Candy Crush

Turn treats into sweet sales with thoughtful merchandising, seasonal offers and bulk bags.

Candy Crush

October 2021   minute read

By: Pat Pape

Mary Tucker, the 20-year-old American silver medalist in Olympic rifle shooting, has a sweet tooth. She prepares for every competition by consuming gummy bears and other sweets.

That is typically a big no-no in the world of riflery since shooters need a steady hand to hit a target, and sugar can make them jittery. But Tucker, who is No. 2 internationally in the 10-meter air rifle competition, fears the opposite reaction. She loves treats and worries that her hands will shake if she doesn’t have any. She once tried giving up her pre-competition sugar indulgence, but that disrupted her routine.

“If you’ve been eating the amount of sugar I’ve been eating my entire life, don’t cut it out,” she told a Wall Street Journal reporter.

Buying in Bulk

Tucker is one of millions reaching for candy these days. Despite challenges in many categories during last year's lockdowns, “candy did pretty well in 2020,” said Jayme Gough, research manager, NACS. “Monthly sales had a small dip during the initial COVID-19 closures around April but have since rebounded.”

Source: NACS State of the Industry Report of 2020 Data

According to NACS State of the Industry (SOI) data, “candy made up 2.95% of in-store sales and averaged over $79,000 in sales per store last year. In fact, sales increased 1.9% over 2019,” Gough said, adding that 2021 sales are looking sweet. “Monthly sales numbers are quite a bit higher than they were in 2020. And in terms of profitability, candy margins usually hover at or above 50%, which is high.”

As shoppers tried to minimize store visits during the lockdown, bigger package sizes, more bulk products, on-the-go packaging and resealable bags were in big demand, which was great for Texas Born (TXB), the Spicewood, Texas-based convenience store chain.

The most popular purchase time for candy is between 3 and 5 p.m. on a Friday.

“Customer count was down [during the pandemic], but candy sales rose,” said Ben Hoffmeyer, vice president of marketing and merchandising, TXB. “There was a big uptick in peg candy and take-home size packaging as people were pantry shopping.”

“Customers were eating a lot of the hot and spicy candy and going for mashups, such as candy with chocolate bits, nuts and pretzels,” Gough said. “Mashups of flavors and textures are keeping the category interesting for consumers.”

NACS SOI data indicate that chocolate bars continued to represent the largest percentage of the category’s sales at 43.9% and saw both sales and gross profit increase in 2020, averaging $34,990 and $18,600 per store, respectively. The second largest contributor to the category was non-chocolate bars, with sales up 14.4%. Looking to the future, IRI, the Chicago-based research firm, predicts the candy industry will hit $39.5 billion in sales by 2025.

Healthy Or Just Indulgent?

Mintel research reports that 78% of U.S. consumers believe healthy eating is important for their emotional well-being, but IRI notes that only 6% of candy, mint and gum sales come from products defined as “better for you.” According to research by the International Food Information Council, more than one in five consumers admits to stress eating during the pandemic, with one in four turning to comfort food. For that reason, manufacturers are looking for ways to make candy consumption seem less sinful.

Source: CSX;

Ferrara has committed to creating healthier products, and real fruit juice is already a key ingredient in the company’s popular gummy candy. Ferrara has announced all candy in its portfolio will be made with color and flavors derived from natural sources by the end of 2022.

“Our organic ingredients are sourced from various places around the world,” said Greg Guidotti, general manager of sugar confections, Ferrara. “For colors, real sources include turmeric, black carrot juice, beta carotene from plants and fruits, spirulina extract, black currant juice, carrot juice, purple sweet potato juice, cherry juice and radish juice.”

During a recent earnings call, Hershey executives announced that the company is relaunching its sugar-free line, with a focus on Hershey and Reese’s organic products. “Our sugar-free platform has been performing very well, and we believe this will enable us to reach more households and provide consumers with more great tasting ways to enjoy their favorite Hershey brands,” said Michele Buck, chairman, president and CEO, Hershey Co.

Sell More Treats

Because good merchandising makes shopping easier for customers, promoting loyalty and repeat visits, Ferrara partnered with industry leading research companies to develop best-in-class shelving principles, which have proved to drive sales and convert buyers in c-stores.

Power brand blocking lets shoppers browse and mentally process the range more efficiently.

“First, retailers should merchandise top sellers in the ‘power zone,’ or between shoulder and elbow level for most shoppers,” said Guidotti. “Second, we recommend aligning the assortment flow with the shopper decision tree, grouping similar products and brands together. Lastly, power brand blocking (merchandising in a horizontal vs. vertical manner), lets shoppers browse and mentally process the range more efficiently and is important to improving shopper navigation. When executed together, we’ve seen these shelving principles deliver 6% growth in sales and a 7% lift in buyer conversion.”

Holidays are opportunities to sell more candy. With all the sharing, indulging and gifting that goes on around special days—especially the winter holidays—proper merchandising is crucial.

“Seasonal sales are highly incremental to everyday items,” said Guidotti. “Placing seasonally relevant items—candy corn, candy canes, conversation hearts and jelly beans—on display can capture incremental sales. Ensuring that seasonally relevant displays are at the point of transaction or in high-traffic areas can drive impulse purchases and increase the basket size.”

For more information on NACS category definitions, visit Source: NACS State of the Industry Report of 2020 Data

The most popular purchase time for candy is between 3 and 5 p.m. on a Friday as consumers move into the weekend, according to the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2020 Data. Sales also are strong on Saturday afternoons as parents run errands, transport kids to sporting events or take a break for an indulgent energy boost.

“I think folks are happy to get out and discover the newest candy products, which might be contributing to the bump we’re seeing with sales this year,” said Gough.

Said Christopher Gindlesperger, senior vice president of public affairs and communications, National Confectioners Association, “We couldn't be more excited to have that trend continue into the fall as we begin to kick off the 2021 Halloween season.”

The Power of CSX Data

CSX, the engine behind category metrics and NACS State of the Industry data, provides current and customizable tools for financial and operational reporting and analysis in the convenience industry. Retailers can measure their company by any of the myriad metrics generated via our live database. Contact Chris Rapanick at (703) 518–4253 or [email protected] for a complimentary executive walkthough.

Pat Pape

Pat Pape

Pat Pape worked in the convenience store industry for more than 20 years before becoming a full-time writer. See more of her articles at

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