The jellies, licorice, and fruit snacks categories traditionally have a lot of fun, in terms of colors, flavors, and packaging, and this year has not been any different—with new packaging innovations and unique flavors, the category has flourished.
According to Chicago-based market research firm Circana’s data from the past 52 weeks, which ended on March 26, the “non-chocolate candy” category brought in $10.75 billion in sales, with a 16.1% increase from the same time period last year.
“Non-chocolate chewy candy,” a subcategory, brought in $5.65 million of that $10.76 billion total, and increased 13.7% from 2022. HARIBO brought in $528 million, with a 19.8% increase, and Skittles brought in $495 million, with an 8.3% increase. Sour Patch also brought in $431 million, with a 14.1% increase.
The licorice category brought in $574 million, with a 10.2% increase overall from last year. Twizzlers came in first, with $354 million in sales and a 9.8% increase, followed by the Red Vines brand, with $71 million in sales and a 6.5% increase, and KLN, with $36.5 million and a 52.5% increase in sales.
The “dry fruit snacks” category, including fruit rolls, bars, and snacks, brought in $1.849 billion in sales, with a 19.7% increase from last year. Betty Crocker’s brands brought in $721 million of that total figure, with a 25.2% increase, and PIM Brands, maker of Welch’s Fruit Snacks, brought in $516 million, with a 12.3% increase. General Mills brands brought in $190.3 million, with a 32.5% increase from last year.
Another standout in the category included Bearsnacks USA’s fruit rolls brand, bringing in $3.7 million but up 949.4% from 2022.
“This past fall, we introduced two exciting new innovations,” says Michel Algazi, chief revenue officer, Solely, La Jolla, CA.
“In October, we introduced a new variety to our popular Organic Whole Fruit Gummies Line, Mango Passionfruit, combining whole organic fruit and a just touch of Vitamin C. We continue to extend our success in creating portable snacks using only organic fruit and nothing else,” he says.
Dave Foldes, marketing director for Trolli, Laffy Taffy, Now and Later, Ferrara, Chicago, shares that both Trolli and SweeTARTS launched colorful new treats this year, inspired by consumer love for dual textures and powerful flavor combinations.
“Trolli Sour Duo Crawlers take gummi worms to the next level. With one soft, airy side and one chewy, gummi side, these dual-textured sour gummi worms deliver a multisensory experience. Each pack features three sour tropical flavor combinations: Mango Pineapple, Citrus Watermelon, and Strawberry Guava,” he shares.
“Another recent product launch from our family of brands is SweeTARTS Gummy Fruity Splitz. This new innovation features single fruit-flavored, poppable gummies that ‘split’ into two sides to give consumers the best of both worlds. SweeTARTS Gummy Fruity Splitz feature a uniquely sweet side and a tangy tart one with a soft and bouncy gummy texture. Each pack includes six different flavors: Blue Punch, Cherry, Grape, Orange, Lemon, and Apple,” Foldes notes.
Molly Jacobson, director of business development, Frankford Candy, Philadelphia, PA, says that the company recently released a Kraft Heinz Gummy Snack Pack, as well as a Gummy LUNCHABLES Cracker Stackers and Pepperoni Pizza Kit.
“The Kraft Heinz Gummy Snack Pack, which gives fans the opportunity to experience three iconic food brands—Kraft Mac & Cheese, Oscar Mayer Hot Dogs, and Claussen Pickles—[comes in] a fruit-flavored, gummy candy form that’s perfect for sharing or enjoying on-the-go. This candy has been a hit with consumers and has led to additional retailer sell-through,” she adds.
“The Gummy LUNCHABLES Cracker Stackers and Gummy LUNCHABLES Pepperoni Pizza Kit [were] created in response to consumer interest in experiences with their favorite food brands that they can share with family and friends, as well as gummy candy exploding in popularity,” Jacobson finishes.
Megan Gaustad, director of brands and marketing, Gummi Pop Surprise, San Diego, CA, says that with the success of Gummi Pop Surprise in the market, the brand has added a wide portfolio of surprise gummy flavors, shapes, and colors to its lineup.
