- Mars' Skittles brand is the country's leading non-chocolate candy, according to Nielsen data. Skittles nabbed the top spot last year, but Mars waited to announce it to be sure Skittles could maintain its position, according to the company.
- Mars’ Wrigley Americas President Casey Keller told Fortune that Skittles has benefited from well-received marketing campaigns, including Super Bowl appearances and its iconic "Taste the Rainbow" campaign, and new innovations for the brand, such as a limited edition red, white, and blue "America Mix" due out this summer.
- As demand for Skittles increased, Mars expanded production at its Wrigley plant in Yorkville, IL, when previously all Skittles sold in the U.S. were manufactured in Waco, TX. Skittles is under the Wrigley umbrella, which Mars acquired in 2008.
Despite being a traditionally sugar-laden product, Skittles and other candy's sales have continued to increase in the midst of declines from other sugary segments, such as soda, juice, and cereal.
Recent Nielsen data showed that while chocolate candy sales are higher, sales for non-chocolate candy, including Skittles, are growing faster, at 4.7% sales growth in the 52-week period ended April 30, 2016 compared to chocolate's 2% sales growth. Global sales for the non-chocolate candy category are expected to pass $78 billion by 2020, according to Technavio. The U.S. is anticipated to have the largest share of that market, hitting about $12.86 billion by 2020.
Many manufacturers are concerned about how the new Nutrition Facts added sugar line could impact sales and consumer perceptions of products, but candy has little to worry about. Candy brands can be transparent about added sugars without fear of much pushback.
Mars has long voiced its support for the added sugar line, bucking the sentiment of much of the industry. But Mars has also committed to making its products, including candy, healthier, by reducing salt and sugar and removing artificial colors.
The move to natural colors could particularly impact Skittles. Its vibrant colors are central to the product's appearance and an essential element of the "Taste the Rainbow" campaign Skittles has maintained since 1994. General Mills struggled to find the right fruit and vegetable juices to color the once brightly-colored Trix cereal, and the end result was fewer, less vibrant colors.
Finding natural colors that work with Skittles' recipe, particularly its hard candy shell, poses a challenge for Mars. But using fruit juices that coincide with the pieces' individual flavors could be a boost for the brand, as 24% of consumers said natural fruit juice is important when buying non-chocolate candy, according to Mintel research.