This Valentine's Day 43 per cent of British gift-buyers will opt for chocolate as the way to their other half's heart and, with spending expected to top the £2.4 billion (€3.5bn) mark, confectioners are jostling to grab their share of the lucrative market, investing in innovation and capitalising on consumer trends at the forefront of the industry.
According to the British Retail Consortium, £95 million (€104.7m) will be spent on chocolate in the UK today but not all chocolate makers are set to benefit as the most will head for the premium end of the market.
Given that around 8 million boxed chocolates will be sold today, gourmet chocolate makers are well positioned to grab a share of the holiday sales and formerly small niche businesses are taking advantage to build on recent increased demand for products such as Fairtrade, single origin and ethically sourced chocolate – bringing these further into the public domain.
As a consequence, these trends are becoming increasingly popular as a sophisticated alternative to generic chocolate gifts and in order to prevent the long-standing Valentine's market from going stale, manufacturers in these niche sectors have been experimenting with ways to entice consumers.
Hershey-owned organic chocolate company Dagoba has released an Eros range in time for the romantic day. The line includes dark chocolate bars infused with boysenberry and a cacao elixir – a glycerin-based mixture of cacao and various herbal ingredients.
The UK's largest Fairtrade chocolate maker, the Divine Chocolate company, has chosen the day to launch its sister business in the US.
In addition, the ethical chocolate provider has been busy in the UK with a major marketing push including promotions with clothing retailers Benetton and Knickerbox and the launch of a special heart-shaped gift box filled with chocolate pieces.
Food for thought
If they want to keep the spirit of Valentine chocolate giving alive, manufacturers should take their cue from Japan.
In that country, March 14 is known as 'White Day' and tradition has it that men who received chocolate from their partners a month earlier reciprocate in kind. Canny confectioners in Japan and Korea have taken full advantage of the commercial potential of the custom to push white chocolate sales.