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C-Store Candy and Snack Food Categories

Extraordinary Change for the Candy & Snack Categories at Convenience Stores

candy on c-store shelves

ifferent types of sweets and snacks sold in c-stores fall into the categories of salty snacks, alternative snacks, packaged sweet snacks, and candies.  These categories further branch out to include potato chips, corn tortilla chips, other salty snacks, nuts & seeds, puffed cheese, mixed snacks, crackers, packaged popcorn, etc.

Out of the total dollar sales of candies and snacks in c-stores, candies have a share of 43.6%; salty snacks have a share of 37.3%, followed by a 15.3% share of alternative snacks and a 3.8% share of packaged sweet snacks.  

Apart from different categories of candies and snacks, the most popular c-store items are toiletries, over-the-counter medication, gas and automotive supplies, beverages (both non-alcoholic and alcoholic), lottery tickets, and tobacco products.

Snacks & Candy Sales Before the Pandemic

Compared to the snacks and candy sales today, the number of candies and snacks sold by c-stores was far less before the pandemic spread.  The pandemic gave a boost to candy and snack trends, which increased their popularity.  

Before the pandemic, in 2019 different retail channels (including c-stores) sold $1.06 billion worth of chocolate candy (snack size) in September alone.  Whereas, in June 2021 this amount rocketed to $1.17 billion.  

The Sales of Snacks & Candies After the Pandemic

As the pandemic embedded itself into our lives, there was a sudden increase in candy and snacks sales.  Candies and snacks are noted 'stress-eating foods.’ Considering the ongoing stressors, people resorted to these delights for emotional support.  This is because when we are stressed, we need a boost of energy, and the carbohydrates in candies & snacks provide just that.

The global candy market is expected to grow from $217.8 billion in 2020 and reach $290.7 billion by 2028, growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 3.8 percent during the forecast period 2021-2028

The greatest increase in sales was seen in chocolates in 2020 as people started binge-eating these treats during their time at home during the lockdown.  The total retail sales (including c-store sales) during 2020 stood at $36.7 billion.  By category, chocolate contributed $21.9 billion of the yearly sales for 2020, which was up 4.2% since 2019, while non-chocolate sweets were up 2.9% to a value of $11.5 billion.

There was a good 2.5% increase in the average sales of candies per c-store since the pandemic.   “People were increasingly drawn to confectionery for at-home consumption, as well as for on-the-go occasions like road trips or local getaways, and they turned to trusted brands they love and grew up with to satisfy this need.” Claimed Jim Dodge, VP of convenience for Mars Wrigley.

Of course, c-stores had to manage their practices for continued sales strategically.  Most sales of candies and snacks are from the impulse-buying behaviors of customers.  Keeping this in mind, c-stores crafted their marketing approach around impulse-buying.  Some of their efforts include:

● Offering more family packs (larger packs) on their shelves for their customers to load themselves with snacks during the pandemic.

● Merchandising fruity candies from different brands in vertical blocks in the aisle so that customers can easily navigate these fruity delights and buy them impulsively.

● Remodeling the merchandising flow in stores to a model that considered people's craving for candies during a certain time of the day.

● Placing popular snacks and candies throughout the checkout queues to motivate people towards impulsive buying.

“Several brands are bringing new product innovation to the market that represents mashups of different forms, flavors, and textures, as well as combinations of flavors.” Said Lance Smith, VP of industry affairs and customer strategy for Promotion In Motion Companies, Inc.

The Future Of Snacks And Candies

As we predict what the future has in store for candies and snack sales in c-stores, we can only say that the current candy and snack trends are here to stay.  C-stores can expect the same level of sales from candies and snacks (if not more) in the future.  According to a May 2021 report from Fior Markets, the global candy market is expected to grow from $217.8 billion in 2020 and reach $290.7 billion by 2028, growing at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate of 3.8 percent during the forecast period 2021-2028.

candy shelves

Moreover, people have started to have more and more expectations from chocolates and are not the exclusive fans of regular chocolate they once were.  These expectations can only be forecasted to increase in the future.  

“Those purchasing chocolate tend to be looking for an individual, premium treat or reward, and [are] now more focused than ever on healthier benefits that chocolate provides — especially dark chocolate.  Conversely, purchasers of non-chocolate candy, especially chewy, are looking for a fun experience that will challenge their taste buds with new and interesting flavors and textures,” noted Lance Smith.

With the future bringing in greater prospects for snacks and candies, look for c-stores to focus their efforts towards marketing these confectionaries.  We’ll no doubt be tempted with more of these items in the checkout zones where most of our impulse-buying occurs.

September 5, 2021