11 Grocery Store Chains With Impressive Candy Aisles

When shoppers venture into the supermarket candy aisle, it isn't exactly like getting a golden ticket into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Aside from the lack of warbling Oompa-Loompas, the candy selection can be pretty standard — think the time-tested standards, like Hershey's and Nestlé. While it's true that most candies have the same ingredients, it's that something special element — from natural components to additives like hemp or even Dom Perignon — that can make an expensive brand stand out from its cheaper neighbors.

But not every establishment offers the same sweets. Some regional grocery stores may offer an eclectic mixture of chocolates that can become your next favorites at the right prices, while national supermarkets may carry hard candies and sweets from diverse cultures. Even if the grocery chain isn't in your area, a little digging can probably unearth an alternative that can take your candy fix to the next level. 

Here are 11 grocery chains that have aisles that are more than just eye candy. While the list leans toward stores that have SoCal origins, most have branched out across the nation, and all have accessible websites. So get your confectionery carts loaded, and mum's the word to your dentist.

Seasonal candies at Trader Joe's

No list can be complete without Trader Joe's. It offers a wide variety of international candies, all under its whimsical house label. A glance at any list ranking Trader Joe's best snacks can give a glimpse of its choice offerings, from simple chocolate nut bars to gourmet jelly beans. Incredibly, some of the candies are kept in the frozen foods aisle, where the open coolers may extend the candies' shelf life — and situated next to the ice cream.

There's more! Trader Joe's expands its hefty selection during the holidays. So, you can find peppermint chocolate goodies throughout December and treats shaped into robin eggs and rabbits during Easter.

The national grocery chain enjoys a high reputation with its fans, but there are a couple of sour notes that can put a damper on your sweet spot. For one thing, the company's ongoing search for new flavors and treats means that competition for shelf space is through the roof. Some favorites, like Minty Mallows, might get discontinued quietly. A bit more worrisome for candy aficionados is the investigation into Trader Joe's select dark chocolate, which allegedly contains traces of lead and cadmium that can be associated with health risks, including cancer, hypertension, and immune system compromises, according to a press release. While this report is a cause for concern, Trader Joe's candy aisle is still overall impressive in its scope and selection.

European specialties with Aldi

As Aldi hails from Germany, this supermarket is a go-to while being easy on the wallet if you have continental tastes. Aldi's produce and fresh foods might be sourced from local growers, but its candies and confectioneries originate across the Atlantic. Although Europe and the U.S. observe different holidays, Aldi has been keen on carrying foods for every occasion, from Shamrock ice cream and other delectable goodies during St. Patrick's Day to the viral NSFW Easter marshmallows and Winternacht pfeffernüsse cookies for Christmas.

But Aldi doesn't slouch on a normal day with its regular candy aisle either. Its chocolates are imported from Europe, which means that its candies and sweets are authentically continental in taste, selection, and servings, all at a reasonable price. If chocolate bars don't appeal, look at its dipped fruits and nuts, marzipan, and other sweets. The affordable prices allow you to splurge rather than shop at other European-centered outlets and importers that would charge a pretty penny more than Aldi.

Asian sweets at 99 Ranch

Back in the last century, going to an Asian supermarket meant navigating aisles looking for soy sauce, rice, and instant noodles — staples that mainstream supermarkets now stock on the regular in various Asian foods sections.

But one thing that Ralphs and Safeway haven't picked up on yet is Asian treats. If you're looking for lychee jellies, White Rabbit candies, or Haw Flakes, you'll have to venture to an Asian supermarket like H Mart or 99 Ranch. These larger supermarkets have transformed shopping for Asians in America — and shoppers who cook authentic Asian-style dishes

For those who love American brands like Nestlé and Hershey's (and who doesn't?), you'll be pleased to see that 99 Ranch and H Mart also stock American candies. Some cater to the Asian market, like matcha or sweet potato Kit Kat bars. If you want to have a taste of a Nesquik hard candy, drop by your local Asian supermarket and see what else they stock on its shelves.

Go gourmet at Whole Foods

Whole Foods has gone through some pretty heady shifts since Amazon took over in 2017 with leadership changes and experiments with new features and cart technologies

But just because Whole Foods went high-tech doesn't mean its candy selection isn't still down to earth with responsibly sourced cocoa and manufacturing processes. You won't see Hershey's or Mars, but try Tony's Chocolonely collection or Whole Foods' house brand, 365 — they have peanut butter cups, dipped pretzels, and gummies. However, some of the 365 selections can be hit or miss, which is a shame, considering that the prices, like its nutritional value, are "wholer" than most other supermarkets.

There is another downside if Whole Foods is your go-to supermarket. Whole Foods' sweet offerings section is sometimes barely an actual "aisle"; some Whole Foods' candy selection takes up about 8 feet at most and shares space with the nuts and trail mix.

Pack your own candies at Sprouts Farmers Market

As its logo and name suggest, Sprouts Farmers Market tends to go heavy on vegetables and fruits from local farms. This means that organic and natural foods are its main focus, which can be a benefit to shopping at Sprouts. 

Another advantage of shopping at Sprouts is that its regular candy aisle is stocked with locally-made candies and goods from food startups. But its main attraction is its farmer's market approach, where you can pick and choose your favorite flavors from bulk bins. If you have a hankering for chocolate-covered almonds, you can fill up a bag according to your appetite and budget. Its taffy selection is also first-rate by side-stepping the manufacturers' pre-packaged variety bags. Instead, select your favorite colors and flavors and pay by the pound.

