In 2021, chocolate and candy sales were up 11 percent over 2020, and up 15.4 percent over 2019 as consumers increasingly focused on seasonal celebrations, sharing and gifting, and emotional well-being, according to the third annual State of Treating report published by the National Confectioners Association (NCA).

The report, released at the 2022 State of the Industry Conference, highlights confectionery category performance data and a deeper understanding of shifting consumer attitudes and behaviors in a disrupted marketplace. 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.

“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,” says John Downs, president and chief executive officer of the 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.”

Additional key findings from the report:

  • Sales of chocolate grew 9.2 percent, and non-chocolate grew by 14.5 percent
  • 71 percent of consumers mostly purchase chocolate and candy at their primary grocery store
  • 66 percent of consumers research candy usage occasions on social media
  • 78 percent of all adults believe it is perfectly fine to occasionally treat with chocolate or candy
  • 72 percent of consumers believe that physical health and emotional well-being are interconnected
  • 88 percent share with family and friends at least half the time when buying chocolate and candy
  • 72 percent of consumers agree that it is important for chocolate and candy brands to offer portion size variety
  • 91 percent of consumers report taking road trips, and of these consumers 83 percent sometimes or always include chocolate and candy in their travels

“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,” says 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.”