Sweet success as confectionery retailer begins expansion plans

Alan Sherrard of Sweetez, outside his new Belfast store
Emma Deighan

A new confectionery retailer here has plans to add three more stores to its portfolio over the next year.

Sweetez, which was launched in July 2021 in Armagh by Alan Sherrard, is a chain of three stores selling American branded goods, its own collection of ‘Gangsta Donuts’ and ice cream.

The company opened a Belfast store on the Cregagh Road at the weekend to address what Mr Sherrard says is a gap in the market.

It also launched a Portadown site at the Meadows Shopping Centre in June.

“We noticed a gap in the market for a good Northern Ireland confectionery shop. There are some independent shops that sell sweets or ice cream but there’s nothing there that is a real go-to destination for sweets, ice cream and gifts — an all-in-one and that’s our aim, to be a destination shop,” he said.

With every store opening Mr Sherrard has created 10 jobs.

The company currently employs 30 staff, which will increase as it expands.

He says TikTok and YouTube have exposed American brand products to a wider audience and demand for products including Takis crisps, Gatorade, Jolly Rancher and Swedish Fish sweets, is attracting people in store.

Sweetez will also begin stocking Dole Soft Serve ice cream, a vegan, low calorie product that has become famous because of its stores based in Disneyland.

“We want to have something for everyone. Vegan products are a growing area and we do see that brand being very successful here,” added Mr Sherrard.

“We’ve been very encouraged by the popularity of our existing stores and that will certainly see us open two or three stores over the next year.”

He says Sweetez own branded Gangsta Donuts will have its own business plan, having secured listings in other retail outlets here.

“That’s the goal — to grow it — not just in our own stores but other outlets. We’ve agreed sales with other retailers and that would be the long-term plan.”

According to the most recent Mintel Report covering the UK sugar and gum confectionery sector, volume sales for confectionery was expected to grow last year by more than 16%. It said while the pandemic created more focus on public health, driving a new sense of urgency to the UK government’s fight against obesity, consumer escapism and adventure still remains high.

Mr Sherrard agreed. He said: “It’s a definite growth area, that feel good treat area. Life’s been hard enough recently and I do feel people need that escape.”