America’s Favorite Halloween Candy

24/7 Wall St.

Chocolate is big business, and Halloween is its biggest holiday. According to a recent survey from the National Confectioners Association, 72% of all candy spending this Halloween will be on chocolate. Last year, more than $12.6 billion was spent on chocolate in the United States, 3.8% more than the year before.

According to market research firm Information Resources Inc. (IRI), in the past 52 months ending September 8, Americans spent $3.9 billion to buy 3.5 billion chocolate bars, bags and boxes under 3.5 ounces, the standard size consumers pick up at a grocery store checkout. Reese's and M&M's each accounted for more than $500 million in sales. Based on IRI’s data, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 chocolate brands with the largest sales during the last year.

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The chocolate industry is extremely concentrated among just a few competitors. Each of the 10 best-selling chocolate brands is owned by either the Hershey Company (HSY) or Mars Inc. In the past year, Hershey made close to half of all standard-sized chocolate sales in dollars, and Mars accounted for nearly 38% of sales. Only two of the 20 most popular products, Nestle’s Butterfinger and Crunch, were made by another company.

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The two companies that dominate this market, Hershey and Mars, have been moving in different directions. Dollar sales for the top four Mars brands declined in the past year. Its worst-performing top brand was 3 Musketeers, which fell nearly 10% from the year before. By contrast, sales of all of Hershey’s top five brands grew over the past year, led by Kit Kat. Sales of that brand rose by more than 22% to over $300 million.

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Most top-selling chocolate brands have been long-time consumer favorites. The nation’s oldest top-seller, Hershey’s brand chocolate, has been available since 1900. Only two of the brands are relatively new -- introduced to the United States after 1950. Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme, the most-recent top-selling chocolate, debuted in 1994.

These brands not only compete for customer dollars at the checkout line, they also sell their products in other forms. Snack sizes -- miniature versions of a chocolate candy bar -- are especially popular with trick-or-treaters on Halloween. While most of the top standard size brands also rank among the highest for sales of snack-size chocolate, there are some exceptions. M&M's and 3 Musketeers are relatively less popular in snack size than in the standard size.

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Based on data from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm (@iriworldwide), 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the top 10 selling chocolate brands in the United States during the 52 weeks ending September 8, 2013. According to IRI’s methodology, chocolate candy sizes fall into multiple categories, including: weighing less than 3.5 oz, weighing more than 3.5 oz and snack size (which is excluded from the less than 3.5 oz category). Our ranking is based on sales of candy units weighing less than 3.5 ounces, which includes most standard size American candy bars. Sales listed were based on sales in U.S. multi-outlet and C-stores (supermarkets, drugstores, mass market retailers, gas/C-stores, military commissaries and select club and dollar retail chains.)

These are America's favorite Halloween candy.

10. Almond Joy
> Sales: $82.25 million
> Unit sales: 79.39 million
> Average price per unit: $1.04
> Introduced: 1946
> Company: Hershey Co.

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Almond Joy was introduced in 1946 as a version of the Peter Paul Mounds chocolate bar. Peter Paul merged with Cadbury Schweppes in 1978, and roughly 10 years later, Hershey acquired the company’s U.S. business. In the past 12 months, the brand was one of just 10 to sell more than $80 million in the under 3.5 oz. bar category, the size customers typically buy at the checkout line in a grocery store or supermarket.

9. Milky Way
> Sales: $93.46 million
> Unit sales: 90.83 million
> Average price per unit: $1.03
> Introduced: 1923
> Company: Mars Inc.

Mars has been selling Milky Way bars since 1923. The bar is not directly named after the galaxy containing our solar system, as some believe, but after a once-popular malted milk shake. In the past year, sales of standard-sized Milky Way bars rose by more than 5% to $93.4 million. This made the brand the only one of the company's top-sellers that did not lose market share over that time, based on IRI data. Sales of snack-sized Milky Way, typically popular around Halloween for trick-or-treaters, rose by more than 10%.

8. Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme
> Sales: $100.70 million
> Unit sales: 98.92 million
> Average price per unit: $1.02
> Introduced: 1994
> Company: Hershey Co.

Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme bar, introduced in 1994, is actually a relatively new addition to Hershey’s line of chocolate brands. It is also one of just eight brands to record sales of more than $100 million in the most recently available 52-week period. However, dollar sales of the brand were relatively flat over the past 52 weeks, rising roughly 1.7% -- too little to gain market share. By comparison, dollar sales of all Hershey standard-size brands rose by roughly 9%.

