolate figures as game pieces. The packaging offers a fun activity for the household while enjoying the chocolate.

The best place for candy makers to find more sustainable manufacturing solutions is at PACK EXPO East (March 21-23, 2022; Pennsylvania Convention Center). Registration is now open. Now in its fifth edition, the three-day event returns to Philadelphia after PACK EXPO East 2020, which featured 7,100-plus attendees and its largest show floor to date. For more information and to register, visit