Both Mintel and Packaged Facts market researchers have predicted this week that consumers will continue to treat themselves to premium chocolate in 2009, even though they may be cutting back in other areas.
In a report on premium chocolate in the US, Packaged Facts said: “It seems that Americans, while scaling down consumerism generally, are permitting themselves indulgence in life’s ‘little’ pleasures. Sales of upscale chocolates are expected to advance at a rate more than fives times that for chocolate overall by 2012..”
Packaged Facts figures for the US market, show that premium chocolate sales reached $3bn last year, having grown by 17.3 per cent since 2006, and 200 per cent since 2003. In comparison, it said that conventional chocolate had only grown by four per cent since 2003.
Middle market squeeze
According to Mintel, manufacturers of mid-range chocolate will start to feel the pinch, as consumers choose everyday value products, while allowing themselves the occasional upmarket treat.
Mintel’s director of research Joan Holleran said: “In the coming year it will be more important than ever for businesses to respond quickly and creatively to changing consumer needs and desires…The middle market will increasingly be squeezed and is going to have to prove its worth when faced with competition from newly improved basic lines.”
Mintel said that consumers will mostly be trading down to value brands, but will “indulge in small, affordable luxuries, like premium chocolate, designer sunglasses or a favourite moisturiser.”
The company’s research into chocolate habits on this side of the Atlantic showed that sales of premium chocolate have nearly doubled in the past two years, with sales in the UK alone reaching £86 billion (approximately €99 billion at today’s rates) last year.
The analysts’ remarks are backed by the experience of the big market players, many of whom have asserted their companies’ financial resilience recently.
Following the announcement of increased sales volumes and profits last month, Barry Callebaut’s CEO Patrick de Maeseneire said: “Chocolate is a defensive industry and consumption has proven resilient in previous economic downturns. Indeed, we continued to see good growth in the first two months of the current fiscal year.”
Spanish cocoa and chocolate manufacturer Natra has also reported rising profits.