In 2021, chocolate saw increases in dollars, units and volume, according to the National Confectioners Association (NCA). Sales growth continues to accelerate, driven by more frequent trips and larger baskets.
Across demographics, consumers agree that chocolate belongs in a “happy, balanced lifestyle,” according to NCA’s 2021 “Getting to Know Chocolate Consumers” report. Still, consumers’ chocolate preferences, consumption and shopping vary as widely.
So, which type of chocolate ranks highest among overall consumers?
NCA’s report explored three chocolate segments: mainstream, premium and fine chocolate. Eighty percent of consumers purchase at least two out of those three segments. Ultimately, NCA found that milk is America’s most popular chocolate type.
However, it’s not quite that simple: The preference for dark chocolate increases with consumers’ age. Among those who prefer dark or a mix of chocolate types, 41% say the cacao percentage influences their purchase decision. A cacao percentage range of 71% to 75% is most popular, followed by 66% to 70%.
Further, NCA reports that almonds are the top ingredient consumers like to combine with chocolate, ahead of peanuts/peanut butter and caramel/toffee. Mint and coconut tie for fourth. And just 3% of consumers said they prefer no inclusions in their chocolate.
Among consumers who mostly purchase mainstream and premium chocolate, manufacturer brands were the top preference over store brands. Manufacturer brands also represent the vast majority of sales, at 98% of chocolate dollars.
And between American-made chocolate and European-made chocolate, nearly half (46%) said there’s no difference, almost third (29%) said European is better, and a quarter (25%) prefer American-made.