The National Confectioners Association recently released its annual State of Treating report for 2023, a comprehensive summary of candy sales across the U.S. While overall volume of chocolate and candy sales have shown some improvement, one category of confection appears to be lagging behind more than the others. It turns out our jaws just aren’t as interested in one particular product as they used to be, and it might have something to do with social distancing.
Candy and chocolate sales in 2023
The broad view of the NCA’s State of Treating report indicates that sales numbers for sweets are still huge. Chocolate hit $18.2 billion in sales in 2022, a year-over-year increase of 9.1%. That’s also a whopping 24.2% increase over 2019, the pre-pandemic sales year against which all categories are measured.
But here’s the thing: that’s dollars, not volume, and different market forces can impact the price of chocolate, making it look like way more was sold. Volume-wise, chocolate sales actually drooped a little between 2021 and 2022: 6.4 billion units of chocolate were sold last year, a decrease of 4.2% compared to 2021. The disparity between increased cash value and less units sold is a direct result of inflation.
Non-chocolate sweets showed a significant boost in sales, though, with a total of $10.3 billion in sales, which is 13.8% higher than 2021 and 5.2% higher than 2019.
Gum hasn’t caught up since the pandemic started
It’s clear from the report that the category of gum and breath fresheners is still lagging behind. While gum and mint sales increased by 13.8% between 2021 and 2022, the overall numbers are still 8.8% below sales numbers in 2019. Things are even worse when you look at the number of units sold last year—a 27.7% decrease versus 2019. The categories of chocolate and non-chocolate candy don’t come close to that kind of shortfall.
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Gum, more than the other categories, is a tool used in social situations. And it’s safe to say that since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, our social habits have changed quite a bit. If you were chewing gum or eating mints because you were self-conscious about the way your breath might have smelled while in a meeting with a coworker, well, we all know what happened to eliminate our desire for any more close-talking.
And since so many of us started wearing masks post-2019, we all had less of a reason to be self-conscious about the way our own breath smelled in the first place. Why worry about coffee breath if everyone has their noses covered, you know? (Plus, seeing someone chewing gum beneath their mask always looks pretty funny, with the mask wiggling around and all.)
If you were or continue to be a gum-chewer, do you find that your habits have changed? I noticed that I’m buying breath mints again for the first time in forever, after not even having thought about them for the past few years. The sales numbers indicate that I’m not the only one, considering the double-digit increase in total dollars spent between 2021 and 2022. There’s still a long way to go before we’re back to 2019 levels, but there’s a chance we’ll get there, slowly but surely. Who knew normalcy would come in the form of a pack of gum?