State of the Candy Industry 2021: Jellies, fruit chews, licorice bolstered by growth of non-chocolate chewy category

TerraCycle Swedish Fish Include USA

Flavor innovation continues to drive growth across the three categories.

With chewy texture profiles continuing to dominate the sugar confectionery market, the jellies, licorice and chews categories are seeing steady growth. The non-chocolate chewy candy segment generated $4.23 billion in the year ending May 16, according to IRI, a Chicago-based research firm. That’s up 10.8 percent from a year ago. Mars Wrigley leads the category with a nearly 24 percent market share, bringing in just over $1 billion over the same period. Ferrara Candy Co. follows with just under 16 percent of the category, generating $656.8 million in the 12 months ending May 16. Ferrara’s growth in the non-chocolate chewy category — 14.8 percent — rivals Haribo of America’s. Haribo’s sales were up 14.9 percent, generating just over $409 million in the year ending May 16. Meanwhile, Mondelēz International pulled in $480.4 million, up 11.5 percent from a year ago.


Made with pectin and starches, jellies typically have a softer texture than their gelatin-based gummy counterparts. Mondelēz International’s Sour Patch Kids is the top jelly product tracked by IRI in the non-chocolate chewy category, generating $223.6 million in the year ending May 16. That represents a 12.4 percent increase from a year ago. In April, the Sour Patch Kids brand introduced its first mystery flavor, giving its social media followers cryptic clues and an opportunity to win a $50,000 prize this month. The brand will reveal the mystery flavor in August. Swedish Fish, another Mondelēz offering, pulled in $126.8 million in the 12 months ending May 16, up 4.7 percent from a year ago. Last month, the brand announced a partnership with TerraCycle, giving fans an easy way to recycle their Swedish Fish packaging. “We’re excited to start this partnership with TerraCycle for our Swedish Fish brand,” said Mili Laddha, Mondelēz International associate director equity candy. “As part of Mondelēz International, we are on a mission to lead the future of snacking by creating snacks the right way for both people and the planet to love. We’re continuing to make progress and scale our efforts to deliver meaningful change.” Though Jelly Belly Candy Co. is a longtime mainstay in the jelly category, the company debuted a new format last summer: Jelly Belly Gummies. Made with modified potato starch and sweetened with tapioca syrup, these vegan pieces are available in sweet and sour varieties in five flavors: Berry Blue, Green Apple, Lemon, Orange and Very Cherry. Fruit snacks fall somewhere between jellies and gummies, featuring both starch and gelatin. In March, PIM Brands introduced Welch’s Juicefuls, made with real fruit on the outside and juice on the inside. They’re available in three varieties: Mixed Fruit, Berry Blast and Island Splash. "Welch's Juicefuls offer consumers of all ages a unique experience to enjoy a surprising twist on our beloved classic snacks,” said Nicole Luisi, brand manager for PIM Brands. “They feature next-level bursts of fruit juice in the centers for added goodness and are a unique and authentic alternative to other snacks.” Ferrara also relaunched Kellogg’s Fruity Snacks as Funables, a fruit snacks master brand featuring better-for-you ingredients and engaging on-pack experiences.


Among the Top 20 non-chocolate chewy products IRI tracks, Mars Wrigley’s Starburst chews took the No. 5 spot, earning $213.8 million in the 12 months ending May 16. That’s down 3 percent from a year ago. Meanwhile, Starburst FaveREDS, featuring Strawberry, Cherry, Fruit Punch and Watermelon flavors, brought in $76.3 million, up 9.4 percent from a year ago. Following at No. 7, Perfetti Van Melle’s Airheads pulled in $139.8 million over the same period, dipping 1.3 percent from a year ago. Ferrara’s Laffy Taffy brand just made the Top 20, generating $58.5 million in the year ending May 16. That’s up 6.3 percent from a year ago. To reinvigorate the Laffy Taffy brand, Ferrara introduced Laffy Taffy Laff Bites in August 2020. First available in a mix of Cherry, Strawberry, Green Apple and Blue Raspberry flavors, Laff Bites are bite-sized taffy pieces coated in a candy shell. “We’re thrilled to welcome Laff Bites into our Laffy Taffy family of products this year,” said Katie Duffy, v.p., marketing, Ferrara Candy Co., after the launch. “The brand has always been known for a fun-to-eat taffy experience, and with Laff Bites, we are offering a unique, poppable candy experience.” Ferrara followed it with Laff Bites Gone Bananas in December 2020, and the company plans to launch a tropical version, featuring Guava, Pineapple, Mango and Red Orange flavors, in November 2021. Morinaga America’s HI-CHEW brand’s sales climbed by 25 percent over the same period — the only chew product to produce double-digit growth. It generated just over $87 million in the year ending May 16. Product innovation, along with collaborative brand partnerships, has driven the HI-CHEW brand’s growth. In February, HI-CHEW launched Berry Mix, featuring Black Cherry, Raspberry, and Blueberry flavors. The brand highlighted its Raspberry offering in a collaboration with frozen yogurt chain Menchie’s this month. “We’ve seen a high demand for berry flavors within the market, with Black Cherry, Raspberry and Blueberry consistently showing up as fan favorites in the States,” said Tatsuya Takamiya, chief marketing officer of Morinaga America, Inc. “Tapping into consumers' excitement for authentic fruit flavors, our research and development team was able to perfectly capture the true-to-life flavor and give consumers a vibrant experience with each bite. We’re excited to reveal these new offerings that showcase a delightful and refreshing take on Americans’ favorite berry flavors.” HI-CHEW relaunched Plus Fruit in March. Available in Orange & Tangerine and Red Apple & Strawberry flavors, each bite-size chew features real fruit pieces. In April, HI-CHEW reintroduced Fruit Combos with the addition of Strawberry Lemonade, the winner of the fan-voted 2020 Flavor Games. "We are thrilled to be able to launch this flavor in our new Fruit Combos Stand Up Pouch, which perfectly compliments Tropical Smoothie and Piña Colada,” Takamiya said. “The three refreshing flavors tap into consumers' excitement for tropical beverages and we're looking forward to seeing the response to the fan-chosen flavor." In the organic space, YumEarth debuted Chewys Fruit Chews in February. Available in four flavors — Lemon, Orange, Strawberry and Cherry — these candies are free of the Top 8 allergens. They’re also vegan, gluten-free and made with simple ingredients. "Fruit chews are an iconic and beloved candy, and as a brand devoted to producing allergy-safe and yummy treats, we knew Chewys would be a great addition to our allergy-friendly product line," said Sasha Auguste, head of marketing for YumEarth.


