April 7, 2012 at 1:43 PM ET
Americans love chocolate. Apparently, Easter Week is one of the most popular times of the year to indulge. Nearly 71 million pounds of chocolate candy are sold in the week leading up to Easter, according to a 2009 Nielsen report. Second only to Halloween, more than 20 million more pounds of chocolate are sold during Easter than Valentine’s Day.
But what kinds of chocolate do Americans like the best? 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the brands that consumers buy most to identify the top 10 most popular chocolates in the country.
Two companies dominate the list: Mars Inc. and the Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY). The two produce every brand among the top 10 most popular chocolate candies. With each producing five of the top 10 brands, the chocolate giants are in fierce competition.
The histories of the most popular chocolates illustrate how lasting brand loyalty can be. Eight of the 10 most popular chocolates were introduced more than half a century ago. Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme, the newest brand in the top 10, is nearly two decades old.
24/7 Wall St. ranked the candies by units sold in supermarkets, drugstores, gas stations, convenience stores and mass market retailers (excluding Walmart) in the 52 weeks that ended March 18, 2012, based on data provided by SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm. According to SymphonyIRI’s methodology, chocolate candy sizes fall into one of three categories: candy weighing less than 3.5 oz, candy weighing more than 3.5 oz, and snack size. Our ranking is based on sales of candy units weighing less than 3.5 ounces, the size of an average American candy bar.
These are America’s favorite chocolate brands.
Snickers is the most popular chocolate candy in the country, with more than 400 million units of the less than 3.5 oz variety sold in the 52 week period ending March 18. This amounted to more than $424 million in sales. It is also the world’s most popular candy bar, according to the company. The chocolate bar, which includes peanuts, caramel, and nougat, all covered in chocolate, has been around since 1930. Nowadays, more than 15 million Snickers are produced each day. Snickers also dominates the snack size category, selling more than 48 million units in the same 52 week period.
Conceived as a convenient way to carry chocolate and avoid melting, the hard-shelled candy was originally sold exclusively to the military. Today, M&M’s are the second-most popular chocolate candy in the country. The candy has achieved many milestones, including being the first candy to be sent into outer space. M&M’s are the most popular chocolate candy for units weighing 3.5 oz or more, thanks to the sale of larger bags of the product.
Reese’s peanut butter cups were invented in the early 1920s by Harry Burnett Reese while he worked in the Hershey factory in Hershey, Penn. Reese left and founded the H.B. Reese Candy Company to sell the candies. It was not until 1963 that Hershey, then known as the Hershey Chocolate Company, bought the Reese’s company, along with the rights to its peanut butter cups. Reese’s is now the third most-popular chocolate in the under 3.5 oz category by units sold, as well as earning the second-most in sales.
Nearly 250 million Hershey’s bars of the less than 3.5 oz variety were sold in the 52 weeks ending March 18. The product debuted in 1900 and is now considered an iconic American chocolate bar. During World War II, the company produced more than one billion Hershey’s bars as rations for U.S. troops. Hershey’s is the second=most popular chocolate candy in the larger than 3.5 oz category. It is the fifth-most popular snack size.
5. Kit Kat
Kit Kat is the fifth-most popular chocolate candy in the under 3.5 oz category, and the eight-most popular in the larger than 3.5 oz category. Snack size Kit Kat is the sixth-most popular. After the classic Hershey’s bar, Kit Kat is the company’s most popular chocolate bar. The four finger chocolate covered wafer was first released in London in 1935 under the name Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp. Popularity of the chocolate grew rapidly two years later, when it was renamed Kit Kat, according to the company.