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    Sales of Seasonal Chocolate on the Decline

    Estimate is down slightly from 2004 performance.

    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.

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