Hard candy sales are up 19.8 percent over the last 52 weeks, seemingly marking strong post-pandemic growth.
That's according to IRI data for the year ending May 15, the most recent data available.
However, part of the dollar sales growth is likely due to the increase in the average price per unit, which is $1.81, up 19 cents compared to a year ago, according to IRI.
When it comes to specific brands, The Hershey Co.'s Jolly Ranchers leads the category with $159 million in sales, up 22.4 percent compared to a year ago.
They are followed by Storck hard candy, which had $111.3 million in sales, up 10.3 percent compared to a year ago.
That's followed by Spangler, which had $77.5 million in sales, up 50.5 percent compared to a year ago.
After that is Tootsie Roll, with $76.1 million in sales, up 25.6 percent compared to a year ago.
Charms rounds out the Top 5 with $68 million in sales, up 30.4 percent compared to a year ago.
Sugar-free hard candy also sees growth
Sales of sugar-free diet candy, an IRI category that does not include sugar-free chocolate, showed growth as well. The category was up 13.8 percent compared to a year ago with $103.2 million in dollar sales. Here too the average price per unit was up compared to a year ago, reaching to $2.79, up 29 cents compared to a year ago.
Sugar-free Storck led the top brands in the sector, with $48.9 million in sales, up 5.2 percent compared to a year ago.
Coming in second was Mars Wrigley's sugar-free Lifesavers, with $18 million in sales, up 30.6 percent.
Next was The Hershey Co.'s sugar-free Jolly Ranchers, with $12.6 million in sales, up a whopping 85.2 percent compared to a year ago. The brand also had the largest increase in its price per unit among the Top 5 sugar-free candies, with an increase of 68 cents to $3.38.
Coming in fourth was the Ferrara Candy Co.'s sugar-free Brach’s, which had $6 million in sales, down 8.7 percent compared to a year ago. The decrease happened despite the brand's price per unit increasing 42 cents to $2.79.
While it’s not classified as a hard candy, rounding out the Top 5 non-chocolate sugar-free brands was The Hershey Co.'s sugar-free Twizzlers, with $3 million in sales, up a massive 534 percent compared to a year ago. While a price per unit increase likely contributed to the growth, it was only a modest increase comparatively. IRI data shows sugar-free Twizzlers price per unit was up 15 cents to $2.38
New hard candy products:
Many of the new hard candy products over the last year focused on health halo claims in an effort to sand out. For example, YumEarth debuted Ultimate Organic Pops, which the company boasts are free of the top nine allergens.
The pops come in two flavor packs: Elderberry and Anti-Oxidant, which contains Mango, Lemon and Orange flavors. Each offers excellent sources of Vitamins A, C, and E, with at least 100-150% daily values of Vitamin C and 30-45 percent Vitamins A and E.
In February, Original Gourmet launched USDA-certified Organic Lollipops in 12 bold fruit flavors.
Made with 100 percent organic ingredients, the pops are not only inherently GMO-free but are also allergy friendly — they are gluten-free, peanut-free and vegan. The available flavors include: Cherry, Grape, Green Apple, Mango, Orange, Pineapple Coconut, Pomegranate Raspberry, Raspberry Lemonade, Red Grapefruit, Strawberry Banana, Strawberry and Watermelon.
And late last year, Feel Well Lollys hit the market. The CBD lollipops also support immune health.
The low-calorie treat that deliver both a powerful 50mg of hemp derived CBD plus popular immune boosters like Elderberry, Zinc, D3 and 100 percent of your daily B12. Lab tested for absolute purity and made from US grown hemp, Feel Well Lollys come in four delicious flavors, including: Honey lavender, Black cherry, Cotton candy, and Grape.
Feel Well Lollys broad-spectrum CBD lollipops include all the naturally occurring terpenes and non-thc cannabinoids. These whole plant compounds are responsible for the 'entourage effect' that enhances the benefits of CBD.
Not all the hard candy launches over the last year focused on health though.
Ferrara launched a number of Brach's extensions, including Holiday Heat Candy Canes, which featured a hint of chili. The product launched during the 2021 holiday season and came in three flavors, including: watermelon chili; pineapple chili; and mango chili.
In early 2022, the brand also release Brach’s Strawberry Cupcake Glitter Lollipops. The pink, heart-shaped lollipops were filled with glittery red inclusions and featured the flavors of yellow cake and strawberries.
Late in 2021 Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc. launched the Chupa Chups XXL Trio, a large, multilayered lollipop with bubblegum inside.
The XXL Trio lollipop was heralded as the only gum-filled pop in the U.S. with two unique flavor layers. Specifically, the Chupa Chups Trio XXL featured four flavor combinations in a 1-oz. lollipop, wrapped in the iconic Chupa Chups graphic wrappers: Cola Lemon, Strawberry Kiwi, Mango Orange and Tutti Frutti Pineapple.
“Consumers are looking for added benefit to their lollipop experience, and with the XXL Trio lollipops, Chupa Chups will continue to bring well-received variety, excitement and a premium feel to the fast-growing lollipop segment in the U.S.,” said Craig Cuchra, vice president of marketing, Perfetti Van Melle USA. “With many large retailers now carrying the Chupa Chups brand in the U.S., we’ve seen tremendous success with consumers across the country falling in love with its taste, quality, rich heritage and fun.”
Nostalgia also played a large role in the hard candy sector over the last year.
One of the launches that got the most social media attention was the re-launch of the Creme Savers brand.
Iconic Candy partnered with Mars Wrigley on the launch, and the story was widely shared on Twitter and other platforms. Fans had missed the iconic red-and-white swirled Strawberries & Creme hard candies, and Mars Wrigley and Iconic Candy were listening. During its heyday, Creme Savers hard candies came in many fruit, tropical, and dessert-inspired varieties.
"This revival comes during a time when consumers yearn for a return to simpler and happier times," Iconic Candy said when the re-launch was announced.