Customers Look to Chocolate as Valentine’s Day Approaches

Changes in consumer demands around sweets pose challenges to the category, but innovation helps lead the way.

Valentine’s Day means big chocolate sales for retailers as customers clamor for sweets—for their significant other as well as themselves.

In terms of dollar sales, Valentine’s Day is the third biggest holiday/season for the $22 billion U.S. chocolate candy industry, according market research firm Packaged Facts in the recent report U.S. Food Market Outlook 2018.

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Packaged Facts estimates that holiday/seasonal chocolates account for 24% of all sales in the U.S. chocolate candy market. Valentine’s Day with its heart-shaped boxes trails only Easter and Christmas in terms of market share, and scares up a victory over Halloween, which came in fourth.

“In America, the chocolate market enjoys incredible mass appeal, attracting everyone from high-end chocolate connoisseurs to the proverbial kids in a candy store to the amorous crowd purchasing sweets for their sweethearts or even themselves during Valentine’s Day,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

Holidays aside, the chocolate market is mature and challenges face the industry. These include changes in consumer demands for indulgent treats, the trend toward healthier eating and snacking, and the growing negative image of sugar and its impact on rising diabetes rates and concerns with childhood obesity. There are also concerns over the cocoa farming process, as well as over the supply of cocoa and other ingredients, which affects prices. Additionally shifts in shopping behavior such as self-checkout and online purchasing could decrease impulse purchases, which drive a high level of chocolate sales.

Nevertheless, the chocolate market is quite dynamic, with a strong pace of innovation, an influx of creative new players and a steady flow of new products that engage consumers. There remains strong consumer devotion to confectionery products and the growing perception of the product as an accessible luxury creates many opportunities to trade the consumer up to premium products both in terms of everyday usage as well as holiday/seasonal purchases.