Consumers have multiple views of chocolate.
Consumers associate it with romance, fun times and emotional eating—not all of it good. Restaurant chefs, enamored of its flavor profiles, design menus around it. Yet our nation feels conflicted by chocolate: consumers know the dark variety has antioxidants and some ability to lower blood pressure, yet we tend to overeat dark, milk and white chocolate, and expand our battle of the bulge.
The many ways America relates to chocolate, plus other trends F3 identifies (more on these later in the story), could make straight-line growth less certain in one of the world’s leading chocolate markets.
Worldwide, confectionery sales should exceed $208 billion by 2017, predicts Global Research & Data Services. That’s well ahead of 2011’s $185.5 billion, which was up 5% from 2010, GRDS’s latest available figures.
The study notes most confectionery sales occur in chocolate (55%) and in the category’s leading markets of United States, England, Brazil, Germany and Russia.
GRDS expects growth drivers to include new flavors and ingredients, and new products and packaging innovations.
By comparison, in the U.S., while domestic chocolate sales grew 19% between 2007 and 2012, Mintel anticipates slower growth of 15% between 2012 and 2017—due to challenges of obesity and the slow economic recovery. While 89% of consumers buy chocolate as a treat or reward, and 72% to lift their mood or energy levels, they don’t do so with abandon; Mintel says that 83% “look carefully at the size of chocolate candy packages to determine the best value for the money.”
F3 says other domestic trends could also impact U.S. chocolate sales, such as:
On the other hand, various research studies show snacking is up (and Mintel says 87% of consumers buy chocolate as a snacking option); men, who are shopping more, may buy more impulsively than women; and University of Warwick scientists infuse fruit juice into chocolate “to replace up to 50% of its fat,” reports Science Daily.
This mixed bag of trends has already led to mixed sales results at U.S. retailers, according to multiple-outlet data (including convenience stores) from Chicago-based market research firm IRi, provided by the National Confectioners Association. During the 52 weeks ended June 16, 2013, chocolate candy dollar sales rose 3.1% to $12.47 billion; in the prior 12 months, however, sales were down 0.9%.