One thing is apparent in the chocolate category: people still like to snack. Mintel, in its 2016 Chocolate Confectionery study, showed $17 million in sales that year and a projected 19% growth in sales through 2020.
“Chocolate sales were up in 2017. Most of the growth has come from king-size, resealable pouch bags and innovation,” said Mike Clifford, category manager at Clifford Fuel.
Packaging continues to be important to sales, both in terms of labeling and size. Mintel’s “Chocolate, Sugar and Gum Confectionery 2018” study indicated that labeling is key to acceptance, which drives product introductions. Last year, introductions of products called “bites” grew 50%, while product offerings called “light” declined 22%. The study also projected box/bag/bars greater than 3.5 ounces to continue to increase above other segments within chocolate, to nearly $8 million in sales by 2020.
Of course, the key drivers of growth are flavor combinations, texture and spice. Sweet and salty continues to be a trend, and in 2018, spiciness and similar combination profiles are expected from major candy makers.
“While demand is consistent, but not rising, innovation in the category is evolving to match changing tastes,” said Dan Donovan, a GetGo spokesman. “We’ve noted the increased presence of dark chocolate options as well as hot and spicy flavor profiles.”
MIXING IT UP
The Hershey Co. and Mars Wrigley Confectionery are contributing to both trends. Hershey’s Gold bars include caramelized crème and salty peanut and pretzel bits, while Mars’ Snickers Hunger bars offers three introductions: the salty sweet Indecisive?; the fiery Wimpy?; and the espresso-infused Irritable?
“The ‘sweet heat’ flavor is on fire this winter,” said George Puro, president of Puro Research Group. “Mars also introduced spicy Skittles Sweet Heat and Starburst Sweet Heat. Hershey, which does about 13% of its business in convenience stores, has also been busy bolstering its snack mix line. It recently introduced another sweet: Hershey’s and Reese’s Popped Snack Mixes, which includes pretzels, Reese’s Pieces peanuts, popcorn and Reese’s Minis.”
Other areas of innovation, according to both Puro and Mintel, include “clean snacking,” with no artificial flavors or colors; non-dairy milk chocolate; and texture.
With so many options, the chocolate category seems poised to continue its success, leading to many choices for consumers and convenience retailers, including competition for traditional favorite candies.
“I think chocolate will continue to perform well in 2018 due to what looks like strong innovation from Hershey, Mars and, now, Mondelez with the Oreo chocolate bars,” Clifford said. “Dark chocolate, white chocolate and mint chocolate make up a large part of the innovation. Mars seems to be vying for the customer base of Reese’s with chocolate peanut butter offerings from Snickers and Twix.”