CHICAGO (FNS) -- With candy sales up another 3% last year, topping $23 billion at retail, the mood was sweet at the third annual All Candy Expo held here, as industry leaders outlined reasons for continued strong sales.
The candy show, which attracted some 370 exhibitors and more than 3,000 candy buyers, has proven so popular it is outgrowing its Navy Pier exhibit hall location and will move to Chicago's McCormick Place "in 2001 or sooner," Salvatore Ferrara 2nd, president of Ferrara Pan Candy Co. and chairman of the Expo, announced at the opening session.
Larry Graham, president of the sponsoring National Confectioners Association, reported per capita consumption of candy continues to rise, reaching 27 pounds last year, up from just under 25 pounds in 1997. The hot categories in 1998 were breath fresheners, up 15.3%; non-chocolate chewy candy, up 10.4%; novelty candy, up 10.1%; total seasonal candy, up 8.1%; and sugarless gum, up 7.1%.
Halloween remains the strongest candy holiday, with sales in 1998 of $1.8 billion, followed by Easter, with $1.7 billion, and Christmas, with $1.4 billion. Valentine's Day candy sales this year were $1 billion, Graham said.
Recent studies, noted Graham, indicate chocolate "is very high in antioxidants, higher than red wine and most foods." Further study is needed on how well the body metabolizes chocolate's antioxidants, and Graham said those results are expected before next year's All Candy Expo.
Demographics are also favoring the industry, he added, with the growth of the population of children 5 to 14 outpacing the growth of the general population. The teen population, children of the baby boomers, is also reaching record highs and is expected to be 7.2% of the U.S. population by 2002. Kids 15 to 19 consume more candy than any other age group.
Ferrara emphasized the need for retailers to display and promote candy, given the impulse nature of its purchase. "Candy responds better to promotion than any other category," he said, claiming that candy sales get an average lift of 318% in supermarkets during promotions. '
Dan Abraham, president of Garb-Ko Inc. (which operates 140 7-Eleven stores in the Midwest) and chairman of the National Association of Convenience Stores, noted candy is the fifth-largest sales category for convenience stores, after cigarettes, food service, beer and non-alcoholic beverages.
His chain's candy sales run 3% above the industry average. Abraham outlined some of the tactics the stores use to achieve those results, including a commitment to displays in prime locations, promotions and more merchandising to children.