Whether you’re Team Skittles or Team Snickers, you’ve likely reached for a bite of the sweet stuff lately. And you’re not alone!
According to the National Confectioners Association, candy sales rake in over $37 billion annually.
Of course, the pandemic has caused a few changes within the category. For example, Gum and mint sales are down as people continue to work from home. But sales of chocolate, non-chocolate and chewy candy are all up.
So which brands are people reaching for the most?
Read on to find out what candy to stock up on right now.
Image credit: Hershey Company
Why stock up on Reese’s?
Pulling in over $2 billion annually, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are easily the most popular candy in the U.S. — not surprising with their crisp chocolate and smooth, sweet peanut butter.
Margo McIlvaine, Reese’s brand manager, agrees, saying, “I think a lot of it really has to do with this perfect combination of peanut butter and chocolate. We’ve done a lot of research trying to understand it, and often it comes back to it’s just delicious and there’s nothing else quite like it."
One of the interesting things about the Reese’s brand is that it’s managed to preserve the nostalgia associated with the original product while constantly innovating and introducing new varieties.
There are Reese’s Thins, Reese’s Nutrageous, Reese’s Fast Break, Reese’s Take 5, and, of course, the iconic Reese’s Pieces. And when it comes time for the holidays, you can find Reese’s classic peanut butter cups in all sorts of shapes, from ghosts to Christmas trees to Easter eggs.
Their latest innovation is Reese’s Big Cup with Pretzels, featured in the image above. And they have another Big Cup variety due out early next year with potato chips.
All of this innovation illustrates a key factor in the candy market — consumers gravitate towards long-time favorites, repeatedly buying the same brands they grew up with. But they also want some variety. By creating new twists on an old favorite, the Reese’s brand has struck just the right balance.
“Innovation is an important part of the candy category,” said Alan Tobin, director, category management–c-store, The Hershey Company. “But core items that have been around for years play an important role, because they account for 94% of annual candy sales in the c-store channel.”
How can c-stores drive sales with Reese’s?
According to Tobin, “confection generates the highest lift on display compared to other top categories at 119%.” So, proper merchandising is extremely effective when it comes to driving candy sales.
Hershey’s recommends using their “strike zone” strategy with candy — positioning your top 20 most popular candy items in the area of the aisle right below eye level and just below mints and refreshment. Stores that execute Hershey’s strategy tend to see a 4-6% lift in candy sales.
Promotions are also extremely effective with candy, with confection baskets being 100% larger than baskets without confection. Tobin explains that cross-promoting with other high-margin categories can drive profitability. And everyday multiples and promotional pricing like buy-two-get-one-free have also been successful in increasing basket size.
Image credit: Mars Wrigley
Why stock up on Snickers?
As the well-known Snickers slogan goes, “You’re not you when you’re hungry” — a not-so-subtle nudge for people to grab a Snickers bar when they start to feel the cranky pangs of mid-day hunger.
And whether it’s thanks to the ads or the deliciously gooey chocolate-caramel-peanut combination, Americans are grabbing Snickers (owned by Mars Wrigley) to the tune of 400 million bars a year.
The original Snickers bar is by far the most popular product in the brand’s lineup but there are other long-standing varieties like Snickers Almond, Snickers Peanut Butter, and Snickers Minis.
And the brand has found recent success with innovative brownie-based products. Slated to launch in August 2021, for example, is the Snickers Almond Brownie bar (featured in the image above.) This newest addition has a chewy brownie filling, mixed with chopped almonds and caramel, all coated in dark chocolate.
The almond brownie follows the release of two other brownie products: Snickers Peanut Brownie and Snickers Peanut Brownie Ice Cream.
How can c-stores drive sales with Snickers?
Jim Dodge, VP of Convenience at Mars Wrigley, says, “C-stores will always be a crucial component for shoppers and the candy aisle will continue to be a main source for purchases.”
And Mars Wrigley believes there’s quite a bit of opportunity in that candy aisle, claiming that 62% of shoppers make their confectionary purchase decision at the shelf, meaning most shoppers are still open to influence in-store.
Plus, only 20% of shoppers entering the candy aisle actually browse and only 17% percent of them end up purchasing — leaving the opportunity to convert a whopping 83% of shoppers who are heading into the confectionery aisle.
