Chocolate candy continues to maintain its status as an “accessible luxury,” as the overall market grew to approximately $22 billion in 2015—a 2.7% increase over 2014—according to George Puro, president of Puro Research Group, and author of the Packaged Facts report “Chocolate Candy in the U.S.”
In convenience stores in particular, the growth of chocolate candy continues to outpace other segments.
“Chocolate remains one of the most attractive impulse items for consumers,” said Sheril Retson, category manager—center of store for Chevron. “It has been growing at a steady 3% over the past few years, fueled, among other things, by innovation, big launches, seasonal editions and heavy advertising. With the introduction of new items from large manufacturers, such as Mars and Hershey, we expect to see the similar growth in 2016.”
By 2018, Packaged Facts expects sales of chocolate candy in the U.S. to exceed $26 billion for the first time.
Growing choices in terms of size, flavor and product will continue to build on that growth as the industry looks to continue the popularity noted by many researchers, including market research firm Mintel, which estimated that 85% of adults in the U.S. buy chocolate.
In its February “2015 Chocolate Confectionery—U.S.” study, Mintel indicated that sales of chocolate sizes greater than 3.5 ounces increased 31% from 2009-2014. So while the trend toward healthier options continues, larger sizes—both for sharing and portability—remain strong.
CHOCOLATE OF CHOICE
Whether it’s good economic times or bad, chocolate sales continue to rise, underscoring a consumer devotion to the category.
Chocolate companies have been paying attention to consumers’ desires for a variety of products, tastes, portion sizes and price points, and will continue to introduce different flavors and textures, portion and portability options and premium-level pricing.
This is good news for convenience stores that explore ways to fill more shelf space with chocolate candy products.
Because research has positioned cocoa as a superfood, chocolate has emerged as a somewhat healthy option for snacking so there is less guilt associated with purchasing king- size packaging.
“With respect to packaging, the focus remains on king-size items and bites/minis gusseted pouch pack types,” Retson said.
Flavor updates such as dark chocolate, gourmet salt, comfort food, coconut, almonds and super seeds will cater to younger customers and those with more diverse tastes.
“Young consumers are known to be obsessed with trying a diverse range of foods, and M&M’s is giving them the opportunity to try Coffee Nut, Honey Nut and Chili Nut flavors and vote for their favorite,” Puro said.
And with changing demographics bringing the desire for new flavors, including spices, sours and full-bodied flavors, chocolate will stay on top.
“Chocolate will remain a key focus area for manufacturers in 2016 and retailers alike,” Retson said.
Stay tuned to Convenience Store Decisions‘ March issue, where we delve into 38 in-store categories to identify emerging trends and garner retailer analysis to forecast what operators can expect for 2016 and beyond.