Increasing health concerns have also had an impact upon the Italian confectionery market, notes the UK research group. "Italian consumers are displaying an increasing preference for dark chocolate, largely because of its health benefits, while sales of organic chocolate are also rising.”
With sales worth an estimated €3.49bn, the chocolate sector was the market’s largest in value terms in 2010.
Per capita consumption of chocolate and sugar confectionery has traditionally been low in Italy by Western European standards, under pressure from product sectors such as biscuits, comments the review.
Vaue sales of confectionery in the country were worth €5.19bn last year, having increased by nearly 16 per cent from 2006, they note.
However, much of the sales growth in chocolate has been at the expense of the sugar confectionery sector, which has witnessed only very modest growth in the last few years.
Interestingly, sugar-free sweets now account for a 15 per cent share of annual domestic production of sugar confectionery, which is in the region of 120,000 tonnes, reveals the report. It cites health concerns as the main factor behind this category's growth.
Sugar-free products account for 86 per cent of the Italian chewing gum market, with many also offering functional benefits, reports Leatherhead.
Per capita consumption of chocolate in Italy is very low by Western European standards, at around 4 kg. This trails the UK (9.5 kg) and Germany (8.7 kg), although it ranks above Spain (3 kg).
Italy exports up to 40 per cent of all the chocolate it produces, primarily to its neighbours in the EU.
Boxed chocolates such as pralines account for a leading 45 per cent of the chocolate confectionery market. Tablets and blocks account for a further 21 per cent of the market.
At 2.4 kg, per capita consumption of sugar confectionery is lower than other EU countries such as the Netherlands (6.2 kg), the UK (4.6 kg) and France (3.8 kg).
Boiled sweets account for 39 per cent of the sugar confectionery market, ahead of gums and jellies (28 per cent).
Battle of the brands
Ferrero is the leading brand owner in the chocolate sector, accounting for 35 per cent of the chocolate sector. The company also competes in the sugar confectionery sector via the Tic Tac brand of mints, reports Leatherhead.
One of Ferrero’s main rivals in the chocolate market is Nestlé, which accounts for 20 per cent of sales. The company is especially strong in the chocolate blocks sector, report the market researchers.
Mars accounts for 17 per cent of the chocolate market. Its Wrigley unit is also present in the chewing gum market, although its market share is much lower compared with other European countries. Cadbury's brand Halls dominates the medicated sweets category.
Another domestically-based multinational is Perfetti Van Melle, which dominates the chewing gum market with an 85 per cent share, and it also supplies a number of leading functional varieties. The company also accounts for a leading 34 per cent of the Italian sugar confectionery, according to the market analysts.
Other leading suppliers include Wrigley, Barry Callebaut and Alfred Ritter, as well as Haribo, which accounts for a quarter of the gums and jellies sector, and Leaf International, notes Leatherhead.