Although chocolate may sometimes feel like the star of the confectionery industry, non-chocolate candy does well, too, especially non-chocolate novelty candy. With more and more non-chocolate novelty candy options nowadays, it is popular for gifting among consumers, with tie-ins to entertainment options like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and more.

 

Market data

According to Chicago-based market research firm IRI’s data from the past 52 weeks, which ended on November 27, 2022, the non-chocolate candy category brought in $10.1 billion, with a 13.8% increase from the same time the previous year.

The novelty non-chocolate candy subcategory brought in $650 million of that total, with a solid 29.5% increase from the year before.

Back to business

“The confectionery business in general saw strong sales during the pandemic as consumers sought ways to create joy at home,” says Miguel Zorrilla, vice president of the Kinder Joy brand, Parsippany, NJ. "In the last year, business has remained strong, with persistent enthusiasm for candy products during seasonal celebrations and an increased demand for affordable ways to indulge and create special moments. Imagination and family connection are still things consumers are seeking out, and at Kinder Joy, that is at the heart of what we do."

“Our latest offering is our NBA collection, which features 12 unique NBA mascot toys to connect one generation of fans to the next. The collection will officially roll out in February,” Zorrilla adds.

Jeff Greenwald, marketing manager, CandyRific, Louisville, KY, says that business in 2022 was back to pre-COVID levels.

“In almost all classes of trade, we have accounts that are ahead of 2019. We see the economy slowing but our hopes are that we continue to see growth. [CandyRific is] a simple pleasure that puts smiles on kids’ faces,” he says.

CandyRific recently launched new items across several types of categories that it is looking to expand.

“In our Candy Cases (formally Character Cases), we launched a Mickey & Minnie assortment, along with a Baby Shark version. Both are being introduced for Easter 2023 and will be permanent items in March 2023. We are also adding new items to our Light & Sound Talkers with a PAW Patrol version launched in November and Mickey & Minnie and Spidey & His Amazing Friends items, coming in March,” Greenwald elaborates.

In addition, the company is looking to develop different price points for its Character Fans.

“The Candy Cases give us a lower price point—$3.99 to $4.99—and the Light & Sound Talkers retail a bit higher, at $7.99 to $8.99,” he explains.

Greg Guidotti, chief marketing officer, Ferrara, Chicago, says that Ferrara is growing, and innovating, on every level of the business.

“Ferrara is leading the category in Convenience as the #1 confections/sugar manufacturer, driven by strategic brand growth and consumer-led innovation. From new product innovation to in-store presentation at C-store, Ferrara continues to pursue an ambitious growth agenda across its entire sugar portfolio,” he notes.

Specific to Trolli, the brand is growing at an exponential pace, and has doubled in sales over the past eight years, now with sales increasing over 19% through 2022, Guidotti says.

“We’re happy to also share that Trolli—one of Gen Z’s favorite brands (per AXIOS)—is the No. 2 leading Sour Gummy brand, and growing faster than all Sour Gummy competitors,” he adds.

Trolli released Sour Duo Crawlers in December 2022, which feature “duo”-flavored sour gummi worms that fuse together two different gummy textures on each side—one side classic chewy gummi, and the other side soft squishy gummy texture.

In addition, Ferrara’s SweeTARTS brand discovered that a majority of its buyers were also purchasing gummies; thus, the SweeTARTS Gummies Fruity Splitz were born. Each gummy candy’s flavors are split: half-sweet, half-tart, so that consumers are able to experience both a sweet side and a soft, bouncy gummy texture. Each pack features six flavors: Blue Punch, Cherry, Grape, Orange, Lemon, and Apple.

Molly Jacobson, director of business development, Frankford Candy, Philadelphia, PA, says that Frankford Candy has continued to experience strong growth over the past few years in both its licensed products and everyday candy business due to strong consumer demand and its focus on quality and innovation.

“We just celebrated our 75th anniversary, and since our founding, we have always sought ways to differentiate our offerings and bring new and exciting products to market. In fact, Frankford Candy currently ranks No. 16 in the confections industry and has the No. 1 share of licensed gifts and candy in the confections industry,” she notes.

Recently, the brand introduced a number of new candy and gift products that offer snackable, at-home, family-based experiences.

These novelties include Gummy LUNCHABLES Cracker Stackers, Gummy LUNCHABLES Pepperoni Pizza Kit, Heart-Shaped Gummy LUNCHABLES Pepperoni Pizza Kit, Heart-Shaped Gummy LUNCHABLES Cracker Stackers, Jurassic World Heart Box Puzzle Set, SpongeBob Squarepants XO Krabby Patties 2-pack Sliders, and more.

Lou DiMarco, executive vice president, Hilco, Louisville, KY, says that Hilco’s business has been very strong in both sell-in and sales performance at retail.

