It appears many consumers have a sweet tooth ahead of Halloween 2021.
The pre-Halloween candy buying period is drawing more consumers this year than ever before, according to Numerator’s Candy Tracker. Omnichannel seasonal candy sales from July 1 to Oct. 3 were up 29% from a year ago and 43% from the same 2019 period.
Meanwhile, the Getting to Know the 2021 Chocolate Consumer report from the National Confectioners Association (NCA) lent additional insight into what, exactly, candy consumers are looking for this year.
What drives consumer behavior when purchasing items like chocolate? For some, it’s the desire to indulge, said Igor Credali, director of e-commerce for chocolate manufacturer Venchi.
“Chocolates are also a shareable moment, to buy to celebrate with others or to tell someone you love them, to thank them … and for gifting,” said Credali.
The NCA report noted that consumers widely agree that chocolate belongs in a happy, balanced lifestyle. For most consumers, chocolate is an occasional treat, enjoyed two to three times per week.
Credali said that the pandemic has had influence on indulgent behavior. “[Consumers] have been stuck at home and want a taste of something sweet and good.” However, he believes that that may not last.
The upcoming holiday season is also a major driver when it comes to purchasing chocolate. Christmas is the largest in terms of purchasing occasions, since it is the longest, said Credali, while Valentine’s Day is known as the “chocolate event” for U.S. consumers.
“The pandemic brought about a huge growth in [chocolate] e-commerce sales,” said Credali. “Even people who might live across the street from a Venchi boutique in New York City wanted to have chocolate delivered to their house during the pandemic versus going out.” He added that Venchi saw a 15 to 20 percent increase in online ordering during pandemic lockdowns.
Venchi isn’t the only brand that saw this trend, of course. Ryan Novak, owner of Chocolate Pizza Company, a small business that creates gourmet chocolate gifts for business and personal occasions, told The Food Institute that online sales were up 250 percent year-over-year with the surge “showing no signs of slowing.”
Meanwhile, the NCA report also found that:
- More consumers purchase chocolate at their primary store now (55 percent) than they did in 2018 (45 percent).
- Online chocolate engagement grew dramatically over the past three years, rising from 25 percent of shoppers in 2018 to 40 percent in 2021.
- Brick-and-mortar grocery stores with online ordering capabilities became the biggest outlet for online chocolate purchases, jumping over general online retailers.
When purchasing chocolate, there are several things that consumers consider. They are no longer just looking for their favorite brands. Though, according to Skai, a commerce intelligence and marketing platform, Hershey’s, Reese’s, Oreo, Barnett’s Fine Biscotti, and Kit Kat will be the top brands for Halloween.
“There is a definite preference for made in America and ability to customize their order,” said Novak. Credali added that Americans tend to like sweeter chocolates than the Europeans.
This is in line with the NCA report, which found that American-made chocolate gained on European-made chocolate when consumers shared which they believe is better: About 46% report there’s no difference, 29% believe European is better, and 25% give the edge to American-made.
“There has also been a trend since the pandemic for healthier eating,” said Credali. That trend led Venchi to launch a 70%-less sugar line. The report also found that sugar-free chocolate had above average sales strength.
Other notable report findings include:
- In a very tight top three grouping, almonds edged out peanuts/peanut butter and caramel/toffee as the top ingredient consumers like to combine with chocolate
- Manufacturer brands easily win out as the top preference over store brands. Manufacturer brands represent most sales, at 98 percent of chocolate dollars
- The Skai research also found that consumers will continue to trust brands they’re familiar with, like M&Ms, as a go-to Halloween candy. M&Ms is the brand that has the most number of positive online product reviews for chocolate items — with 22,234 over the last two years.