There has been much speculation over the past year about whether chocolate merits its long-held ‘recession-proof’ reputation. The theory is that even as financially squeezed consumers cut back on luxuries in times of economic gloom, they continue to reach for small indulgences like chocolate. Many manufacturers reported strong profits during 2008, but then the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) warned that a rush to invest in cocoa late last year was premature as 2009 chocolate consumption remained uncertain.
Now figures from Mintel’s recently launched Global Market Navigator (GMN) show that the UK chocolate market has continued to grow, and it forecasts 5.8 per cent growth in 2009, to outstrip that of 2008, when sales grew by four per cent. The UK market grew by 7.4 per cent in 2007.
Managing director of Mintel’s GMN Steve Charlton said: “These figures demonstrate the British love of chocolate remains as strong as ever. The fact that we buy more chocolate than any other European country, despite recessionary pressure and our comparative lack in size, shows where the priorities of sweet toothed Brits lie.”
The UK spent £3.5bn (about €3.8bn) on chocolate last year, followed by Germany which spent £3.4bn (€3.7bn) despite having 20m more people. However, it is Germany that launched the most new products during this time, accounting for a quarter of European launches, followed by Austria with 12 per cent and the UK with eight per cent.
Mintel also picked out some of the trends driving sales growth in Britain, including a movement toward chocolate that is perceived as being healthier, as well as organic, Fairtrade-certified and single-source cocoa chocolates.
Charlton said: “The trend towards good quality produce is reflective of European consumers' interest in the sourcing and provenance of ingredients. In fact, in the last six months alone almost three quarters of all new organic products and over half of all new Fairtrade products have been launched in this region.”
Only the Swiss spent more on chocolate per person than the Brits, at £111 (€120) and £57 (€62) per head respectively.