Sugar-free candy — particularly chocolate — is on a sweet ride across a variety of consumer segments.
On a volume basis, sales of sugar-free chocolate have nearly doubled since 2017, according to data from IRI presented during a recent webinar by Candy Industry and Cargill Inc.
In the 52-week period ended July 10, household penetration of sugar-free chocolate reached 9.4%, compared to 6.2% in the comparable period in 2019.
“Over four million more households are buying sugar-free chocolate today than they were back in 2019,” said Dan Sadler, IRI’s principal of client insights.
One of the drivers of sugar-free confections has been an increase in choice — including new products from Reese’s, Hershey’s and Russell Stover in chocolates and Jolly Rancher and Twizzler in non-chocolates.
“A lot of innovation has occurred within the sugar-free universe,” noted Sadler.
That has caught the attention and desire of a variety of ages and lifestyles.
“What we have found is that it’s not one consumer segment driving sugar-free chocolate and non-sugar” candy,” said Sally Lyons Wyatt, IRI’s EVP and practice leader of client insights.
The four IRI MedProfiler segments contributing the most sugar-free sales growth are Aging Health Managers (median age: 69), Active Seniors (61), Young Carefrees (43) and Stress Sufferers (39).
While more than 90% of sugar-free candy on a volume basis is sold through food, drug and mass-merchandise channels, “The internet has definitely carved out its own little slice,” said Wyatt.
That trend is more pronounced in sugar-free, non-chocolate candies, which represented 6.1% of purchase volume as of July 10, compared to 3.3% for sugar-free chocolate.
Not surprisingly, people who purchase sugar substitutes are 420% more likely than all others to also purchase sugar-free candy. Those products are followed by pork rinds (co-purchase index: 413), nutritional bars (342), fruit drink mixes (318), frozen dairy dessert (308), refrigerated breakfast entrees (296) and jerky (292).