Ethnic, organic could boost falling seasonal chocolate sales, report

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chocolate Mintel

Chocolate manufacturers suffering from a dip in sales of seasonal
products should consider introducing products for lesser holidays,
including traditionally ethnic celebrations, according to Mintel.

Such product placement would address a current gap in the market as well as contribute to recapturing declining seasonal sales, as consumers turn away from chocolate in favor of other gift options for the 'big four' chocolate holidays of Easter, Valentine's Day, Christmas and Halloween.

And according to Mintel, a good area of exploration is Hispanic holidays.

Indeed, with the Latino buying power forecast to reach around $1 trillion by 2010, food manufacturers have started to churn out a wide range of products targeting this group. But there is a marked shortage of seasonal goods in this category.

In a forecast update to its 2005 Seasonal Chocolate Confectionery report published this month, Mintel suggests that one Hispanic holiday that chocolate firms should target is Dia de los Reyes, or Three Kings Day, celebrated on January 6.

A major holiday in Mexico, the Three Kings Day has traditionally been the gift-giving time, rather than Christmas day.

"Just as it is common for children to leave cookies for Santa in the US, in some regions of Mexico, it is customary for children to leave their shoes out on the night of January 5, often filling them with hay for the camels, in hopes that the Three Kings would be generous. Mexican children awake on January 6 to find their shoes filled with toys and gifts,"​ writes Mintel.

Also traditional in Mexico is for families to gather together and share the Rosca de Reyes. The Rosca de Reyes is a crown-shaped sweet bread decorated with pieces of orange and lime, filled with nuts, figs, and cherries and served with hot chocolate.

"Manufacturers could make crown-shaped chocolate to celebrate the holiday and expand the 'seasons' for 'seasonal chocolate,'"​ said the market researcher.

Other holidays in which chocolate could be emphasized include Kwanzaa, Grandparents' Day, and Sweetest Day.

In its forecast update, Mintel also said that the premium seasonal chocolate market also remains an area of potential.

"The growing popularity of premium chocolate should work in favor of the seasonal chocolate market, but many American premium manufacturers do not emphasize seasonality as much as they could."

In Italy, for example, Easter can be celebrated with meticulously crafted, foot-long chocolate eggs and other confections that would only rarely be seen in the US.

One premium manufacturer that has explored the concepts of seasonal and premium is New York-based Chocolat Moderne, said Mintel. In 2005, the firm launched a line of Easter chocolate hand-painted with decorations inspired by Ukrainian Easter egg patterns.

But although there are many consumers willing to pay the extra cost for premium products, Mintel said that manufacturers should focus on providing goods in a wide price range.

"Manufacturers may consider making different 'tiers' of seasonal chocolate at different price points, ranging from premium down to economy products to encourage the purchase of chocolate for everyone on a consumer's shopping list, or to appeal to consumers who desire different qualities of chocolate,"​ it said.

Another area of potential for growth is the organic and natural sector, as consumers who look for these types of products are disappointed to find few if any organic or natural products specifically designed as 'seasonal.'

"Manufacturers could easily repackage or bundle organic bars into pleasing seasonal gift packs, and they could emphasize the good will prevalent in many seasonal settings by pointing out the products' healthful profiles or Fair Trade status,"​ said Mintel.

"As yet, there are few opportunities being explored in seasonal and organic/natural. While manufacturers such as Ashland, Oregon-based Dagoba have launched some 'seasonal' products, they have not yet produced packages especially for Christmas, Easter, etc. Instead, they have taken the concept and interpreted it with spring, summer, winter, and autumn flavors and packaging."

According to the updated figures published this month, total US sales of seasonal chocolate confectionery are forecast to fall 7 percent at current prices, and 21 percent at constant prices from 2006 to 2011. These figures compare to a 4 percent and a 16 percent decline respectively between 2001 and 2006.

The market value of this category is currently estimated to stand at $3.4bn, and by 2011 this figure is expected to fall to $2.7bn.

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