SOTIC 2024

US consumers’ chocolate craving continues as sales hit all-time high of $48 Billion in 2023

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

 91% of people said they are willing to splurge a little and spend more on chocolate and candy at the store. Pic: GettyImages
91% of people said they are willing to splurge a little and spend more on chocolate and candy at the store. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Nca Chocolate Confectionery Candy

Confectionery sales in the United States hit $48 billion in 2023 (up from $42.6bn in 2022 ), according to the National Confectioners Association’s 2024 State of Treating report, which was released at its Cconference in Miami this week.

Elise Fennig, the NCA’s Chief of Staff & Senior Vice President of Operations, told representatives of the country’s major companies that the report projects that US confectionery sales will reach $61 billion by 2028.

State of Treating 2024

The NCA’s 2024 State of Treating report offers insights into taking the confectionery category to the next level for manufacturers and retailers alike. Snapshot findings include:

  • Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, and the winter holidays account for 64% of total confectionery sales. Chocolate and candy play essential roles in celebrations and holidays, as a reward, a little escape, a gift, or to share with others.
  • Confectionery enjoys very high permissibility, and consumers understand the role of treating a happy, balanced lifestyle. 86% of people believe it is perfectly fine to treat – and 80% of consumers believe that physical health and emotional well-being are interconnected.
  • Treat yourself: 90% of people mention chocolate when asked what they buy when they want to do something nice for themselves.

For a Bite-Sized Taste of the 2024 State of Treating report, visit CandyUSA.com/2024BiteSized​.

She said it matters to the industry because more than 98% of American consumers purchased chocolate, candy, gum, and mints in 2023.

Powerhouse category

“It is really a powerhouse category, she said, but it’s not immune to the macro-economic factors that are putting pressure on consumers.

“We know that inflation was a big theme for 2023; credit card debt has depleted savings, so consumers are feeling the pain in different places,” she said.

“But there is some optimism and some light at the end of the tunnel. People believe that things are going to improve next year … and Americans can be encouraged to splurge a little bit on chocolate and candy.”

It’s no surprise that 70% of consumers said they think confectionery has become more expensive—although Fennig noted there are reasons to be optimistic that when things stabilise, people who might have left the category will come back and spend their dollars on candy.

While research revealed that consumers were not particularly put off by media reports of sustainability issues, food ingredient concerns, or cadmium in chocolate, there was an indication that some people are switching out of the category on account of health and diet-related reasons, mainly for non-chocolate

“It’s a little red flag,” Fennig admitted. The State of Treating Report stated that while 50% of consumers believe there is such a thing as sugar-free or organic as ‘Better for You’ (BFY), only 10% said they would consider purchasing BFY options regularly.

The NCA advised  that retailers should “right-size” - as in not stock too much of the BFY products.

After price, brand is the second-most important factor when purchasing confectionery—although it can vary wildly according to generation. Still, private label brand share for confectionery is lower than that in snacks and other categories.

Euromonitor estimated that confectionery sales reached $48.8 billion, of which $25.9 billion were for chocolate, $19.2 billion for non-chocolate candy, and $3.7 billion for gum.

Elise fennig NCA crop CN
Pic: CN

I think it shows that people are interested in having more fun with chocolate and candy. Sugar-free is by far the biggest seller here -- Elise Fennig, the NCA’s Chief of Staff & Senior Vice President of Operations

Seasonal candy is holding its own, and the novelty sector has gained over the past 12 months.

“I think it shows that people are interested in having more fun with chocolate and candy. Sugar-free is by far the biggest seller here," she said, in reference specifically to the gum and mints segment, "and it’s the big one driving both dollars and volume.” 

Shopping patterns

The report highlighted a change in shopping patterns in general, with people buying fewer units when shopping but taking more trips to the store. Crucially, 91% of people said they are willing to splurge a little and spend more on chocolate and candy than they had intended to when they went into the store.

Fennig ended her presentation on an upbeat note: “We're going to grow in 2024 and beyond. The total category is expected to add another $12 billion between now and 20208, taking it to over $61 billion. That's something to be very, very excited about.”

NCA president John Downs, said: “Our new research shows that, even when faced with unpredictable environmental shifts and changes, consumers feel a strong connection to chocolate and candy – and they embrace classic favourites and innovative novelties with an emotional drive that keeps the category fresh and vibrant.

“Consumers seek out chocolate and candy to help enhance holiday seasons, family celebrations, and those important ‘treat yourself’ moments.

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