To that end, Mars Wrigley rolled out its Path to Purchase strategy to help c-store retailers choose the right products and create an engaging environment for shoppers. It recommends taking the following steps to boost candy sales:
- Using occasions to drive conversion: Occasions include recharging, rewarding, connecting or celebrating.
- Finding ways to help shoppers notice and find candy in-aisle: This means updating your merchandising flow in the candy aisle based on category, brand, and occasion.
- Treating candy as a treat, not a snack: Provide consumers with a range of sizes, calories, and price options
Image credit: Statistica
Why stock up on Skittles?
Taste the rainbow! As you can see in the chart above, Skittles are the highest selling non-chocolate candy in the U.S. — a market poised to reach $12 billion by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 2.6%.
And convenience stores rank #2 in terms of shopping channels, with 21% of non-chocolate candy sales, coming in just behind supercenters (23%) and above grocery (19%). Plus, the growth in the non-chocolate candy category is being driven largely by younger consumers, an important customer segment for c-stores.
Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive and practice leader for IRI’s Client Insights division, says, “Millennial and Gen Z consumers want dynamic flavors, engaging products and fun brands — and these days, new flavor profiles are off the charts with the non-chocolates segment.”
Skittles exemplifies dynamic flavors with a lineup of varieties including Original, Sour, Wild Berry, Tropical Rainforest, Orchards, Mash-Ups, Darksides, Blenders and Desserts.
And of course we would be remiss not to mention its Halloween classic, reintroduced in 2020, Zombie Skittles. These play off the popularity of fellow chewy-candy heavyweight Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, which plant unsavory flavors like earwax and vomit amongst the delicious ones, leading to a “Russian roulette” type experience. With Zombie Skittles, you have five classic fruit flavors mixed in with “rotten zombie” (which does indeed reflect the taste).
Skittles’ newest product, Skittles Gummies, takes advantage of the gummy craze, which Jim Dodge of Mars Wrigley describes as the true shining star of c-store confectionery.
"This is going to be a home run," Dodge said ahead of the product launch in October 2020. "We presented to one of our largest retailer partners. And the quote back was, 'I didn't think there was anything better than sliced bread until today.' So they're excited. We're excited."
How can c-stores drive sales with Skittles?
By now we all know the pandemic has changed the way people shop, driving more and more purchases online — even in the convenience channel. And many chains have quickly adapted, rolling out delivery and curbside pickup services seemingly overnight.
Despite the changes, however, consumers are still looking for a snack or treat when shopping online — a good thing for the convenience channel where impulse buys rule the day.
More good news? Skittles and impulse buys go hand in hand. The bright, colorful packaging quickly captures attention, a critical factor online where you only have about a two-second window to do so.
Skittles are also powerful when used as part of a promotion, either on their own or combined with other products. And you can increase your ROI by targeting promotions towards younger consumers using mobile coupons delivered via SMS, email, or loyalty apps.
Image credit: Smashmallow
Why stock up on Smashmallow?
Perfectly aligned with the better-for-you snacking trend that’s sweeping the candy industry, Smashmallow is hot right now — approaching a run rate of $25 million in 6-12 months.
Smashmallow leans in to the better-for-you angle, framing their treats as, “a guilt-free, every-day, any-time treat for your taste buds.” And their portfolio of products is expanding rapidly.
There’s the original Smashmallow which comes in trendy flavor combinations like mint chocolate chip, toasted coconut pineapple, strawberries and cream, root-beer float, toasted vanilla and cinnamon churro.
And there’s Smashcrispy, which launched in 2019 and was featured as part of 7-Eleven’s Sip and Snacks program. “7-Eleven is always on the lookout for innovative companies who have a fresh take on a product, a healthier alternative or a unique flavor that might become the next big food trend,” says Chris Harness, 7-Eleven’s vice president of new business development.
Then, in February 2020, Smashmallow launched yet another on-trend product, the low-sugar Smashgummy, available in two varieties: Fresh Picked (with Strawberry, Cherry, Orange and Peach flavors) and Pucker Up (a sour mix featuring Watermelon, Raspberry, Lemon and Green Apple flavors.)
How can c-stores drive sales with Smashmallow?
Honestly, Smashmallow sales seem to be driving themselves right now! The perfectly Instagrammable treat everyone from soccer moms to health conscious Gen Z’ers are gobbling these things up.
As such, they would be an excellent way to drive traffic to your store. And the pretty packaging and quirky flavors are sure to draw attention if placed prominently on end-caps or near the register.
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