Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago last month, Barry Callebaut director of marketing Laura Bergan, explained that consumer cravings for chocolate span from wanting to indulge fully (e.g. in a super-premium, full-calorie product) to living more consciously opting for products that convey a meaningful health or wellness claim (low- or sugar-free, etc.).
And somewhere in the middle is an emerging mindful indulgence behavior that is becoming increasingly prevalent with chocolate consumers today, she said.
"The new [behavior type] that emerged from our research is what we’ve titled ‘living a symbiotic life’ and that’s where consumers are wanting the best of both worlds. They’re looking for something that still tastes great, but it has to be better for them in some way," Bergen said, adding that 'better-for-you' can be a health attribute such as plant-based or broader such as better for the environment.
"All three of these indulgence types have their place, but we do see a lot of momentum going into this mindful indulgence concept," added Bergan, who said that many consumers classified within this behavior set see chocolate playing an important role in their personal wellbeing, noting that seven out of ten consumers are searching for products containing a "healthy boost of chocolate."
According to a recent survey from Barry Callebaut, 81% of consumers are seeking chocolate products that not only taste great but are also ‘good for me and good for the planet’ while 1 in 2 consumers say they would like to eat more plant-based foods.
Additionally, 47% of consumers reported to have purchased confectionery items they personally deem to have a “better-for-you” profile (though how that determination is made varies widely between demographic groups), the National Confectioners Association (NCA) 2022 State of Treating annual report found.
Plant-based chocolate on the rise
The emerging mindful indulgence behavior, Bergan said, is fueling the growth of certain chocolate sub-categories including allergen-free, dairy-free, plant-based, and organic.
According to a survey from Barry Callebaut, 82% of consumers believe there should be more plant-based chocolate options a shift that Barry Callebaut is seeking to address with expanded plant-based chocolate ingredient solutions.
"We’re seeing a lot more requests for plant-based chocolate, so we’ve put some expansion into that capability," said Bergan.
Highlighted at the show was the company's latest extension to its Plant Craft portfolio with a dairy-free organic chocolate joining other product solutions including the company's classic (non-organic) dairy-free chocolates, dairy-free compound, and cocoa powders along with a range of nut solutions and cacao fruit offerings including the pulp, juice, and concentrate.
Among its dairy-free chocolate ingredients solutions is the company's 'Milk-Like Chocolate', which offers customers a 100% plant-based creamy chocolate to traditional milk chocolate using various plant-based alternatives such as oat and rice non-dairy milk ingredients, according to Bergan.
"Consumers want real ingredients, the optic or perception that it’s better for them, reduced sugar – maybe not removing it all together – we really feel like that’s the movement moving forward," said Bergan.
Asked about the 'fourth type' of chocolate, Ruby Chocolate, which was developed, patented, and introduced by Barry Callebaut in 2017, Bergan said while not a highlight at the show, the chocolate variety is still an important part of the company's portfolio.
"It’s still very much a priority for us. You’re going to see more of it pop up in various products," she said.