“We are very cognizant of the consumer challenges with every dollar spent, the challenges of store visits, labor, and we continue to strive for extreme value offerings.  It pays off to always operate with the value of the consumer in mind, the retailer’s image, and message, regardless of the ebb and flow on the global/U.S. marketplace,” he suggests.

In late 2022/early 2023, the company launched its single packs of Kool-Aid brand and Warheads popping candy based on its line of three-packs.

“The singles offer a fun trial and again allow the consumers to mix and match flavors and brands when a retailer carries the full offering. We finished testing on Kool-Aid brand Sour Belts for an exciting spring launch and we are about ready to launch a unique line of chocolate novelties,” DiMarco says.

Megan Gaustad, director – brand & marketing, Gummi Pop Surprise, Portland, OR, says that Gummi Pop Surprise’s brand has grown exponentially over the last year.

“Collectible toys & Surprise reveals have remained an extremely hot trend, and this has really driven the sales of Gummi Pop Surprise at retail. We’ve had such great success since our 2022 launch, that in 2023 we are launching four new Gummi Pop themes, 12 new gummy candy varieties, and introducing new seasonal packaging and product offerings,” she reveals.

Gummi Pop Surprise was inspired by the demand for collectible toy figures in the toy industry, Gaustad says.

“When our team developed the brand, we were looking for a groundbreaking product that had never been done before in the novelty sector. We did just that by bringing in the collectible aspect with our gummy candy. There are 12 different candy shapes, colors, and flavors for [consumers] to collect and taste. Gummi Pop fans can go online and find their favorite flavor combinations and taste the entire recipe book. Consumers are loving the experience of pairing their gummies to create new flavors,” she notes.

Rob Swaigen, vice president of global marketing, Jelly Belly Candy Company, Fairfield, CA, says that it’s been an exciting few months at Jelly Belly, including unveiling the company’s favorite seasonal and new items for the holidays.

“The holidays always bring their own unique wins and challenges, as we work with our customers to keep store shelves stocked during a key candy season. From virtual holiday celebrations to IRL get-togethers with our loved ones, Jelly Belly loves being a constant in our consumers’ gifting and family fun moments, and with holiday 2022 successfully behind us, we’re already setting our sights on what’s to come for 2023,” he comments.

“Similar to many categories, despite the ongoing supply challenges that have impacted the confectionary category, Jelly Belly continues to [work] closely with our customers and internal teams to ensure our orders are plentiful, accurate, on time and of course, delicious,” Swaigen adds.

A big piece of Jelly Belly’s innovation puzzle is also its licensing arm, as it is constantly dreaming up new and existing partners to collaborate with, he says.

“This year, Jelly Belly deepened its partnership with Warner Bros. to produce fan-coveted Harry Potter candies and collectibles. Knowing our Harry Potter products are always a huge draw with retailers and consumers, we were eager to push the envelope and create a new, exciting and never-before-tasted Harry Potter-innovation. We were incredibly proud to introduce Jelly Belly’s Butterbeer collection during the 2022 holiday season, offering consumers the first ever taste of Butterbeer in candy form. The response has been overwhelming from Harry Potter lovers, longtime brand fans, and new customers alike,” Swaigen notes.

The new Jelly Belly Harry Potter Collection includes Butterbeer Jelly Beans (available fall 2023), Butterbeer Chewy Candy, a Butterbeer Barrel Tin, and a Butterbeer Glass Mug.

For the holidays, the company released a Jelly Belly BeanBoozled Naughty or Nice Greeting Card, filled with an assortment of “weird and wild” jelly beans, and a Jelly Belly Snowman Greeting Card featuring Tangerine jelly beans. For Valentine’s Day, the Jelly Belly Gimme Some Sugar Valentine’s Greeting Card is filled with its Bubble Gum jelly beans; consumers can also pick up the Jelly Belly You Are My Jelly Bean Valentine Greeting Card, filled with Conversation Beans each imprinted with a jelly bean message.

For Easter, consumers can choose from Jelly Belly Carrot Easter Greeting Card filled with Tangerine jelly beans, or the Jelly Belly Easter Bunny Greeting Card.

Speaking of Easter: Caitlin Servian, brand manager, Peeps (Just Born Quality Confections), Bethlehem, PA, says that Peeps Marshmallow treats are the number one non-chocolate Easter candy, and the brand is growing more than double the rate the non-chocolate candy category.

“We are anticipating another record-setting Easter in 2023.  As recently as this past Easter 2022, Peeps Marshmallow Candy grew +27% vs. Easter 2021, over two times the rate of the total Easter candy category,” she says.

This Easter, Mike and Ike and Peeps have joined together to release a Peeps Mike and Ike Flavored Pop, which features four fruit-flavored Peeps Chicks on one stick. This is the first time that multiple flavors of Peeps have been sold in one package.