“Each Gummi Pop Surprise theme has its own unique exclusive gummy candy flavors and shapes. Our newest addition to the line is our ‘Holiday Hunt’ collection which includes seasonal specific (Easter and Christmas) shapes and flavors inside each ball sold during the specific holiday season,” she shares.
Andrew Reitman, executive vice president, national brand confections, Nassau Candy, Hicksville, NY, says that gummies have been a major focus for Nassau Candy, so there have been several rollouts this year.
“Our biggest new gummy release is our Clever Candy Everyday Packaged Line. Released in March, the Clever Candy Everyday Packaged Line includes an assortment of our best-selling bulk gummies now in packaged form. By offering gummies previously only available in bulk, we’re opening up the fun and excitement of our bulk gummies to more retailers than ever before. Some of the gummies featured in the Clever Candy Everyday Line include Killer Sharks, Flashy Frogs, Pucker Up Peachy Hearts, and Sour Cola bottles,” he explains.
“In March, in our bulk category, we also introduced Individual Color Bestie Bears Gummy Bears. We’ve seen the growth in popularity of single color and color blocked displays everywhere from retail outlets to events—even gender reveals. However, not a lot of manufacturers are creating large single-color bulk confection collections. This inspired us to offer our own collection of single-color gummy bears in 12 different flavor and color combinations,” Reitman adds.
“[We are] also expanding our giant gummy offerings and will be launching our new Colossal Collection at Sweets & Snacks 2023. Included in the collection are individually packaged giant gummies in classic shapes like gummy bears and pizza slice, and more unique offerings like a watermelon slice, gummy All Day Breakfast Special, and Hot Diggy Dog,” he finishes.
Michael Lewis, founder and general manager, Oomph! Sweets, Los Angeles, says that Oomph! Sweets officially launched in September 2022 with its core lineup of low-sugar, functional Chews—available in Dark Chocolate, Lemon, Passion Fruit, and Green Apple—and Gummies, available in Pineapple, Cherry, and Watermelon flavors.
“We’ve spent the last eight or so months focused on sampling, creating a best-in-class direct-to-consumer customer experience, and launching our products on Amazon. Armed with customer data and feedback, we’re focusing our efforts on new formats—including Mini Chews, which debuted at Expo West in March—and new flavors we know customers will love,” he comments.
Lauren Rosenberg, marketing director, PIM Brands, Inc., Park Ridge, NJ says that in the past year, Welch’s Fruit Snacks has released Heartthrobs, Zero Sugar varieties, and Slice Fruit on the Go Fruit Bars.
“Welch’s Juicefuls HeartThrobs are the heart-shaped version of Welch’s Juicefuls Juicy Fruit Snacks, and come in vibrant seasonal packaging that includes a ‘To & From’ note card on the pack itself. They’re made with natural flavors, colors are from natural sources, and are gluten-free and have no preservatives,” she shares.
“Welch’s Zero Sugar Fruity Bites have absolutely no sugar, and are available in three iconic varieties: Mixed Fruit, Berries ‘n Cherries, and Island Fruits. These ‘chewy-not-sticky’ snacks contain 25% fewer calories than our original fruit snacks and are also gluten-free, aspartame free, and contain no preservatives,” Rosenberg adds.
“Slice Fruit on the Go Fruit Bars let you enjoy whole fruit goodness in every soft and delicious bite. They’re made with whole fruit and have no preservatives, artificial colors, or flavors. Slice is also gluten-free and fat-free,” she finishes.
In the licorice category, Kristi Shafer, vice president of marketing, American Licorice Company, La Porte, IN, says that this year, its Sour Punch brand launched two new items: Ice Cream Truck Twists’ gusseted bag, in stores this summer, and Pickle Roulette, only available on ecommerce.
“[Our] Red Vines brand launched three new items: Pumpkin Spice Twists for Halloween 2023, Cinnamon Spice Twists for Valentine’s 2024, and Buttered Popcorn Twists as an ecommerce exclusive,” she adds.
