Sugarfree Is a U.S. Growth Leader in Chocolate, Results Mixed in Non-Chocolate

A version of this article originally appeared in Candy & Snack TODAY.

In the United States, chocolate had a solid 2020 with sales gains accelerating further in 2021. One of the contributors to growth has been sugarfree chocolate, which seems to be uniquely positioned to continue to grow in the U.S. market. While only about 1.4 percent of total U.S. chocolate sales, the U.S. sugarfree sector managed 27.4 percent growth in dollars and 19 percent in pounds, according to data from Information Resources, Inc. (IRI).

Reports indicate U.S. sugarfree chocolate sales are growing across channels. The share of total chocolate sales generated by sugarfree is the highest in the drug store channel, at 2 percent. Additionally, American drug stores are seeing impressive double digit growth, at 28.4 percent for the latest 52 weeks. Conversely, sales through American convenience stores are very low, representing less than 0.1 percent of total chocolate sales.

The success in sugarfree chocolate is not a pandemic-only phenomenon, reports Anne-Marie Roerink, founder of 210 Analytics, LLC, but rather a multi-year area of growth. Gains in the U.S. have been in the double digits since 2018.

Success Mixed In Non-Chocolate

Sugarfree is an area of growth for U.S. non-chocolate in terms of dollars, but U.S. unit sales experienced some pressure during the latest 52 weeks. The sector represents 1 percent of total U.S. non-chocolate sales in the multi-outlet channels, according to IRI. Growth is far below average, at 0.8 percent in the past year.

The drug channel in the United States has an above-average share of sugarfree as a percentage of total U.S. non-chocolate sales, at 2.7 percent. U.S. sales of sugarfree non-chocolate represent less than 0.1 percent in the convenience store channel. Overall results are mixed, with the American grocery channel experiencing sales increases of 1.7 percent. Meanwhile, U.S. sales declined in drug and convenience stores during the most recent 52 weeks.

The longer five-year look shows that sugarfree non-chocolate sales have hovered around $90 million to $100 million in the U.S. market for some time. Slight year-on-year dollar increases alternate with slight decreases, with dollar increases tending to coincide with price increases.

 Dollar sizeDollar growthVolume size (lbs)Volume growth
Total chocolate$15.8B+5.8%2.1B+0.8%%
Sugar-free chocolate$226M+27.4%19.0M+19.0%

Source: IRI, MULO+C, 52 weeks ending 8/8/2021

Sugar-free chocolateDollar sizeShare of total chocolate dollarsDollar growth
Multi-outlet plus convenience$226.2M1.4%+27.4%
Multi outlet$225.6M1.8%+27.4%
Drug stores$33.7M2.0%+28.4%
Convenience stores$0.5M<0.1%+60.7%

Source: IRI, MULO+C, MULO, Food, Drug and Convenience, 52 weeks ending 8/8/2021

Sugar-free chocolateDollar sizeDollar growth

Source: IRI, MULO+C, calendar years 2016-2020

 Dollar sizeDollar growthUnit salesUnit growth
Total non-chocolate$9.2B+8.8%4.7B+3.5%
Sugar-free non-chocolate$92.7M+0.8%36.1M-7.7%

Source: IRI, MULO+C, 52 weeks ending 8/8/2021

Sugar-free non-chocolateDollar sizeShare of total non-chocolate dollarsDollar growth
Multi-outlet plus convenience$92.7M1.0%+0.8%
Multi outlet$91.9M1.4%+0.8%
Drug stores$22.8M2.7%-3.6%
Convenience stores$0.7M<0.1%-8.6%

Source: IRI, MULO+C, MULO, Food, Drug and Convenience, 52 weeks ending 8/8/2021

Sugar-free non-chocolateDollar sizeDollar growth

Source: IRI, MULO+C, calendar years 2016-2020

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