CHICAGO – Sales of sugar-free chocolate have nearly doubled in the United States over the past five years, according a report published in September by IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. Pound sales rose to 21.4 million lbs in 2022 from 10.9 million lbs in 2017.

US retail sales of sugar-free chocolate products rose 27% over the 52-week period ended July 10, 2022, while volume sales were up 14%. Those percentages compared to overall chocolate sales increasing 9% and overall chocolate volume sales increasing 1.6%.

Greater assortment and new products are reasons for the sales increase in sugar-free chocolate, according to IRI. When comparing 2022 to 2021, 23% more sugar-free chocolate items are on shelves this year. In-stock rates for sugar-free chocolate have stayed above 90% since the first quarter of 2020. New sugar-free chocolate products include zero-sugar versions of Reese’s miniature cups, Hershey’s chocolate candy, to name a few.

Sugar-free sales in the chocolate category remained small at 1.5% in 2021, which compared to 0.8% in 2017. The percent of households buying sugar-free chocolate over the 52 weeks ended July 10 rose to 9.4%, up from 6.2% in 2019.

Sales of sugar-free non-chocolate candy were stagnant, however, slipping to 8.2 million lbs in 2022 from 8.9 million in 2017.

Claims promoting no-sugar or low-sugar items increased in sales by 14% over the 52 weeks ended Aug. 7, according to IRI. Opportunities exist to cross-promote sugar-free candy with other items frequently purchased by sugar-free candy buyers, including sugar substitutes, nutritional bars, fruit drink mixes and frozen dairy desserts, according to IRI.