“The Torie & Howard brand launched two new seasonal items: Organic Lollipops for Halloween 2023 and Organic Tart Berry Mini Candy Canes for holiday 2023,” Shafer notes.
Johan Bülow, founder, Lakrids by Bülow, Sydholmen, Hvidovre, Denmark, says that the company constantly tests and experiments with new licorice flavor combinations in its Creative Lab and with input from its taste panel, LAKRIDS LOVERS.
“With every season, we introduce new limited editions such as our latest ÆGG collection including Crispy Caramel and Crunchy Toffee flavors in earthy colors to welcome spring. Another new addition to the line-up in the U.S. is our Slow Crafted Selection Box, which was launched earlier this year, featuring popular flavors such as Mango Vanilla, Caramel Date, Dark Truffle, and Anniversary,” he adds.
“With summer just around the corner, we are excited to present LÆMON - MELLOW YELLOW that instantly makes [consumers] think of the taste of a Mediterranean summer. LÆMON - MELLOW YELLOW is a unique combination of salty licorice and lemon. The licorice core is swirled in white chocolate, cream, and vanilla, to ensure the perfect balance between sweetness, sourness, and saltiness, and will be available for purchase in the U.S. on May 12,” Bülow says.
Also in the chocolate-coated licorice category, Markus Tuomivaara, export brand manager, Orkla Suomi, Vaajakoski, Finland, says the brand introduced its Panda vegan milk chocolate-coated licorice in the UK earlier this year.
“Over the past few years, there has been a significant surge in the demand for plant-based milk chocolate, which is not just limited to strict vegans. As a company, Panda is committed to being a part of this movement. To cater to this trend, we have combined our soft licorice with a rich and creamy vegan milk chocolate coating, creating a unique and unparalleled taste experience,” he comments.
Sustainability and trends
Algazi says that now, more than ever, consumers are looking for brands that care about sustainability and their impacts on the planet.
“According to the World Economic Forum, at least 65% of consumers want to make the right spending choices to live a healthier and more sustainable life. Being a vertically-integrated company, we’re able to oversee the entire process of how our products are sourced, grown, and sold. Our network of farmers across Mexico and Costa Rica are Certified Organic, using regenerative practices to grow the most high-quality produce,” he explains.
“Our farms also use the entirety of the crop, meaning we utilize both ‘perfect’ and ‘imperfect’ produce, diverting approximately 20 million pounds of food waste to date,” Algazi adds.
“One key consumer trend that is here to stay is: transparency. Consumers want to know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the companies they are buying from. Being transparent in the food distribution industry means letting your consumers know how and where the food you sell is made and grown,” he notes.
“In terms of packaging/branding, we have seen that more and more brands are using their labels to talk about sustainability efforts to meet climate-conscious consumer demands. As a pioneer of upcycling and clean-label foods for over 20 years, we use on-pack communication to deliver messages about our sustainability initiatives and ingredient transparency,” Algazi says.
Rosenberg says she has noticed five macro consumer trends are driving growth in snacks/treats, including:
- Indulgence. During and post-COVID, consumers turned to indulgent treats for reward and escapism purposes. Now, in the current environment of rising prices, indulgent treats are serving as an affordable luxury. Additionally, consumers are also looking for treats that provide an experience—either through taste/flavor, texture, packaging, or through social media.
- Permissible indulgence. Consumers want great-tasting treats that don’t compromise their healthy lifestyle. They want the taste without the guilt.
- Mood enhancement. Consumers are increasingly looking toward treats to provide an energy pick-me up, a mental or emotional boost, or to just help them to recharge and focus.
- Product transparency. Consumers are becoming more aware of the ingredients in the foods they buy and want to lead a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle, driving demand for treats they consider to be greener and cleaner.
- Sustainability. Consumers are making greater efforts to protect the planet and expect companies and brands to do the same.
Shafer says that sustainability is very important to the CPG industry, and many manufacturers have been making great strides to improve on sustainability with production and packaging.
