Mintel reports that chocolate innovation is on the increase, with new product launches growing 18% between 2013 and 2014, according to the Chocolate Confectionery - US 2015 report.
“New product development continues to be imaginative, with more exploration of flavours and textures outside the sweet flavour tradition. However, efforts to innovate will continue to run up against a consumer base that tends to be more conservative in product choice,” said Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight at Mintel Food and Drink.
Europe accounted for 51% of all product launches in the last year, followed by Asia Pacific 21%, North America 12%, Latin America 9%, and Middle East/Africa 6%.
In the US, the world’s largest chocolate market, chocolate confectionery sales grew 24% from 2009-2014 to reach $21bn, Mintel reports.
South Korea 19% growth
However, the pace of growth slowed in the US in 2014 up only 3% over 2013.
But growth was strong in South Korea experiencing an increase of 19%, 18% in India, 16% in China, and 12% in Vietnam.
While chocolate confectionery remains popular in the US with 85% of adults buying chocolate, an intensifying spotlight on health, rising costs, and competing chocolate-flavoured offerings across food and drink, strains its hold, Mintel says.
But it predicts steady growth through to 2019, with the US chocolate market reaching $25 billion.
Mogelonsky commented: “The challenges facing the global market in 2014 have been related in part to supply, as the price of cocoa increased 9% in the first 10 months of the year, driven up by a number of factors including increased demand, climate change, and crop disease. Looking toward 2015 and beyond, Asia will lead the way in market growth, while established markets such as North America and Europe will grow at lower rates.”
Consumers in established markets tend to prefer “favourite” products and are not willing to experiment with innovative or novel - and typically more expensive – products, she added.
Some 42% of new product launches in the US were classified as seasonal - largely comprised of new takes on familiar products, such as a change in shape or packaging. Plain/unflavoured varieties saw steep declines, while products featuring nuts and nut flavours were on the increase.
More than half (53%) of US consumers eat chocolate once a week or more, the report says. Among chocolate eaters, nearly three quarters (72%) consume the confectionery as a treat.
Some 32% of chocolate buyers purchase more chocolate around holidays, including Easter, to have on hand for personal consumption. Similarly, one third of consumers (33%) buy more chocolate at these times to give as gifts.
In addition to treating oneself, mood enhancement is a popular reason Americans reach for chocolate (29%). This rises to 41% when looking at Americans aged 18-24.
When it comes to chocolate preference, the majority of chocolate buyers (71%) are looking for options with mix-ins as opposed to plain or unflavoured varieties.
Price of sugar
The report says that the price of sugar was higher in the US in 2014, with domestic growers selling sugar at prices 50-100% higher than in global markets. As a result, 71% of respondents had noticed price increases in chocolate confectionery. However, only 3% of consumers had stopped buying chocolate due to price increases.