The licorice category is up 3.8 percent from last year, generating a total of $506.5 million in the 12 months ending May 16, IRI data reveals. The Hershey Co. represents just under 65 percent of the category, thanks to the Twizzlers brand, which pulled in more than $301 million across four product types: Twizzlers Twists, Twizzlers Pull ‘n’ Peel, Twizzlers Nibs and Twizzlers Filled Twists. In March, the brand introduced a Mystery Flavor, building on the recent trend of mystery and surprise products. Twizzlers will reveal the mystery flavor later this summer. Though the Twizzlers brand earned four of the Top 10 brand IRI tracks, Hershey’s classic Good & Plenty brand took the fifth spot, generating $23.9 million in the year ending May 16. American Licorice Co. — the second largest player in the licorice market, according to IRI data — occupies just over 16 percent of the market. Its Red Vines brand brought in just over $69 million in the year ending May 16. In November 2020, Red Vines introduced its pull-apart SuperStrings, originally only available in the Red Vines California Collection, in a 14-oz. package. At the 2021 Sweets & Snacks Expo, American Licorice announced it would build on the success of its Red Vines Made Simple sub-brand, launching black licorice and blueberry pomegranate varieties. Made Simple products feature natural colors, natural flavors, real cane sugar and non-GMO ingredients. American Licorice’s Sour Punch brand generated $7.7 million in the year ending May 16, marking a 4 percent drop from a year ago. However, Sour Punch Bites pulled in $5.4 million over the same period, representing a 39.3 percent increase. In November 2020, the brand launched Sweet Bites, its first sweet, non-sour product in four varieties: Dream Berry, Passion Punch, Grateful Grape and Cotton Candy. Sour Punch also launched Fan Favorite Bites, an assortment featuring four top-requested flavors: Grape, Tangerine, Fruit Punch and Lemon. The growth of Kenny’s Candy & Confections’ Australian-style licorice brand Wiley Wallaby compares to Sour Punch Bites, rising 38.6 percent over the year ending May 16 to earn just over $15 million. Last year, Wiley Wallaby introduced Berry Blast, its first mixed-flavor assortment, featuring Triple Berry, Huckleberry, Blueberry and Pomegranate twists. The brand also introduced Sourrageous Drops, which are bite-sized pieces of Wiley Wallaby’s classic red licorice in sour Watermelon, Green Apple and Lemon candy shells. At the 2021 Sweets & Snacks Expo, Kenny’s Candy unveiled Wiley Wallaby Very Berry Low-Sugar Gluten-Free licorice. Sweetened with allulose and stevia, each serving contains 1 gram of sugar and no gluten, dairy or high fructose corn syrup. Earlier this year, SmartSweets also launched gluten-free licorice twists. The company’s eighth innovation, the plant-based Red Twists are made without added sugars, sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners. “We are super proud of the Red Twists innovation, not only because they kick sugar, with only 2 grams of sugar per bag, but our squad has also innovated around gluten, creating a gluten-free licorice,” SmartSweets founder Tara Bosch said.

Future outlook

As consumers continue to gravitate toward non-chocolate chewy candy, interest in — and sales of — jellies, chews and licorice are likely to grow. In a November 2020 report, Technavio projected global sales of jelly candies to grow by $422 million between 2020 and 2024. The research firm noted 38 percent of the growth will come from the Asia-Pacific region, with China and Japan at the forefront. Rising disposable incomes, along with more distribution channels, such as convenience stores, independent stores and ecommerce, are expected to drive the growth. Meanwhile, research from Global Market Insights put the North American fruit snacks market at $1.8 billion in 2026. The market research firm cited their texture and ability to deliver functional ingredients, such as fiber and vitamins, as factors advancing their growth. Grand View Research valued the global fruit snacks market at $5.52 billion in 2020. The research firm projected it will approach $10 billion in 2027, growing at a CAGR of 9.2 percent. “Consumers have been opting for healthy treats to consume these between their meals, sometimes as meals,” the firm said. “Furthermore, with the rising preference for convenience food products due to the consumers' busy lifestyle, the sales of ready-to-eat healthy foods are expected to increase remarkably over the next few years. Vegetable and fruit-based foods that provide nutritional benefits without compromising on texture and taste are gaining traction among all the age groups, including kids, Millennials and Generation X, across the globe.”