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Sales of seasonal chocolate confectionery through all channels in the United States is estimated to reach some $3.3 billion in 2005, according to Research and Markets, which used some IRI data.
Looking at 2004 sales, which include verified sales for all holiday products, the market stood at $3.4 billion. Between 1999 and 2004, sales of seasonal chocolate increased 1.4 percent at current prices, which reflects a decline of 10.5 percent at constant 2004 prices. To put seasonal chocolate confectionery sales into a wider context, the research firm estimated the total chocolate confectionery market (seasonal and non-seasonal) at $15.1 billion in 2004. The overall chocolate market increased 7.6 percent between 1999 and 2004, but at constant 2004 prices this represents a 5 percent decline from 1999 to 2004.
While the sales figures reflect confectionery products that can be assigned to a specific holiday, some marketers are blurring seasonal lines by making products that can be used for more than one holiday. For example, Hershey's Kisses leverages a number of fourth-quarter holidays by selling bags of red, gold, brown and orange-wrapped chocolates. By not specifying a "holiday" on the wrapping, the product can be sold as a Halloween, Thanksgiving, fall football, or back to school item. The same is true for M&Ms, which are sold in seasonal colors that can be given for a number of holidays. Not included are generic gift box chocolates that could be sold at any season (e.g., Whitman's Sampler) or other chocolate confections that could be given as a substitute for seasonal chocolate (e.g., regular Hershey's chocolate given as Halloween treats).
The market is also experiencing channel blurring, which makes it possible to purchase seasonal chocolate -- or chocolate for any occasion -- through myriad channels from the highest quality chocolatier to the dollar store.