That Irresistible Indulgence

The chocolate category is going deeper and broader, more premium and smaller—appealing to our desire for an everyday indulgence.
Of all the candy categories, chocolate displayed some of the best dollar sales gains in 2004, based on Information Resources Inc. data. Chocolate candy boxes, bags and bars greater than 3.5 ounces were up more than 11 percent in dollar sales for 2004 over 2003, according to IRI. Chocolate candy bars less than 3.5 ounces showed a 2 percent gain in dollar sales.
Looking at all of the candy categories in total last year, only diet candy did better than chocolate, and much of the new diet candy introduced last year was chocolate-based. So no matter what the latest diet fad is, consumers still appear to want their favorite sweet, dark indulgence—and manufacturers are right on it with even more chocolate-y ways to satisfy them.
One of the biggest emerging chocolate trends is to appeal to consumers’ cravings for snacks that are both salty and sweet—combining chocolate with bits of pretzels, popcorn and other salty snacks. The leading chocolate player in the mass market has already launched such a line, and it is expected to be a much-imitated trend in this new year.
2004 Chocolate Sales by Selected Segments
Segment $ Sales(in millions)% Changevs. Year AgoUnit sales(in millions)% Changevs. Year Ago
Chocolate Candy Bars < 3.5 oz.$788.8+2.0%1,613.6 +0.3%
Chocolate Candy Boxes/Bags/Bars > 3.5 oz. $1,493.5+11.3%692.5 +11.7%
Chocolate Candy Snack Size $576.1-5.1%293.8 -7.7%
Gift Box Chocolates$237.4-1.5%55.3 -0.2%
Novelty Chocolate Candy$12.2-25.8%5.2 -21.1%
*In food, drug and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-MartSource: Information Resources Inc.
Imperatives
It is of the utmost importance that retailers stress depth and breadth in their chocolate offering—because that is exactly what manufacturers are offering them in the category today. Having a wide selection of various types and brands of chocolate in various locations throughout the store is sure to entice the chocolate cravings of consumers—who admit that they rely on chocolate as a daily treat—perhaps more now than ever.
Consumers
The feminine side of chocolate is tres chic right now; women of all ages are being directly targeted with portable chocolate pieces they can carry conveniently in their handbags or stash in their top desk drawers. Manufacturers are aware that women’s desire to treat themselves with chocolate is at an all-time high, thanks to many factors in the market, including a down economy, and women who are just plain over-extended and over-stressed.
Of course, for both sexes, chocolate has become an accepted self-indulgence trend with the “everything in moderation” theory as the rationale.
Adjacencies
Positioning chocolate in gift sections of the store should be commonplace by now. But some retailers may want to copy the successes of more gourmet food chains that merchandise chocolates in baskets hanging from deli sections—sometimes even adjacent to the salad bar. Book and magazine sections a la Barnes & Noble, is another area of the store where consumers would not be surprised to find chocolate. Chocolate’s feminine gift appeal (whether for self or another) can also be brought out near cosmetics, women’s apparel and accessories. Some forward-thinking retailers are even positioning chocolate-covered fruit and/or nuts (packaged) in the produce section of the store.
Seasonality
Seasonal chocolate products are being expanded through packaging. Manufacturers are learning to use more generic seasonal symbols such as pumpkins instead of jack-o-lanterns and snowflakes rather than Santas in order to help retailers extend their selling seasons.
Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day are two of the biggest seasons for giving chocolate gifts, and retailers are advised to set up well-signed, high-impact displays that feature gift sets with chocolate and other indulgence items such as jewelry, perfume, spa lotions, flowers, or anything else that reflects appreciation for women.
Outlook
The future of chocolate looks dark (obviously a good thing in this case!) and decadent. Sweet and salty flavors are expected to continue to be blended together in ways that might sound strange at first, but are expected to become a part of the assortment.
Limited editions will also continue to take test products from evolution into line extensions—an inexpensive way for chocolate manufacturers to turn consumers into test marketers. Chocolate in barks, filled squares, triangles, organic formulations and bite-sized pieces designed by artisans will all be trends to watch in the near future.
Merchandising Musts
Show and tell.
Don’t assume that chocolate consumers know exactly what they want. They are open to new flavors, packages, limited editions, sizes, shapes, combinations of chocolate, but they must know that it’s out there. Sure, the typical supermarket shopper will reach for his or her favorite candy bar at the checkout if he/she hasn’t been enticed with anything else along the shopping path, but chances are, if a retailer pushes an appealing new chocolate item in another location, that consumer will buy that plus the favorite candy bar.
Taste testings are also encouraged; retailers should keep in mind that many manufacturers, particularly regional ones, are willing to partner with them for in-store or local events to help drive sales. One such manufacturer recently partnered with a retailer during the
month of October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) to promote certain pink-packaged chocolate items where a specified percentage of sales were donated to the cause.
Love thyself.
The driving force in everyday chocolate sales today is clearly self-gifting. Retailers are advised to play into that with an assortment of products at the "right" price points. Experts say there should be more variety in chocolate items under $5 with the "magic" self-gifting prices falling between 99 cents and $2.99. That’s where consumers won’t pause and hesitate to treat, reward, or allow themselves to escape with a chocolate indulgence. The true chocoholics and more upscale clientele should have some options at the $3.99 and $4.99 price points as well.