While the chewy candy category continues to grow, U.S. sales for hard candy — driven by lollipops and sugar-free options — are seeing declines.

Hard candy generated nearly $571 million in the year ending June 14, 2020, according to IRI, a Chicago-based research firm. That’s down 2.6 percent from a year ago. Unit sales also fell by 7.3 percent to just over 365 million.

The Hershey Co., maker of Jolly Rancher products, topped the category with nearly 22 percent of the market share. Storck, producer of Werther’s Original, follows with 17 percent. Blow Pop maker Charms occupies 12 percent, while Tootsie Roll Industries and Spangler Candy complete the Top 5 with 11 and 10 percent, respectively.

Jolly Rancher is the only hard candy brand out of the Top 20 brands IRI tracks to surpass $100 million in sales in the year ending June 14. It pulled in $122.9 million, representing a decrease of 2.8 percent. Werther’s Original just missed the $100 million mark, pulling in $98.33 over the same period. That’s up 7.4 percent from a year ago.

Blow Pops took the No. 3 spot, earning just over $45 million in the 52 weeks ending June 14, but that’s down 2.2 percent from a year ago. The Lifesavers brand pulled in $43.8 million, down 6.8 percent from a year ago. Private label candy sales rounded out the Top 5, just over $36 million over the same period, representing a 5.6 percent decrease from a year ago.

Spangler’s Dum-Dums pops pulled in nearly $29 million in the year ending June 14, 10 months after the brand launched its first advertising campaign in 30 years. In a series of animated stories, Smith Brothers Advertising Agency introduced a new tagline for the 95-year-old brand, “Make Life Pop.”

“We haven’t advertised in a while and a lot has changed,” said Evan Brock, director of marketing at Spangler Candy. “That said, our goal with this campaign is to be ourselves and deliver a pop of positivity to kids of all ages.”

In September 2019, American Licorice Co. brought the Cambodian-made hard candy brand Aprati Foods to the United States.The Frutati variety features Blueberry Yuzu, Pineapple Passionfruit and Green Apple Mango flavors, while the Mocati variety features Caramel Macchiato, Mocha Mint and Espresso.

“At American Licorice Co., we are always striving for innovation and bringing new and exciting products to our fans and consumers,” said Kristi Shafer, v.p. of marketing. “We are so thrilled to announce our new brand Aprati Foods and introduce the new Frutati and Mocati candies to the world.”

Globally, Transparency Market Research cited several reasons for expanding interest in hard boiled sweets, including population growth, greater disposable incomes and innovations in formulations and packaging. The research firm also pointed to increasingly available sugar-free options, many of which come in the hard candy format.

In the U.S., Werther’s Original leads the non-chocolate sugar-free category, earning nearly $41 million in the 52 weeks ending June 14. That’s up 12.1 percent from a year ago. Sugar-free Lifesavers took the second spot, generating $17.9 million over the same period, representing a 9.1 percent decrease from a year ago.

Zolli Candy’s Zollipops, sweetened with xylitol, erythritol and stevia instead of sugar, saw the greatest increase among the sugar-free hard candies, with sales growing 67.9 percent to reach $1.9 million in the year ending June 14.

Zolli Candy is introducing Zollipops in a tropical mix this month as part of its back-to-school initiatives. Available in a variety of flavors including new Blue Raspberry, Zolli BallPopZ are set to launch in time for Halloween.

“It’s so amazing to see Zolli brand and company continue to grow,” said Zolli Candy founder and CEO Alina Morse. “Despite everything happening in the world, we are all expected to grow.  With Zolli new flavors and items, we can help retailers grow their total category sales and get more consumers down the aisle or buying a treat at front-end. Today, shoppers are more in tune with health than ever, and Zolli makes healthy choices easy while still tasting delicious.”