“We all have our own reason for eating chocolate,” but most of the 5,400 consumers globally surveyed by the Almond Board said they eat chocolate because it “made them very, very happy and they are comforted by it,” Peggy Fyffe, director of trade stewardship at the Almond Board of California, told attendees at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago.
Specifically, the online survey of consumers in eight global markets found 45% of consumers eat chocolate because it makes them happy, 43% said they eat it because it tastes good, followed by 35% who find it comforting and 34% who say it calms them and is a stress reliever.
These reasons likely explain why 72% of respondents said they eat chocolate in the late afternoon or evening. These are times when people might need an endorphin boost to push through the last few hours of the day, or a moment of peace to decompress from a long day, Fyffe suggested.
Nuts, dried fruit boost health profile of chocolate
Chocolate marketers also might be more successful advertising products with nuts and other inclusions that increase the nutritional profile of the confection, the study suggests.
It found 70% of consumers prefer to eat chocolate with nuts compared to plain chocolate, in large part because the nuts make the confection more nutritious, according to the survey.
A whopping 85% of consumers strongly or somewhat agreed that nuts make chocolate more nutritious, 82% said it makes the candy more filling and 77% said it makes the sweet more energizing and satisfying.
Counterintuitive to this preference for inclusions for health reasons was the finding that most consumers prefer milk chocolate – not dark chocolate – with nuts, according to the survey.
Even though dark chocolate is positioned as healthier than milk chocolate, 46% of respondents said they prefer milk chocolate with nuts compared to 40% who prefer plain milk chocolate. This is followed by 36% who prefer dark chocolate with nuts and 35% who prefer plain dark chocolate.
While health and nutrition hugely influence consumers’ food selections, taste and mouth-feel also are important traits. Indeed, the survey found the No. 1 reason consumers select chocolate with nuts is because it is crunchier, the survey found.
While not as in demand as nuts, fruit inclusions also are popular among survey respondents. About 20% said their last chocolate experience was milk chocolate with fruit pieces, 17% said it was dark chocolate with fruit pieces and 10% said it was white chocolate with fruit pieces.
Popular fruit inclusions include raisins, which 24% of survey respondents said would be in their ideal chocolate bar, followed by 24% who reported coconut and 24% who said strawberry, according to the survey.
Other top fruit inclusions named by survey respondents include apricots, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, peaches, mangos and goji berries, Fyffe said.
Inclusions offer win-win
Consumers’ interest in healthy inclusions, revealed by the survey, reinforces advice to the chocolate industry by a market analyst at Mintel.
Recent Mintel research revealed 15% of chocolate buyers are purchasing less chocolate for health reasons, but the addition of mix-ins, such as fruit and nuts, help push the treat away from candy and towards a more acceptable better-for-you positioning.
Mix-ins also reduce the amount of chocolate necessary in products, which can help lower manufacturing costs – making the addition of inclusions a win-win for consumers’ health and companies’ financial health, Mintel added.