Candy companies–or confectionaries as they’re known in the industry–are big business. Everyone loves sweets and many are affordable enough to survive a recession. However, a lot of people are surprised to learn who the biggest and most profitable candy companies in the world are. Here’s the sweet list of winners.

#1. Mondelez International (formerly Kraft Foods Inc.)

Upon first blush, many people don’t realize that Kraft actually has (or had) a wide assortment of sweets available. Favorites like Toblerone and a number of hospitality mints that restaurants across the nation depend on belong to this family. Mondelez recently acquired Kraft Foods and specializes in sweets of all types of varieties.

#2. Mars, Inc.

Mars bars are a staple in the candy aisle and surprisingly rake in more dough than seemingly more popular brands. With $16.2 billion in net sales in 2011, the company brings in billions more than the remaining three companies. Dove and 3 Musketeers are in the Mars family, but what’s surprising (and a tad worrisome) is that Mars is actually known for two types of products: candy and dog food.

#3. Nestle SA

Based in Switzerland, Nestle brought in $12.8 billion in net sales in 2011. A favorite around the world, Nestle also specializes in dog food. From coffee and tea to baking chips, it seems like Nestle has a hand when it comes to anything that needs a little sweetening. However, they’re especially well known in the US for their Wonka bars.

#4. Ferrero Group

The go-to chocolates for special occasions and holidays, the Italian brand brought in $9.6 billion in sales in 2011 with just a little over 21,000 employees. That’s a much smaller operation than Nestle–which requires 283,000 employees. Ferrero succeeds due to the unique taste and continuous top notch quality.

#5. Hershey Foods Corp.

Hershey is considered by some to be the top confectioner in the world–or at least in the US–but it slides in at number five. With $6.1 billion in sales in 2011 and only 14,400 employees, it’s a relatively small operation. Perhaps it has something to do with those Hershey bars getting increasingly smaller as the years go by that has it coming in last.

Confectionary might be a sweet business, but all five of these companies worked hard to make it to the top and succeed in the world of cybercandy where anything can be ordered online. By branching out and including other products, they’re able to survive in a tough economy. After all, everyone needs a little celebration–or to satisfy a sweet tooth–every now and then.