The odds may be stacked against it - with high emigration and a falling birth rate – but confectionery value sales increased by 7.7% between 2009 and 2013, with an estimated market value of €1.59bn ($2.15bn).
The birth rate in Poland fell from 2.04 births per woman in 1990 to 1.30 in 2011, according to the World Bank.
Polish preferences: Choc demand grows
Chocolate confectionery is the star performer in Poland and dominates the market with a 71% market share, followed by sugar confectionery at 20% and chewing gum with 9%.
“Most types of chocolate appear to be gaining in favor with Polish consumers although boxed chocolates such as pralines have been a mainstay of the market, with a 30% value share in 2013. Rising income levels mean that more people are attracted to premium forms of chocolate,” said Thomas.
Growing demand for chocolate is reflected in volume sales – up by 7% over the same period and accounting for 72% of total market volume (or 230,000 tonnes) – as well as per capita consumption (6kg), which is higher than any other country in Central and Eastern Europe.
Wafer-based products, chocolate blocks and tablets are among the most popular countlines, although milk chocolate is losing ground to dark chocolate as a result of the trend for premium chocolates and demand for healthy alternatives among older consumers.
In sugar confectionery, fruit flavoured and more ‘natural’ sweets as well as sweets fortified with vitamins are entering the scene fuelled by demand for variants with reduced sugar and, similarly, 99% of chewing gum products on the market are sugar-free.
“More people are now inclined to monitor and cut down their intake of sugar. There has been some move towards dark chocolate, which carries links with heart health. Sugar-free is likely to be a key driver in sugar confectionery, since more people are looking to limit their sugar intake,” he explained.
Chocolate output has increased recently as major companies, like Mondelēz, expand operations in the country.
Nestle also has a foothold in the market, with Kitkat, Lion Bar and Aero, but Polish consumers also remain loyal to national producers such as Wawel -which compete in both count lines and boxed chocolates - and Wedel (recently bought by Lotte).
“Multinationals have been responsible for much of the increase in confectionery production taking place in Poland during recent years, but Polish consumers are generally very loyal to domestic brands,” said Thomas.
Chocolates exports are a major growth area for Poland with significant demand from Russia and Sweden.