Special Report

States Spending the Most on Sweets

John Harrington

Detailed Findings

Even though the candy industry has been under siege over concerns about obesity and diabetes, America is still consuming lots of sweets.

America’s love affair with candy means huge profits for companies that manufacture, distribute, and sell candy. The National Confectioners Association, the trade group for the candy industry, recently released a report detailing the industry’s economic impact on the American economy. The Washington, D.C.-based group estimates the industry’s economic output at $44.6 billion. According to the NCA, the industry directly employs 54,000 workers and supports another 550,000 jobs nationwide. There are jobs in the confectionery industry in every state.

With consumer confidence high, candy makers have reason to be optimistic about candy sales for Halloween. The National Retail Federation forecasts consumers will spend $2.6 billion on candy this holiday. According to the NRF, 95% of those celebrating Halloween will purchase candy.

In the United States, there does not seem to be any consensus on the biggest-selling candy. According to the blog CandyStore.com, Skittles and Candy Corn are the top-selling candies in five states, followed by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (four states), and Jolly Ranchers and Milky Way (three states). Venerable sweets such as Twix, Snickers, Tootsie Pops, and M&M’s are the top choices in various states and will find their way into Halloween bags this year.

“Spicy candy is having a resurgence,” said Clair Robins, a spokeswoman for CandyStore.com. ”It has to do with Mexican candy’s increased popularity and availability. Also, the younger generation is more attracted to big flavors and colors than previous generations who may have preferred rich and smooth flavors. Hot Tamales, Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, Swedish Fish are not what kids raised in the 80s typically considered top- tier candy bounty. Reese’s Cups and Snickers bars ruled the day back then. Those big names are still very much powerhouses, but the stuff with a sour or spicy kick or vivid sugary flavors is what the kids [today] like.”

In 2015, chocolate maker Hershey Co. published a report on which states consumed the most sweets per capita, and the top state was Utah. Utah’s prolific sweets consumption has had an impact on obesity measures. According to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Utah has the nation’s lowest obesity rate among those between the ages of 10 and 17, and the fifth-lowest rate among adults at 25.3%. However, that percentage of obese adults has risen dramatically. In 2000, 17.3% of adults in the state were considered obese, and in 1990, that figure was just 9%.

Consumption of candy remains strong even as organizations such as the World Health Organization and the World Cancer Research Fund have issued reports about the dangers of too much sugar consumption and how it contributes to childhood obesity.


To identify the states spending the most on sweets, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of candy stores (defined as stores selling candy and / or chocolate) per 100,000 people for each state’s largest cities (cities with a population over 100,000). If a state did not have at least five cities with a population above 100,000, then the largest five cities were considered in order to give each state proper representation.

Data on candy stores by city was obtained from Yelp!. Population data was obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey, and are 5-year averages. Each State’s top three candies was obtained from CandyStore.com, and is for 2018. Each state’s candy economic output came from the National Confectioners Association’s 2018 economic impact report.