Sweets sugar confectionery

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Candy’s sales growth is not enough to offset losses suffered in 2020

The past year has left a sour taste in the mouths of candy suppliers. “Covid restrictions have had a negative impact on the category, especially in relation to impulse sales,” says Philip Murphy, head of marketing at top brand Haribo. “Combine this with the supply chain issues experienced by many businesses, and it’s clear the past 12 months have been challenging.”

Overall sales of candy have inched up by 1.8% on volumes up 0.2%. Granted, that growth is worth an extra £19m to retailers, but it’s not enough to offset losses suffered in 2020. The sector is down by more than £4m compared to the numbers in our 2019 report. Factor gum into the equation and the two-year loss for overall sugar confectionery is almost £65m.

“Of the top 10 sugar confectionery brands, only four are seeing growth: Skittles, driven by both its core offering as well as NPD, Drumsticks, Fruit-Tella and Mentos,” notes NielsenIQ senior client manager Polina Jones. She points to the drop in demand for breath freshening mints and gum during lockdowns as a major factor for the overall category’s lacklustre performance.

“Mints have seen a steep £11m (8%) decline, only slightly recovering on last year’s £25m (16%) decline,” she adds. “Gum continues its decline, down £11.8m year on year and £60.5m versus two years ago, with very slow signs of full recovery.”


While bottle formats of gum saw growth of £4.9m, singles are still driving the decline for the sector. “New launches, however, had a positive impact on performance, driven by Extra Refreshers and Mentos Purefresh launches,” Jones explains. That shows just how important innovation is in driving interest (and sales) in gum.

It’s essential for growing the candy market too, suggests Victoria Gell, fruity confections portfolio director at Mars Wrigley.

The US confectioner “understands that shoppers expect variety within the confectionery category and, with confectionery not always being a priority within the shopping list, we continue to create innovative NPD to encourage shoppers to purchase from the category” she says.

As proof of success of Mars’ innovation programme, she points to the £2.1m (4.8%) growth of Skittles, driven in part by the June launch of Skittles Giants Crazy Sours, followed by September’s unveiling of Skittles Squishy Cloudz. “Research has shown that fruity confectionery shoppers expect variety in flavours and textures, with Sours being the most incremental flavour after Fruit in the category,” Gell adds.

Of the top 20 candy brands, only one other player has outgrown Skittles in percentage terms. Mondelez’s Sour Patch Kids is up 61%, elevating it from the 24 spot in NielsenIQ’s bestsellers list to 15. While the brand has limited distribution in UK supermarkets, it’s available through Ocado and online retailers – meaning its success partly reflects the growth of online sales in response to the pandemic and the brand’s strong following on TikTok.

Attractive NPD

While online and social helped Sour Patch Kids to a £3.7m gain, Tic Tac secured an extra £1.2m (7.7%) growth for Ferrero through a more traditional variety of options, according to the supplier’s customer development director Levi Boorer.

“The Tic Tac range keeps consumers engaged with a broad flavour profile, spanning mint and fruit flavours,” he says. “Our limited-edition Tic Tac Coca-Cola returned this summer, following its successful launch in impulse last year, attracting new consumers to the segment and helping drive impulse purchases in store.”

As Tic Tac sits pretty in candy’s number 12 slot, things are getting ugly further up the rankings.

Market leader Haribo, for instance, has seen £5.8m (3.1%) wiped off the value of its portfolio, with only 2018 launch Haribo Squidglets seeing significant growth – a triple-digit percentage gain worth £1.8m. The brand’s Murphy puts the decline down in part to pandemic-related problems with logistics.


“Like many businesses, the logistics and labour crisis has increased pressure on our operations,” he says. “As a result, we have had to review lead times, delivery profiles and some promotional plans, which has helped us to meet demand as efficiently as possible. During Covid, the market saw impulse sales decline, especially tuck shop purchases. But online performance increased.”

Haribo’s closest rival, number two brand Maynards Bassetts, has also suffered over the past year, with sales down £3.6m. But that’s not through want of trying on the innovation front, says Mondelez trade communications manager Susan Nash.

She points to the launch of Fruit Smoothie Jellies at the beginning of the year. “Inspired by popular smoothie flavours and with real fruit purée, new Maynards Bassetts Fruit Smoothie Jellies tap into consumers’ desire for indulgence, fun flavours and real fruit ingredients within sugar confectionery,” she says.

Each bag of Fruit Smoothie Jellies is a mix of Banana & Strawberry, Pomegranate & Berry, Pineapple & Lemon, and Mango & Passion Fruit flavours.

They’re a little more mainstream than Blood Orange & Pomegranate, one of the variants in Candy Kittens’ new Gourmies lineup (see Top Launch, p93). A focus on such complex flavours has helped the brand grow value sales by 35% to £8.1m – as has a focus on sustainability. All Candy Kittens lines are vegan, while Gourmies are also carbon neutral.

Given growing concerns about climate change, more sweets brands could unveil similar innovations in the coming year. A trend even likelier to gather pace is removal of sugar, in response to the government’s impending HFSS clampdown.

“We expect to see many HFSS-compliant new products entering the market,” says Jones at NielsenIQ. “Retailers and manufacturers are already preparing strategies and reviewing ranges, so we will witness this play out in the coming months. When the restrictions come into force, promotional space and mechanics for sugar confectionery will be limited, but it won’t be impacting gum.”

Something for suppliers to chew on.

Top Launch 2021

Gourmies | Candy Kittens

Candy Kitten_Gourmies

These posh gummies are designed to satisfy “grown-up palates” says the fast-growing Candy Kittens. Orchard Apple & Dragon Fruit, Sweet Raspberry & Guava and Blood Orange & Pomegranate (rsp: £2/125g) come as the adult-oriented confectioner is seeing “novel and hybrid flavours gaining popularity”. Sold in recyclable packs, each Gourmies variant is made with real fruit juices – and will “put Candy Kittens toe to toe with the category’s big boys” the brand insists.

The Grocer’s Top Products Survey 2021: who’s up, who’s down – and our overview of the key trends