Chewy innovation on display at Sweets & Snacks

CHICAGO — The confectionery industry overcame challenging comparisons to deliver significant growth in 2021.

Combined chocolate and non-chocolate dollar sales grew relative to 2020 and improved over the pre-COVID period in 2019. Confectionery sales in the United States reached $28.9 billion in the IRI marketplace that includes grocery stores, mass, club, commissaries, convenience, drug and dollar stores. When other channels like bookstores, airports and vending machines are included, sales reached $36.9 billion, according to Euromonitor.

Dollar sales were boosted by inflation, but total chocolate and candy also improved in unit and volume sales, making 2021 a banner year for the category, said Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics, during a presentation at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 23-26 in Chicago.

“We’re looking at absolute continued growth for all the different areas within confectionery,” she said. “Part of that will be inflation, but I also believe that candy will continue to be a recession-proof treat. We’re looking at total growth going from about $37 billion in 2022 to about $45 billion in 2026.”

Chocolate took home the largest share of confectionery sales in 2021, growing 9.2% to reach $16.7 billion. Non-chocolate led in growth, with dollar sales increasing 14.7% to reach $9.1 billion.

“Non-chocolate didn’t have a hugely successful 2020, but it has resumed its role as the top growth leader,” Ms. Roerink said. “It is more associated with mobility and how much people are moving around.”

Chewy candy fueled strength in the non-chocolate category, accounting for 50% of all non-chocolate sales in 2021, according to data from IRI. Sales of chewy candy grew 15% last year to reach $4.6 billion.

“There’s a lot of innovation on the show floor in gummies and chewy,” Ms. Roerink said. “It’s red hot. I never see something that makes up half the category sales yet is growing at 15%, but it’s doing that year after year.”

Chewy treats in the spotlight 

New products from Ferrara Candy Co. layer multiple flavors onto a single gummy. Launching in December 2022, SweeTarts Gummies Splitz are a soft chewy candy delivering six flavors per bag. Each piece is layered with a single fruit-flavored poppable gummy that “splits” to give consumers a sweet side and a tangy tart side.

“When we think about consumer trends, it’s multi-sensorial, multi-flavor, multi-color, multi-texture,” said Greg Guidotti, general manager of the sugar confectionery portfolio at Ferrara. “That really comes across in the SweeTarts Gummies Splitz. It has the iconic shape but different flavors on each side. It’s a very soft gummy chew. It’s got a good bounce to it, and it’s different from other gummies that you see.”

Multiple flavors and textures also star in new products from Ferrara’s Trolli and Laffy Taffy brands. Available in early 2023, Trolli Sour Duo Crawlers feature a fruit-flavored sour gummy worm with one soft side and one chewy side. The dual-texture candy comes in mango-pineapple, citrus-watermelon and strawberry-guava combinations.

Laffy Taffy Fruit Combos bring new flavor pairings to the brand’s classic mini bar format. Available nationwide this fall, the chewy treats come in strawberry-kiwi, wildberry-banana, mango-passionfruit and strawberry-orange varieties.

Industry judges honored Ferrara’s Nerds Very Berry Gummy Clusters as the most innovative new product within the non-chocolate category at Sweets & Snacks. The line’s first flavor extension features a cluster of crunchy, tangy and mini berry Nerds with a fruity, gummy center.

Nerds and Jelly Belly

Jelly Belly Candy Co. is offering a new take on its classic jellybean flavors with Jelly Belly Buttons. The bite-size, button-shape chewy candies come in popular flavors like cherry, grape, green apple and blueberry. The company also showcased recent additions to its Cocktail Classic Collection. New flavors were inspired by trending alcoholic beverages like gin and tonic, mimosa and Moscow mule.

Bazooka Candy Brands is tapping into demand for chewy textures with new Push Pop Gummy Pop-its. Launching in 2023, the edible entertainment features strawberry, blue raspberry, berry blast and watermelon gummies that are dispensed through an interactive refillable container. Consumers flip open the container’s lid, pull it up, then push it back down to reveal a soft, aerated gummy.

“The texture of the gummy itself is unique,” said Becky Silberfarb, vice president of brand marketing for the Americas at Bazooka. “We really tried to make it this nice, light, airy and squishy gummy texture. It’s not like a gelatin gummy but it’s not super dense, either. It’s this nice in-between texture.”

Other items on display at Sweet & Snacks include Juicy Drop Dip N’Stix, a finalist in the New Product Showcase’s non-chocolate category, and Juicy Drop Remix, a finalist in the novelty/licensed category. Both products bring customizable experiences to the candy aisle.

Launched earlier this year, Juicy Drop Remix features sweet and sour coated chewy bites in a portable dispenser. Featuring fruit punch, cherry berry and “blue rebel” flavors, the dual compartment dispenser encourages consumers to curate their own mix of flavors in each bite.

Juicy Drop Gummy Dip N’Stix feature a sweet gummy stick and a sour gel for dipping. The product went viral on TikTok after launching last year.

“Juicy drop is all about that mix of sweet and sour and making your own customized experience,” Ms. Silberfarb said. “When it went viral, people were doing their own unique dips, whether it was how they were dipping it, how much they were dipping it and even where they were dipping it.”