The brand is also introducing Kettle Corn Flavored Marshmallow Chicks, available for purchase only at Kroger and its banner stores.

Consumer preferences

Zorrilla says that many well-established consumer needs evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the largest changes seems to be that consumers are more likely now than ever to look for alternative ways to enjoy special moments that are affordable, tasty, and possible to enjoy from anywhere, including the comfort of their homes or on-the-go. Families spent more time together than ever and our treat + toy [combination] provided a way to create everyday surprises and spark creativity during this time and continues to do so,” he says.

Zorrilla says that Kinder Joy is constantly innovating—whether expanding ways to play or leaning into a variety of consumption moments—to meet the ever-changing interests of consumers.

“We do this by developing new toy collections with brands that foster family connections and ignite imagination, such as the Avatar toy collection and the NBA collection. We also do this by creating new ways to lean into seasonal moments when families come together to celebrate, for example, or new Birthday pack. One of our cornerstone initiatives is our annual participation in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, where we create a memorable experience for kids and parents through musical talent and our beautiful Kinder parade float,” he finishes.

Greenwald says that CandyRific partners with evergreen licenses that its consumers look for day in and day out.

“The key is to keep them fresh, with new characters and updates,” he mentions. “Although there is a market for ‘hot or new’ licenses, the demographics that CandyRific targets continue to gravitate towards licenses that are more every day. In the past, we would look to partner and develop items for specific events (i.e., movies, shows), but with the change in how movies are released and the marketing behind them, we shifted tactics to focus on our evergreen licenses.”

“When we plan our focus for the upcoming year, we look at the events that are coming up. New releases in theatres or on streaming services, new shows, summer events, and such determine what we look to promote and when. It helps us plan new items or additions to existing items. For instance, we will be adding Rubble Fan to the PAW Patrol assortment as he will be getting his own show in the spring, Rubble & Crew,” Greenwald notes.

Jacobson says that all of Frankford Candy’s newer products were created in response to current consumer trends.

“We know that consumers are increasingly interested in experiences with favorite brands that they can share with family and friends. In addition, gummy candy is on fire right now, which sparked the creation of our new Gummy LUNCHABLES candy,” she comments.

“The Gummy LUNCHABLES Cracker Stackers and Gummy LUNCHABLES Pepperoni Pizza Kit have been a huge hit with consumers and created a lot of buzz. And our holiday OREO Milkshake Set truly delighted OREO fans,” Jacobson adds.

“We anticipate that our new Valentine’s Day and Easter offerings will perform well with consumers as they hit on exactly what consumers are asking for: innovation, great taste, uniqueness, and a whole lot of fun,” she says.

“Consumers are increasingly interested in snackable, at-home experiences with favorite brands. They also are seeking out innovative new flavors and products that enhance their sensory satisfaction through a combination of texture, sound (i.e., crunch), visual appeal, and taste,” Jacobson notes.

“Products that offer an Instagrammable experience and allow consumers to share their own twists on how they’re interacting with the candy are also hot right now. For example, we’re seeing consumers create and share their own charcuterie boards made out of our Gummy Lunchables. A true win-win for everyone!” she exclaims.

DiMarco says that sour, fruity flavors are still king in novelty, but having a recognizable brand and a nostalgic brand adds instant consumer impulse.

“Consumers love favorites and Kool-Aid brand candy, and our new partnership with Warheads, are evergreen with the consumer,” he shares.

“We continue to look for more formats that resonate with our brands and have major launches in our pipeline. Sour belts, panned fruit, and new gum chews are all part of the innovation. Our team of six meets weekly for a product planning meeting. Our National Sales Manager Amy King and I speak daily and share retail, internet, and trade trends from every possible source, including LinkedIn. We live in the real world of retail—we are constantly taking product pictures and making product purchases, comparing ounce weights, [innovating], and looking for the big picture,” DiMarco explains.

Gaustad says consumers are looking for a fun candy and toy experience where they can create their own flavor and fun, with endless possibilities.

“[Gummi Pop Surprise] continues to stay up to date on what is happening in the market today and what consumers are interested in. We’ve done this by partnering with some of the top influencers to promote and share our brands on social and digital media. We’ve received a tremendous about of feedback from fans of all ages especially within the 4- to 9-year-old core age range. This ultimately drives our team to create the best product possible for the end consumer, based on their current needs, demands, and the future vision of both the toy and candy industry,” she notes.

Swaigen says that in terms of changing consumer preferences, Jelly Belly has seen a huge resurgence in candy options that have a layer of gamification.