“However, sustainable packaging has been proven to be challenging with confections, specifically with flexible plastics. Many manufacturers are looking for alternatives to reduce plastic or provide a recyclable packaging option for single use,” she explains.
“Trends in the industry as far as branding, are simplified packaging design, including clean lines and clear messaging. There has also been a lot of growth in low-sugar and simple ingredients. As far as pack types, larger hanging bags and count goods are seeing growth,” Shafer adds.
Foldes says that when it comes to keeping up with the latest consumer trends, Ferrara brands have learned that consumers are looking for multisensorial, multi-flavor, multi-color, and multi-texture attributes—but when it comes to specific trends, they’re looking for customizability and playability.
“Understanding our core Gen Z audience is key. Given their strong interest in gaming as digital natives, Trolli recently tapped into this community by partnering with Halo Infinite to launch a limited-edition pack series. Strategic pack collaborations, like Trolli’s collaboration with Halo Infinite, continue to position Trolli as a confectionary industry leader and one of Gen Z’s favorite candy brands, per a recent Morning Consult study,” he notes.
Jacobson says that Frankford Candy is always looking at ways to reduce its environmental footprint, including through waste reduction and energy efficiency efforts, as well as in the choices of packaging materials and overall product size.
“We also are taking steps to streamline production processes, which not only helps us increase efficiencies and reduce costs but also consume less energy, use fewer resources and produce less waste, all of which benefit the environment,” she shares.
“Consumers are increasingly interested in products that offer fun, ‘Instagrammable’ experiences that they can put their own twists on and share digitally or in person with their friends. For example, we’re seeing consumers create and share their own charcuterie boards made out of our Gummy LUNCHABLES,” Jacobson comments. “In addition, consumers are hungry for unique flavor combinations that bring new flavors to their treat drawers.”
These days, for packaging, simpler is better, she says.
“We work hard to focus our branding and streamline our packaging so we deliver our messaging simply and directly. Consumers want transparency and the ability to understand the product in less than three seconds when they are making their buying decisions. There are so many options on shelf that we want our candy to stand out—and stand up—as the best choice for our consumers, without making them work hard to find their favorites,” Jacobson elaborates.
Bülow agrees, saying that the company believes in clean, simple packaging.
“In 2019 we were the first confectionery brand in the world to introduce 100% recycled and reusable plastic jars for packaging. Last year we proudly presented our organic Slow Crafted licorice collection in premium recycled glass jars, designed to be reused and refilled,” he adds.
Lewis says that at this point, sustainability efforts are an expectation of all brands.
“On a micro level, we try to remove waste in our day-to-day operations—it helps that our team is widely distributed across the U.S. We also have a variety of initiatives at the product and service level: we use post-consumer recycled packaging material so we aren’t introducing virgin plastic into the cycle; we source domestically whenever possible to help cut down on emissions; and we’re experimenting with innovative ingredients that have minimal environmental impact,” he notes.
As for consumer trends, Reitman says he’s seeing “newstalgia,” or new twists on candy classics, continuing to gain traction.
“Expect to see the flavors of longtime food brands outside the confectionery space now in gummy form. Shapes are always evolving as trends emerge. We anticipate more unique 3D shapes as well as shapes inspired by the latest social media trends as well as videogame and TV rollouts,” he predicts.
“Just as important as shapes are what ingredients go into gummies. That’s why we’re exploring adding more low-sugar gummies to our assortment to meet today’s dietary trends. Sustainability is also a top trend—in food products and beyond. When identifying new manufacturing partners to work with, those that use a palm oil free formula is just as important to us as a new manufacturing capability. We also recently introduced recyclable bags and tubs for our internal brands and private label projects,” Reitman finishes.
“When it comes to packaging, vibrant colors and interactive elements are what’s trending—particularly when trying to appeal to generation alpha (anyone born in 2010 up to now). That’s why the color palette for our Everyday Packaged Line features the brightest of the primary colors along with playful splats,” he notes.
