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Special Occasions Bring Sweet Sales
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Special Occasions Bring Sweet Sales

Chocolate bunnies, candy hearts, candy canes or candy corns—confections quickly bring to mind some of Americans’ favorite holidays. When we look at sales, there’s a good reason for this association. While everyday candy purchases lead in dollar sales, seasonal buys—those during the week of a national holiday—are growing. And rising sales in this powerhouse industry are good news for manufacturers and retailers.

The Sweetest Category

Candy (including chocolate and non-chocolate sweets) drove $20.8 billion in sales last year, with gum adding another $3 billion. And candy is the third top selling category of the top 20 food and non-alcoholic beverage categories across all outlets based on dollar sales. In Europe, candy is an even bigger category: Confectionery sales—$46.5 billion—account for the biggest portion of the overall snack category. And around the globe, chocolate is the No. 1 snack of choice around the globe (it’s second in the U.S.).

Candy is a favorite of almost all Americans. Across income, age and background, over 90% of American households buy candy. However, some consumers spend more than others. Not surprisingly, consumers’ spending on sweets increases with the amount of money they make. Non-Hispanic whites and Baby Boomers also spend significantly more than multicultural and Millennial shoppers. However, including multicultural consumers in ads and using product research to align new product launches with these consumers could help grow this key category further.

Candy for Every Occasion

Consumers pick up candy whenever they shop. Treats (i.e., snacks, candy and cookies), along with basic foods (i.e., bread and milk), top the list of categories shoppers reach for when making small trips for immediate needs and fill-ins. These same categories carry over into larger routine and stock-up trips, with candy still in the top 15 categories to buy.

This means that candy is an everyday product for U.S. consumers—and these purchases make up the bulk of all candy dollar sales. But while the four-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for everyday candy and gum sales rose 3%, it increased 5.8% for seasonal candy and gum sales. And what a seasonal powerhouse—candy drives huge spikes in sales during key holiday weeks, as well as in the weeks leading up to those holidays.

These holiday-themed sales add up. Last year, 17.9% of annual candy sales occurred during the top five weeks, and 29.8% occurred during the top 10 weeks. Comparatively, 10.4% of total store sales occurred during those top five weeks while 19.9% during those top 10 weeks.

So what were the top five weeks for candy sales last year? Two holidays when candy plays a strong role in our celebrations—Halloween and Valentine’s Day—made up two of the top candy sales weeks. However, the top week may surprise some—the week leading up to Easter and including Passover took the top spot with more than $812 million in candy sales.

Top Sales Weeks for Candy

Rank Week Ending Dollar sales for the week % of total annual sales Season
1 April 19, 2014 $812,674,639 3.90% Passover/Easter
2 Nov. 1, 2014 $787,344,861 3.80% Halloween
3 Feb. 15, 2014 $785,124,148 3.80% Valentine’s Day
4 Dec. 20, 2014 $687,060,284 3.30% Pre-Christmas/Hanukkah
5 Dec. 27, 2014 $643,478,154 3.10% Christmas/Hanukkah
Source: Nielsen

Holiday Highs

Knowing what other categories experience a seasonal boost during candy’s top occasions could help manufacturers and retailers improve overall sales. For example, while the Easter/Passover week was the highest for candy sales, candy isn’t the only seasonal item that spikes this week—and it isn’t even the category that grows the most. During the week of April 19, 2014, 6.8% of food coloring sales occurred and, possibly fueled by consumers taking time off as well as the changing seasons, 4.9% of 2014’s lawn and soil care item sales were made.

Top Spiking Categories for the Week Ending April 19, 2014

Rank Category Dollar sales for the week % of total annual sales
1 Food Coloring $3,710,065 6.80%
2 Seasonal $16,909,666 5.30%
3 Lawn and Soil Fertilizer and Treatment $21,090,349 4.90%
4 Glaze Meat $468,727 4.40%
5 Candy $812,674,639 3.90%
Source: Nielsen

And while the week ending April 19 was the top week for food coloring sales, lawn and soil care sales were higher the weeks around other popular springtime holidays—Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. Overall, the week leading up to Easter and including Passover was the sixth highest sales week in 2014, with more than $16 billion in sales across all categories. Outranking the springtime holiday were the two weeks around Christmas and Hanukkah, the week of Thanksgiving/Black Friday and the Fourth of July holiday week.

Keeping in mind what holidays are top for different categories can help retailers and manufacturers develop products, packaging and promotions to make the most out of those weeks where consumer “category” demand is high.