“With the Harry Potter House Points Counter Dispenser, customers can indulge in four tastes while also having fun with friends. This jelly bean dispenser, inspired by the famed house points counter in the Harry Potter series, has an ‘hourglass” shape and Jelly Belly flavor that represents each Hogwarts House. The manual candy dispenser includes sound, with voiceover from the famous Sorting Hat. With a press of the button, consumers can find out what Hogwarts House they belong to and get a taste of Green Apple, Lemon, Cherry, and Blueberry jelly beans,” he explains.

“And as always, consumer flavor preferences continue to evolve based on trends, and Jelly Belly is committing to keeping a finger on that pulse to continue to innovate what’s next in our candy pipeline.”

Knowing the category and consumer desires are constantly evolving, Jelly Belly is continuously monitoring and developing new products and flavors geared toward current food trends and consumer purchase behavior, Swaigen adds.

“Through a mix of internal resources, social listening, research, and constant collaboration with our customers, consumers, and partners, Jelly Belly always looks to stay ahead of trends. We are grateful to have the expertise and resources to innovate quickly, and are always eager to take our beans into unchartered flavor territory.”

Pandemic tests

“When we launched our Gummi Pop brand it was a bit challenging, as it was during the pandemic, says Gaustad.

“Containers were at their maximum cost and production was very limited due to the impacts of COVID. However, we looked at the market challenges as opportunities, and have invested in our suppliers and manufacture partners and built a state-of-the-art facility where we have our own production lines,” she adds.

“Although the pandemic had its challenges in many ways, we continued to be successful and expand our product lines. We’ve launched a new brand called Lucky Sweeties and will be introducing a new brand at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in May,” Gaustad reveals.

“The pandemic was very humbling to everyone in all classes of trade, including manufacturing. Our company took the impacts they presented and turned them into a positive.”

Greenwald says CandyRific had to deal with shipping issues and the shortage of computer chips during the pandemic.

“Shipping costs have also impacted costs and profits. Sales struggled through the beginning of the pandemic, especially in certain classes of trade like specialty and travel,” he notes.

“We have worked with our retailers to place forecasts and orders earlier than before. We are working with our suppliers to procure chips in larger quantities to make sure we have stock. We are constantly working to improve our shipping methods to save costs,” Greenwald states.

DiMarco says like most companies, the pandemic created very positive but challenging pent-up demand for Hilco.

“The results were everything from insane consumption to unrealistic demands, major requests for unforested goods, and absolutely new consumer trials at retail. Our company was very fortunate and blessed to be able to address many of the opportunities, maintain a thriving workforce, and even add more people,” he adds.

“Rob Auerbach, our CEO, was absolutely dedicated to surviving the pandemic, flexing work hours, staff demand, keeping everyone gainfully employed. Few entrepreneurs can make that statement during what was a very challenging time for the world,” DiMarco finishes.

Jelly Belly also experienced unforeseen challenges and learnings, says Swaigen.

“The biggest change was the environment in which our beans were enjoyed. Always a candy at the center of family celebrations, gift-giving moments, and downtime, Jelly Belly recognized that celebrations and gatherings looked a bit different,” he says.

“Despite that, Jelly Belly was committed to keeping shelves stocked, fans inspired, and taste buds delighted. Throughout the pandemic, our innovation pipeline kept churning, our website and social channels continued to flow with content and inspiration, and our communication with retailers, consumers, and employees was prioritized above all,” Swaigen says.

Jacobson says Frankford Candy saw strong sales during the pandemic, as candy offered many consumers a simple moment of comfort and indulgence amid an otherwise difficult time.

“Like companies in nearly every industry, however, we also experienced supply-chain disruptions during this time that we had to resourcefully work through. We’ve always taken a long-term view of our business, and throughout the pandemic, we never stopped innovating and delivering for our customers, who in turn kept ordering more,” she notes.

“We recognized that as other companies reduced offerings and instead focused on their core product lines, Frankford Candy continued to ideate and deliver uniqueness to consumers hungry for something new.”

Zorrilla says that following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers want convenience without sacrificing quality or excitement.

“One of the most notable ways we’ve adapted to this is by creating a digital platform, Applaydu, which brings the treat + toy to life through augmented reality where families can experience journeys full of surprises. Our toys can be scanned and brought to life in this digital environment, which features thoughtful content designed to be enjoyed by parents and children together and has successfully expanded the ways we inspire and excite our customers,” he adds.

“In 2023 and beyond, we will continue to focus on enhancing digital communication and providing new ways to make special moments between parents and kids even more memorable,” Zorrilla says.

Guidotti says that Ferrara continued to innovate through the pandemic—with all of its 2022 offerings performing in the top quartile of velocities—driving both Household Penetration and trial, and its 2023 innovation is just as strong.

“Additionally, throughout the pandemic, we saw how resilient our brands were, and we learned that people are always looking for treats to bring small moments of joy to their family, friends, or neighborhood. We were happy to play a small part in that.”