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7. 3 Musketeers
> Sales: $101.27 million
> Unit sales: 90.79 million
> Average price per unit: $1.12
> Introduced: 1932
> Company: Mars Inc.

Over the past year, sales of 3 Musketeers bars fell by 9.6% to just over $101 million, the second-largest drop of any major chocolate candy bar. Dollar sales of snack-sized 3 Musketeers also fell by about 4%. One potential explanation for the brand’s decline in sales may be less advertising. In March, Ad Week reported that “media spending on 3 Musketeers exceeded $6 million last year, down from about $15 million in 2011 and more than $17 million in 2010, according to Nielsen.” Mars has sold 3 Musketeers bars since 1932.

6. Twix 4 To Go
> Sales: $116.13 million
> Unit sales: 74.49 million
> Average price per unit: $1.56
> Introduced: n/a
> Company: Mars Inc.

Mars sold over $116 million of Twix 4 To Go bars, compared to just over $80 million of the traditional Twix bar over the most recently available 52 weeks. However, the standard Twix, which contains two cookie bars, still sold close to 88 million units, while Twix 4 To Go, containing four cookie bars, sold just under 75 million units. The difference was made up in the price. Twix 4 To Go costs an average of $1.56, the most expensive top-selling chocolate candy and more than 60 cents more than the average Twix bar.

5. Kit Kat
> Sales: $306.51 million
> Unit sales: 275.88 million
> Average price per unit: $1.11
> Introduced: 1935
> Company: Hershey Co.

Sales of few chocolate bars grew faster than Kit Kats over the past year. In that time, the number of Kit Kat bars sold rose 17.8%, while dollar sales rose by more than 22%. Recently, Kit Kat launched a co-promotion with Google, which code-named the most recent version of its Android operating system “KitKat." The Kit Kat brand, owned by Nestle, is popular worldwide. The Hershey Company, however, licenses and manufactures the chocolate in the United States.

4. Hershey’s
> Sales: $324.63 million
> Unit sales: 308.42 million
> Average price per unit: $1.05
> Introduced: 1900
> Company: Hershey Co.

Hershey has been making many of its most famous brands for decades, and it has made Hershey’s branded milk chocolate bars since 1900. Although most of the company’s brands have been around for quite a while, Hershey is planning to introduce its first new U.S. brand in decades in 2014. Sales of the company’s long-standing brands have risen recently, mostly because of advertising pushes. According to IRI, sales of standard-size Hershey’s-branded chocolate bars rose by nearly 8% in dollar terms and 7% in unit terms. The brand’s dollar sales for snack sizes, popular around Halloween, have also increased by nearly 12%.

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3. Snickers
> Sales: $456.91 million
> Unit sales: 412.81 million
> Average price per unit: $1.11
> Introduced: 1930
> Company: Mars Inc.

Snickers bar sales fell by more than 7% to just under 413 million units in the most recent 52 weeks available. This mirrored the decline in the under 3.5 oz category Mars faced across all of its brands, for which unit sales fell by 7.7%. Snickers has been around since 1930, and in recent years has made a major advertising push with its celebrity-filled, “You’re not you when you’re hungry,” campaign. The first commercial in the campaign, which aired during the 2010 Super Bowl, featured actress Betty White getting tackled in a backyard football game. It was an instant sensation.

2. M&M’s
> Sales: $500.82 million
> Unit sales: 435.18 million
> Average price per unit: $1.15
> Introduced: 1941
> Company: Mars Inc.

Sales of M&M's only trail sales of top chocolate brand Reese's by a small amount. But the brand lost its position as the best-selling chocolate after sales fell by more than 3% during the 52 weeks ending in early September. In terms of total units sold, M&M's did even worse, with unit sales down 7.5% from the same period the year before. M&M's also may not see the same sales boost other candy makers see during the Halloween season. Although it is the second highest selling regular size candy, it ranks only eighth among brands in snack-sized sales.

1. Reese's
> Sales: $509.85 million
> Unit sales: 407.44 million
> Average price per unit: $1.25
> Introduced: 1928
> Company: Hershey Co.

Reese's regular size (less than 3.5 oz) peanut butter cups jumped by 7.7% to just under $510 million in the past year, outstripping M&M's from its top spot as the best-selling chocolate. As a result, the brand overtook M&M's as the nation’s best-selling chocolate candy. Overall, with Reese’s and several other major brands sales growing over the past 12 months, the Hershey Company dominated the market for standard-size chocolate candy, accounting for roughly 49% of customer spending. Halloween marks a major sales opportunity for Reese's as well. The brand leads in sales of snack-sized packages, which are often given out to trick-or-treaters.

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