How Americans work, travel, socialize, and even shop will never be the same after the immense change the country has experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This unique period has pushed people to reevaluate what they find important and how they spend their time. It has also changed how they celebrate holidays, special occasions, and everyday moments.
We all spent some time the last two years thinking about what matters the most. Increasingly, the answer is community. When you’re focusing on community at work or home, you’re going to celebrate more. You’re going to find joy in everyday things. You are going to mark every single holiday–and you’re going to need chocolate and candy to make those important moments a little sweeter.
In 2021, consumers re-engaged with the confectionery category after a tumultuous 2020 in which we were often physically separated from family, friends, and neighbors. While still not quite back to where we were pre-pandemic in terms of those engagements with our loved ones, we now know that those who celebrated the seasons and special occasions in 2021 went all in and celebrated big.
In 2021, chocolate and candy sales increased by 11% compared to 2020 and by more than 15% compared to 2019, as consumers increasingly focused on seasonal celebrations, sharing, gifting, and emotional well-being, according to the third annual “State of Treating” report recently published by the National Confectioners Association. 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.
Now more than ever, people are focused on self-care and emotional well-being. In fact, 72 % of consumers believe that physical health and emotional wellbeing are connected. Because of this, consumers have recently found even more creative ways to incorporate chocolate and candy into important moments because of their uncanny ability to bring a little fun to those experiences.
With all of the changing trends, there is one thing that has remained constant over the years: people understand that chocolate and candy are treats and embrace them as a special social currency. To that end, 78% of all adults believe it is totally acceptable to occasionally enjoy a treat of chocolate or candy.
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. From beloved classics to new offerings like zero sugar and organic, chocolate and candy companies are meeting consumers where they want to be met. The companies are providing more information about what’s in their products and bringing more transparency, choice, and portion guidance options to consumers seeking to manage their sugar intake–whether that’s buying candy for family celebrations at home, picking up a treat to share with friends, or treating yourself on the way out of the store.
With all the challenges we’ve faced these past two years, chocolate and candy have remained resilient as consumers looked to prioritize their emotional well-being and created a special place for these treats in their lives. In contrast to rising costs for families related to inflation, healthcare, and simply putting food on the table, candy remains a simple, affordable treat.
John Downs is the president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association.
The opinions expressed in Fortune.com Commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors, and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.
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