At Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, chocolate typically reaches about 80% of total confectionery dollars, Peter Goldman, seasonal director at Brach’s and Ferrara Candy Company, told ConfectioneryNews.
Easter retail sales surpassed $18bn last year, reported the National Retail Federation.
A majority of Americans named chocolate bunnies and eggs as their favorite Easter treats, according to a survey from the National Confectioners Association (NCA), but 17% prefer jellybeans. Goldman notes the array of usage occasions for the chewy treat – from decorating baked goods to stuffing plastic eggs for an egg hunt or a basket.
In fact, 66% of consumers use jellybeans for decorating, and 57% use them for baking, according to research from Buzzback.
“That’s not the same as trick-or-treating, or not the same as gifting a chocolate heart for Valentine’s Day,” Goldman said, noting the jellybeans size and texture as beneficial to ‘virtually every key occasion.’
Brach’s thus approaches Easter a bit differently than other holidays.
Easter by the numbers
The average US adult celebrating Easter will spend $151 on seasonal products, including candy, cards and flowers. A decade ago, the average spend was $116.
Half of non-Easter celebrators will still spend $19 on treats.
About 8 in 10 millennials and Gen-Z consumers will partake in the holiday, compared to 74% of baby boomers.
Younger consumers are also more likely to plan an Easter egg hunt (46%), cook a holiday meal (54%) or visit family and friends (62%).
Most consumers are inspired to buy Easter products because of tradition, but nearly a third are swayed by store displays and decorations.
Nearly a quarter of shoppers look for exclusive holiday products.
More than a third of US consumers under the age of 35 will shop for Easter products on their smartphone.
Source: National Retail Federation / Prosper Insights & Analytics, Annual Easter Spending Survey
Playful, pastel, and for a limited time
One of Ferrara’s most important brands driven by seasonality, Brach’s has debuted smaller pack sizes and jumbo bags to match the needs of consumers.
If filling plastic eggs for a hunt, said Goldman, an easy-pour bag makes the most sense. Those who prefer single-serving sizes can find Trolli gummy worms, SweeTARTs and Brach’s jellybeans in small pouches that can fit and fold into an egg or a basket.
“It can be that new flavor or limited edition that helps capture consumers’ attention.”
More than nine in 10 parents agree that seasonal candy consumption is appropriate, and 85% say individually wrapped packs and fun-size packages influence their choices at Easter, NCA’s survey found. About 90% of parents also discuss the importance of balance in holiday indulgences.
To keep consumers engaged year after year, companies like Brach’s have increasingly turned to limited time offerings (LTO).
“It does seem like we continue to see a number of companies, including ourselves, bringing out LTO flavors or flavor extensions for popular products each year,” said Goldman. “It can be that new flavor or limited edition that helps capture consumers’ attention.”
Brach’s does well with its classic jellybean mix, but this year the confectioner launched a berry-flavored mix it calls ‘Purple Rain.’
Sour for Easter, too
Goldman agreed that sour has become an important part of every holiday’s non-chocolate sales, especially as Trolli and SweeTARTS have grown: “We are always looking for ways to maybe bring sour into the portfolio for that season.”
SweeTARTS, another Ferrara brand, debuted a sour jellybean pack this spring.
Perhaps more than other characteristics, Goldman pointed out that consumers who crave sour candy differ from those seeking fruity flavors. “That person probably won’t buy the fruit version – they’re looking for sour,” he said.
Shapes and textures also played a role in new product launches, with items such as Starburst Duos, Jolly Rancher ‘Springtime Smoothies’ and Mars Wrigley’s ‘Shell Smashers’ hollow chocolate eggs.
Growing consumer interest in gummy candies has also compelled confectioners like Brach’s to develop holiday-specific gummies.
When products are only available in the few weeks leading up to Easter – and perhaps a couple after – consumers might feel more inclined to try a new product. “It’s more fun, more buzzworthy and newsworthy. It provides to a certain extent a little bit of treasure hunt,” added Goldman.
On to the next one
Easter lands at the end of a four-in-a-row stretch of important confectionery holidays.
“The seasonal business is a 24/7 business, like all of candy,” said Goldman. His team is already thinking about how this year’s trends might inform next year’s portfolio.
“We’re always working on what’s next.”