Chocolate and candy sales hit all-time high in 2021

Private label innovations helped the category hit a new high in 2021, with more Americans treating themselves to sweets during the pandemic.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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Chocolate and candy sales hit a new high in 2021, according to the National Confectioners Association. A new report, released at the 2022 State of the Industry Conference, showed sales up 11% over 2020, and 15.4% over 2019.

The report shows the growth of the sweets category since the pandemic began, and private label has played a role in the success. Ice cream and candy saw private label innovations with new flavors and concepts as sales rose in the past two years.

“In 2021, consumers found even more creative ways to celebrate holidays and special occasions, and they continued to turn to chocolate and candy to bring a little fun to those experiences," said John Downs, president and CEO of NCA. "The shift to home-centricity has meant new opportunities for confectionery companies and their retail partners as consumers seek new treating moments with new items, new pack sizes and new brands."

The report, based on a sample of 1,525 consumers between 18-75, found that the total confectionery category hit $36.9 billion in retail sales in 2021 and is projected to reach $44.9 billion in sales by 2026. Sales of chocolate grew 9.2% since 2020, and non-chocolate sales grew by 14.5%.

71% of consumers mostly purchase chocolate and candy at their primary grocery store, with 78% of all adults believing it is “perfectly fine” to occasionally treat with chocolate or candy.

With sales rising during a challenging time for many Americans, 72% of consumers believe that physical health and emotional well-being are interconnected. 88% share with family and friends at least half the time when buying chocolate and candy.

"Sales of chocolate and candy grew significantly this past year as consumers looked to prioritize their emotional well-being, and created a special and unique place for these treats in their lives," added Downs. "A key takeaway from the report is that in contrast to rising costs for families related to inflation, health care and simply putting food on the table, candy remains a simple, affordable treat. Whether consumers found their inspiration on social media or in the grocery aisle, they reached for chocolate and candy as a means of self-care and enjoyment in an otherwise uncertain time.”

The full 2022 State of Treating report, in partnership with Blommer Chocolate Company, can be found here.

The NCA is the leading trade organization of the U.S. confectionery industry, which generates $37 billion in sales annually, and employs nearly 58,000 workers across the country.