The downside is that we can get carried away when filling our bags. Make sure to check your bag on the scales before and after scoops to avoid over-filling. 

More than gasoline at Buc-ee's

If you're not sure whether everything's actually bigger in Texas, look no further than Buc-ee's, the sensational chain that boasts the largest gas station in the world. In addition to petrol, its convenience store is much, much more than a pit stop.

Buc-ee's is more like a miniature department store, with its iconic beaver mascot stamped on almost all its products, from stuffed animals and t-shirts to souvenir artwork. It has walls and walls of candy laid out with a complete line of gummies, malted milk balls, sour balls, mint tins, cotton candy buckets, burnt peanuts, and other familiar hard candies. Some of the more unusual treats include pecan brittle, white fudge twists, and rice crispy. If you venture outside the candy selection, you'll definitely want to stock up on beaver nuggets, a puff corn snack. 

Everything can be packed up to go for when you're ready to get back on the road, which makes Buc-ee's one of the nation's convenience store chains with the best food. Buc-ee's shows that even a pit stop can be impressive.

Buy in bulk at Smart & Final

Warehouse grocers like Sam's Clubs and Costco dot our nation's food landscape, but one wholesale grocer you might not think about is Smart & Final. This chain dates back to 1871 and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2021. Smart & Final is smaller in size and layout than Walmart and Costco because it specializes only in groceries rather than non-food items. 

It offers bulk packages of all the standard candies, like Hershey's, Skittles, Sour Punch, and Airheads. You'll typically see carton-full sizes of the single candy bars found at any check-out counter — think a 24-pack box of Hot Tamales or a bag of assorted Tootsie Rolls. If you just want to scratch the itch rather than commit to a whole tub of Peanut M&M's, Smart & Final usually has regular-sized options as well. 

One drawback is that Smart & Final doesn't have many sugar-free candies, and you won't find any boutique chocolates here. Still, it's the way to go when filling a candy jar at work, contributing to a fundraiser at school, or for your stash at home. The aisles are always stocked, and the prices are competitive with other wholesale clubs — without paying a membership fee.

Get twice the candy selection at Target

Target is usually not thought of as a grocery store, but the chain has been making a major push to re-brand itself and focus on groceries as it competes with Walmart and other discount chains. For the past several years, Target's overall sales have been slowing down, but its food division has been making headway, including a hit line of budget-friendly store-brand groceries.

For those with a sweet tooth, this has paid off handsomely. Target has always offered packaged snacks and candies, but its foray into grocery has expanded its selection of candies. A regular Target store commonly has two aisles devoted to candies, many of them in party-sized varieties. Target's in-house brand, Favorite Day, offers a whole line of candies, from sour candy and sea salt caramels to chocolate bars and dipped peanuts.

The downside is that Target's success in the grocery business might be its own enemy. A lot of candies are typically out of stock on any given day, which might be hard for impulse buyers. When thinking of making a grocery run at Target, check its website to make sure certain items are in stock before you head out.

Widest variety at Gelson's

Gelson's might not be as well-known as other entries, but for its loyal fan base, this Southern California-based supermarket chain is known for its comprehensive approach to gourmet and local foods. Its vegetables are hand-picked and often makes the cut for lists featuring popular produce selections or hand-crafted, private-label wines.

As for candies, it has the widest variety of sweets by far, from the standard chocolate bars, gums, and hard candies to more eclectic offerings sharing the same shelf space. Be it Lindt, Ghiradelli, Honey Mama's, Endangered Species, or regional exclusives like See's Candies chocolates, you can satiate your appetite for plain ol' chocolate, sugar-free fare, and organic and vegan choices.

As one might suspect, Gelson's wide variety and its gourmet treats make its prices a bit higher than other supermarkets. The upside is that stores are generally less crowded than, say, Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, and the store staff are eager to recommend their top picks if you're hoping to find a new favorite.

Best deals for $1 at the 99 Cents Only Stores

It's a common lament: What do you expect for 99 cents? But don't let 99 Cents Only Stores' reputation for cheap goods fool you. A report has shown that dollar stores have been recording huge profits after expanding its food selection. At the 99 Cents Only Stores, you'll find name-brand chocolates and candies that we all know and love. And oftentimes, they're heavily discounted. If the best-buy date for that Hershey bar hasn't passed, then it'll have the same taste and texture that you'd expect from a regular supermarket.

One caveat to the 99 Cents Only Stores is that its selection is always changing, depending on its suppliers. A great deal might be a one-time event. Another downside is that the candy aisle itself might seem a bit messy — and even picked through a bit. Still, you'll be able to satisfy your sweet cravings and take it to the bank. In this case, a penny saved is a penny earned.

Erewhon for elite tastes

Erewhon may be one of the best gourmet grocery stores in Los Angeles, but it has a reputation for being hard on the wallet. Though famous for embodying everything that's bad about Los Angeles and its overpriced veggies and smoothies, Erewhon uses local suppliers and small businesses to help stock its shelves, which means that many of its brands are unique and exclusive. 

Due to this reason, its candy selection is small. The serving sizes are also small, just like everything else in the market, but the most important part to note is the steep prices. Where else can you locate a four-pack of organic chocolate bar going for $32 other than Erewhon? The chocolates and hard candies consist of unusual ingredients that are worth a try, but for those who are budget-conscious, shopping at Erewhon is probably a once-in-a-blue-moon experience rather than a regular excursion.