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Premium chocolate demand tracks European tastes

By Lorraine Heller , 01-Sep-2005

Key to successful premium chocolate product development is an understanding of the varying consumer habits, expectations and behaviour in different countries, according to leading Swiss premium chocolate manufacturer Lindt & Sprüngli.

Premium chocolate trends

With European chocolate sales largely hampered by a Europe-wide drive to combat obesity and diet-related health problems, and a market squeezed by higher costs and raw material prices, chocolate manufacturers are increasingly turning to premium products in an effort to boost sales. And the consumer, progressively turning connoisseur, also appears to be looking towards high-end products.

Lindt & Sprüngli (www.lindt.com) has recently reported a profit for the first time in its first half, which normally lags behind the second half due to the seasonal nature of premium chocolate sales. The company reported a first half net income of SF4.7m (€3m), compared to a SF1.7m (€1m) loss last year.

Lindt, which claims to be the only premium chocolate brand represented worldwide, identified an increased turn towards dark chocolate in Switzerland in recent years. The company claims consumers in the traditionally milk-chocolate country are turning to high-end rich dark chocolate products, made with premium cocoa, as they are increasingly becoming "chocolate connoisseurs."

The market in France, which according to Lindt is already a traditional dark chocolate country, is dominated by tablet chocolate. Consequently, it is the tablet segment in this market that holds room for innovation, with Lindt concentrating particularly on filled tablets, using traditional and well-received recipes such as "tarte aux citrons" or "tiramisu".

Sweet chocolate is most popular in Germany, the company says, with praline products doing particularly well. German consumers opt for more "refined chocolate products", and also go in for special event products. Consequently, packaging plays almost as important a role as the chocolate itself, with consumers going for carefully packed chocolate gifts with "high offering value."

Consumers in the UK are only just starting to turn from "consumption" to "degustation", the company says, resulting in an increasing turn towards high-level and "prestigious" products. Christmas and Easter remain important periods for the chocolate market, with premium products geared towards these occasions set to enjoy success.

Premium chocolate product launches

According to Mintel's Global New products Database (GNPD) , Europe has seen the launch of 834 new premium chocolate products in the past three and a half years, amounting to 19 per cent of the total new chocolate product launches recorded in their database.

Germany holds the lead, with 223 new premium products, which correspond to 28 per cent of its total new chocolate products.

The UK comes in second, with 179 new premium products in the period, or 24 per cent of total new products.

Austria's 101 premium product launches make up 22 per cent of its total new chocolate products, with Spain coming in fourth, launched 50 premium products, which make up 19 per cent of its total.

In comparison,Switzerland introduced relatively few new premium products in the period- 33- but these made up 24 per cent of its moderate total launches.

The Netherlands and Portugal were amongst the countries with the least new premium product launches, making up 7 and 8 per cent respectively of their total new chocolate products.

Russia and Turkey came in last, with only 2 new premium products each in the past three and a half years, amounting to 4 and 2 per cent respectively of total new chocolate products.

Datasource: Mintel's Global New Products Database

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