A year of chocolate: Mintel’s new product launches database reveals American sweet-tooth trends

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock/AND-ONE
Photo: iStock/AND-ONE

Related tags New product development Chocolate

Holiday celebrations call for candy, especially chocolate. But while celebratory times see peak chocolate product launches and sales, the category’s performance is quite flat year-round in developed markets.

Analyzing Mintel’s Global New Products Database​, the research firm found that seasonal launches make up a quarter of all global chocolate new product launches in 2016—the biggest area of chocolate new product development. (In case you were curious, here's a glimpse of what new chocolate and candy products launched for this year's Easter).

“Our research shows that seasonal chocolate tops all chocolate new product development, a testament to the popularity of seasonal treats among consumers across the globe,”​ said Marcia Mogelonsky, Director of Insight, Mintel Food and Drink.

“This reflects the fact that these products are typically bought to help celebrate holidays or special occasions,”​ she added. “With this in mind, seasonal chocolate is somewhat immune to recessionary pressures as these products are bought on an occasional basis.”

Year-round chocolate sales not as strong

Holidays are peak candy-buying season in the US, but other than that, chocolate sales remain flat in general, echoing chocolate sales trends in other developed economies, according to Mintel’s data.

“Our research reveals that changes in per capita consumption points to an important shift in consumers’ eating habits, as consumption of chocolate confectionery is declining in the top five markets,”​ Mogelonsky said. “The big issues revolve around permissibility and the blurring of lines between snacks and confectionery.”

Still, the US leads with volume sales.

“Even though boundaries are fading, there is still something about chocolate confectionery that has remained constant,” ​she added. “Chocolate is still a treat and, as something special, it typically gets a pass. While consumers may be looking for more healthy foods, they will trade health for indulgence when it comes to chocolate.”

More ethical, please!

Another trend the firm extracted from its new product launch database is that 17% of new products claim some ‘ethical-human’ ​positioning, which Mintel defines as claims like fair trade, Rainforest Alliance, and so on.

It is still a small part of the chocolate category, making up only 6% of chocolate new product introductions globally (and US consumers buy less of these​ compared to European shoppers). But there was a great increase—organic chocolate launches jumped by 6% between 2014 and 2016.

“Consumer demand is likely to be the major impetus for more conversion to organic offerings,”​ Mintel said in a press release. “In the US, 15 percent of chocolate buyers purchase organic products.”

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