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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Retailers should prepare for Valentine's Day by stocking plenty of chocolates, as Americans overwhelmingly prefer it over flowers (69 percent vs. 31 percent), according to a nationwide survey conducted by the National Confectioners Association (NCA). However, more men than women prefer chocolate, 83 percent vs. 59 percent.
The survey of more than 1,300 adult consumers also found that caramel is the most popular flavor in a box of Valentine's Day chocolates, as selected by 34 percent of respondents. Chocolate-covered nuts (24 percent), cream-filled and chocolate-filled pieces (13 percent, respectively) are also popular.
Total U.S. confectionary sales for Valentine's Day 2014 are projected to reach $1.057 billion -- a 1.9-percent increase over 2013. Chocolate makes up approximately 75 percent of candy sales at Valentine's Day.
"Americans have a longstanding tradition of sharing candy with family, friends and colleagues during the holidays," said NCA Vice President of Communications Susan Whiteside. "Valentine's Day is no exception, with 83 percent of respondents citing the February holiday as a top candy-sharing occasion. There's no question that sweet treats have a special place in everyone's heart this holiday season."
The NCA found that Americans' purchasing habits have changed slightly compared to five years ago; 28 percent of respondents report buying more healthy options, such as dark chocolate or chocolate with added nuts and fruit, while roughly 20 percent are buying more portion-sized seasonal chocolate and candy. Additionally, 22 percent are buying more of what's on sale, and 16 percent are buying more high-end or specialty seasonal products and packages.
Other purchasing trends for 2014 include:
- Nearly 65 percent believe holiday candy should feature seasonal packaging and colors, such as red and pink for Valentine's Day, while approximately 35 percent feel it is unnecessary to create special holiday packaging.
- Personal preferences carry the most influence when purchasing a particular kind of seasonal candy, followed by price and family preferences.
- Almost 76 percent of female respondents say children have no influence on their seasonal candy purchases, while only 46 percent of male respondents say the same.
Survey participants also shared how they enjoy the mental benefits of Valentine's Day and how they practice moderation:
- Nearly 62 percent agree that celebrating holidays like Valentine's Day brings happiness in tough economic times.
- Approximately 74 percent said that eating healthfully can include the enjoyment of seasonal candy.
- Many American parents practice moderation with their children, with 41 percent giving them a certain number of pieces of candy per day until it runs out.