A rise in the North American cocoa grind is a positive sign for the mature US chocolate market, but analysts predict health-concerns will challenge future growth.
Figures supplied by the National Confectioners Association (NCA) from 17 cocoa processors operating in the US, Canada and Mexico, including Blommer Chocolate, Hershey, Mars and Barry Callebaut showed a 4.37% rise in the fourth quarter cocoa grind to 125,332 metric tons (MT).
Modest growth for mature market
Mintel’s director of insight Marcia Mogelonsky told ConfectioneryNews the numbers – an indicator of consumer demand for chocolate in the region - were a positive sign for the US market.
“The chocolate industry in the US - and we have to remember that the figures also include Mexico and Canada - is doing very well as consumers continue to enjoy the products.”
“Nonetheless, it should be remembered that the market is a mature one, and Mintel projects CAGR 2013-17 at 2.7% with volume growth at 1.1% over the same period.”
Chocolate: An indulgent allowance
Mogelonsky said that chocolate remained an indulgent allowance in the face of a consumer health drive – but added that over a fifth of consumers were eating less chocolate than a year ago.
Last week, The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) released a study showing that Americans’ calorie consumption had declined by 118 calories per person per day between 2005-06 and 2009-10.
“More than half of those chocolate eaters who have cut back on consumption do so for health reasons,” said Mogelonsky.
Mintel research from December 2012 found that 21% of US chocolate consumers claimed to eat less than they did a year ago. 59% said they were cutting back to control their weight, while 15% said chocolate was too expensive to buy regularly.
Premium sales boost
However, the premium segment continues to capture interest and drive sales, said the analyst.
Mintel estimates that the US premium chocolate sector accounts for 10-12% of the US chocolate confectionery market. But "mass premium" products such as Lindt's Hello brand – which retails below traditional premium price points – have begun beginning to blur the lines between premium and mass market products.