“Interactive is all about making customers feel immersed and connected to the brand. With candy being a source of fun, we’re really trying to explore the playful side of candy with our brand, Clever Candy. One of the ways the Clever Candy brand is connecting with customers is through the fun facts or jokes on each bag. These are a great conversation piece when snacking in person, in addition to creating a conversation when shared and posted on social media,” Reitman shares.
Tuomivaara says that one of the most significant trends in consumer behavior that he has observed is the growing demand for more sustainable options.
“Consumers are constantly seeking products with minimal ingredients. Additionally, we are continuously researching more sustainable packaging options, while also ensuring that our packaging meets its primary goal of maintaining product quality,” he notes.
Rosenberg says that consumers continue to seek brands that align with their personal values and interests.
“Brands that break through the noise and are able to garner consumers’ attention to tell their story in new, interesting, unique and authentic ways across familiar and emerging platforms are likely to win. Transparency is vitally important and brands that develop personal relationships with their consumers and those that do this well are likely to be rewarded, developing brand advocates and consumers with strong loyalty,” she predicts.
Packaging that stands out on the physical and digital shelf remains incredibly important, she says.
“Trends around sustainability and claims that are on-trend and reflect consumers values remain strong with consumers. During these inflationary times, packaging plays an outsized role in obtaining value. Some shoppers are seeking out larger pack sizes to achieve a lower price per item, while others are buying smaller pack sizes for the lower absolute price point,” Rosenberg notes.
This year, PIM Brands will focus on expanding its product lines with the national launch of Welch’s Zero Sugar Fruity Bites and the expansion of Welch’s Fruit Snacks Summer Fruits, she shares.
“Welch’s Fruit Snacks Summer Fruits are the newest flavor innovation introduced to Welch’s line of Real fruit snacks. Featuring a combination of summer flavors [like] Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Blackberry, Mango-Peach, Honeydew, and Plum, they are an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, and E, have no preservatives, and are gluten-free,” Rosenberg reveals.
Reitman says Nassau Candy’s product development team is very focused on innovation, and will continue to work with its manufacturing partners to identify new manufacturing capabilities and flavor profiles for gummies.
“We’ll also continue to listen to our customers and develop new items appealing to their wish lists, as well. We see gummies as a growth category and will continue to expand our assortment, both bulk and packaged, under our Clever Candy Line. Expect to see more giant gummies on the horizon sporting even more over-the-top shapes. There will also be continued advancement in terms of bulk gummy shapes. Depending on their popularity, there is always potential for a packaged option for these items too,” he predicts.
“Along with new shapes and flavors we’re always exploring new formulations to meet today’s lifestyle trends. Low-sugar options continue to gain traction. We also see plant-based gummies as an area of growth,” Reitman adds.
Jacobson shares that Frankford Candy will be showcasing its Krabby Patties Combo Meal, the latest in its gummy Krabby Patties line, at Sweets & Snacks Expo this month.
“The Krabby Patties Combo Meal is our latest innovation in our gummy Krabby Patties product line which takes inspiration from SpongeBob SquarePants and the unique menu items found at the show’s Krusty Krab restaurant,” she explains.
“We packaged fruit-flavored, food-shaped gummies such as Onion Rings, French Fries, Cola, and of course, the iconic Krabby Patties gummies, then spin them into true Krusty Krab items such as Kelp Cola. The gummies come packaged in a take-out style box that kids and kids-at-heart will be excited to open and enjoy,” Jacobson comments.
Gummi Pop Surprise will be debuting its new brand, called Snax Pack, at Sweets & Snacks Expo, says Gaustad.
“This brand is based upon a world of wild and crazy, snack food-inspired collectible characters, teamed up with buildable candies,” she exclaims. “In 2024, we also plan to expand the Gummi Pop portfolio of themes, candies, and figures along with launching two new confection-only brands.”
As for packaging, she says the industry’s branding and packaging is fantastic; however, Gummi Pop Surprise strives to take its brands one step further.
“From our consumer unit to our retail displays we make sure that the consumer has an amazing experience. We want the purchase pattern to be fun for the consumer and never have a dull moment,” Gaustad adds.