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    Innovation in U.S. Chocolate Market Trailing Global Pace

    Europe accounts for 51 percent of new products.

    NEW YORK — Chocolate confectionery sales grew 24 percent over the five-year period from 2009 to 2014 and reached $21 billion in the United States, the world’s largest chocolate market, according to Mintel research. 

    Despite this growth, the U.S. trails global markets when it comes to benefiting from new product innovation. The global chocolate market grew 18 percent from 2013 to 2014 because of innovation. Europe accounted for 51 percent of all new launches, followed by Asia Pacific (21 percent), North America (12 percent), Latin America (9 percent) and Middle East/Africa (6 percent), the Mintel Global New Product Database showed. 

    In the U.S., chocolate confectionery innovation has been focused largely on seasonal products. Mintel research found nearly 42 percent of new product launches in the last year were identified as seasonal, predominantly comprised of new takes on familiar products, such as a change in shape or packaging.

    Additionally, when launching new products, plain/unflavored varieties are experiencing steep declines, while products featuring nuts and nut flavors are increasing.

    “The global chocolate market has seen considerable innovation in flavor and texture, including flavors such as beer and yogurt capturing consumer attention,” said Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight, Mintel Food and Drink. “In addition to enhancing the flavor of chocolate confectionery with added ingredients, there has also been newfound focus on chocolate itself, with both white and dark chocolate gaining in popularity. New product development continues to be imaginative, with more exploration of flavors and textures outside the sweet flavor tradition. However, efforts to innovate will continue to run up against a consumer base that tends to be more conservative in product choice.”

    While chocolate confectionery remains popular in the U.S. — with 85 percent of adults buying chocolate — an increased focus on health, rising costs and competing chocolate-flavored offerings across food and drinks are challenging its hold. Still, Mintel predicts steady growth through 2019, when the U.S. chocolate market is projected to reach $25 billion.

    These days, 53 percent of U.S. consumers eat chocolate once a week or more. Among chocolate eaters, nearly 72 percent consume it as a treat. Furthermore, 32 percent of chocolate buyers purchase more chocolate around the holidays — including Easter — to have on hand for personal consumption. Similarly, 33 percent of consumers buy more chocolate around the holidays to give as gifts. 

    Among those who treat themselves with chocolate, 29 percent consume it as a mood enhancement. This number rises to 41 percent for consumers aged 18-24. According to Mintel, when it comes to chocolate preference, the majority of chocolate buyers (71 percent) look for options with mix-ins as opposed to plain/unflavored varieties.

    Mintel's latest research report also reveals that price awareness is evident in the U.S. market. In 2014, the price of sugar was higher in the U.S., with domestic growers selling sugar 50-100 percent higher than in global markets. As a result, 71 percent of respondents to a Mintel study indicated they are noticing price increases in chocolate confectionery. The good news is the category is not considered “cost prohibitive” and only 3 percent of consumers have stopped buying chocolate altogether due to price increases, according to the report.

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