Godiva: Self-care, pandemic-strain fuel surge in Valentine’s Day chocolate sales as licensing deals reinforce year-long demand

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Godiva
Source: Godiva

Related tags: Chocolate, Godiva, Valentine's day, Confectionery

Historically people have celebrated Valentine’s Day by sharing sweets with others they love, but the pandemic-fueled rise of ‘self-care’ means more people also will treat themselves this year – helping push confection sales leading up to the holiday beyond an expected $3.4 billion this year, according to the National Confectioners Association.

Leading the charts will be chocolate, which two-thirds of Americans typically eat on Feb. 14, followed by 50% who eat cake or cupcakes on the holiday, 48% who report typically eating candy hearts, and 44% who favor gummies, according to research conducted by OnePoll for Sugarbreak, a BCrop focused on reducing sugar consumption.

Within chocolate, sales of premium options are expected to outpace those of the overall category, but both will likely see a double-digit uptick just as they did last year, thanks in large part to pandemic-weary consumers looking to reward those they love, whether or not they can be together, and themselves, according to Godiva CEO Nurtac Afridi.

She told FoodNavigator-USA that premium chocolate sales grew 17% and the overall chocolate category grew 10% in 2021 over the previous year, and she expects similar growth rates – if not higher – this year as consumer research suggests that not only are more people buying chocolate for Valentine’s Day, but they plan on buying more of it – not just for their loved ones, but also themselves.

“Premium chocolate growth has historically been higher than overall chocolate growth, but over the past years, it has accelerated – especially during the pandemic – because more people would like to reward themselves in addition to rewarding others”​ as part of the rising self-care trend, Afridi explained.

She noted that 17% of consumers surveyed by Godiva reported they planned to buy premium chocolate for themselves this year. In addition, Godiva consumer insights research revealed that 75% of shoppers intend to give chocolate to others this Valentine’s Day and 68% expect to receive it.

How much chocolate and for whom is not the only way that the pandemic is reshaping confectionery sales around Valentine’s Day, Afridi said. She noted that where consumers buy chocolate also is shifting.

According to Godiva’s consumer insight’s research, most consumers (61%) say they will by chocolate from mass stores, like Target and Walmart, as well as grocery (45%) and drug stores (30%). More than half (54%) also plan to buy Valentine’s Day chocolate online this year, Afridi said, adding that of those who will buy online, 75% say they will buy more chocolate this year as a gift compared to last year.

Godiva expands its distribution, portfolio

To ensure Godiva is meeting shoppers where they are, Afridi made a bold move when she took the helm of the Belgian company two years ago by closing all of its boutiques in North America and opting instead to sell its premium products across food, drug, grocery and mass retailers.

The company bolstered this move with a slew of new products and creative packaging that made the premium chocolates available at various price points and for various usage occasions without compromising it high quality.

In addition, in May 2021, it launched a $5 million ad campaign to raise awareness about Godiva’s expansion into CPG channels.

These efforts are paying off, according to Afridi, who said that Godiva’s business in the US grew 31% and 85% in China in 2021. It also saw double digit growth in Europe, where the business is more mature, and in the Middle East.

“This shows us that we did the right thing to expand our channels and our portfolio,”​ she told FoodNavigator-USA in late December.

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The company continued to support its expansion this month with two life-sized installations of its Gold Ballotin and Goldmark Hearth boxes in New York City Feb. 8 and 9 with plenty of samples to share.

“Our purpose is to open people’s eyes to the wonder of Godiva to a more wonderful world,”​ and the installations were a success with “lots of consumers with their significant others taking pictures [in front of the boxes] and taking some samples of Godiva,”​ Afridi said. “I was very, very pleased to see people having fun, having happy moments. That is what we would like to bring – more fun.”

Afridi said she anticipates Godiva’s sales leading up to Valentine’s Day this year to be 20% more than last year, which was 35% higher over the prior year.

Building a strong business beyond Valentine’s Day

While the holidays may be busiest season for Godiva, the company is pursuing partnerships and new product development that will help bolster year-around sales.

For example, earlier this year the company announced a collaboration with Boardwalk Frozen Treats to introduce seven new, super-premium Godiva ice cream pints, with each flavor inspired by the business’ iconic truffles.

It also is teaming with Jimmy’s Gourmet Bakery to introduce Godiva bake-at-home chocolate chip cookie dough filled with chocolate ganache, and a partnership with Cookies United will bring Godiva Gingerbread Houses and Cookie Decorating Kits to consumers.

Finally, a licensing deal with the jeweler Le Vian to will bring to Kay Jewelers for Valentine’s Day three cobranded Godiva and Le Vian Chocolate Diamonds pendants.

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