“Inexpensive Flag Day Chocolates marketed to adults” could be the next big thing — at least if new research from Mintel Food and Drink is to be believed.

The company’s latest data shows that that seasonal product launches are up, while new premium launches are down and so are seasonal product launches aimed at children.

Specifically, between 2010 and 2011, seasonal product launches increased 6%, while non-seasonal chocolate launches actually declined 7% during the same period, according to the latest research from Mintel, a Chicago-based market research firm.

Overall, about 25% of all global chocolate launches in 2011 were for seasonal chocolate products.

This trend is especially true of Easter this year, as the number of global Easter egg new product launches increased a sweet 45% over the past year.

“Seasonal chocolate is, if anything more ‘recession resistant’ than the overall market, as the products have broad appeal as gifts for a wide range of recipients, from friends to relatives and co-workers,” says Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight for Mintel. “Easter has consistently led other holidays in innovation and in sales as it is a holiday with a strong affinity for confectionery through gift baskets, egg hunts, and other family-focused traditions.”

Last year, the seasonal chocolate market represented a $4.9-billion market in the United States, up 6.4% on 2010; in the UK, the market was equally robust with 2010 sales at more than £500 million.

Today, the United States accounts for the largest percentage of all seasonal launches at 18%, while the UK comes in second, accounting for 12% of all launches. Canada has seen the biggest increase in seasonal activity, increasing 89% between 2010 and 2011. During the same period in Europe, activity in the UK increased by 53% and 41% in France.

And, although season-themed chocolates are thriving, there has been a major decline in the amount of launches aimed at children between ages 5 and 12. In both the U.S. and Brazil, child-focused launches were down 62%.

The decline in the United States is thought to be due to a change in gifting habits as more parents are giving healthier treats to their children for the holidays.

“This change is not enough to affect the overall market in any significant way, but could suggest that manufacturers will be paring down their efforts to introduce seasonal products aimed directly at children in the next few years,” says Mogelonsky. “It will be interesting to see if other markets follow suit in the future, as childhood obesity continues to be a concern.”

Meanwhile, premium chocolate product launches also suffered in 2011, with global launches declining 10%. New introductions declined by 28% in the U.S., the biggest market for premium chocolate launches. Japan, however, continued to launch new premium products at a rapid pace, increasing their launch activity by 71%.

“The decline in launches of premium products is due, in part, to the challenges in the cocoa market,” says Mogelonsky. “The pull-back on launches did not stem creativity however, and premium launches over the year were notable for inventiveness. The quest for rarer sources continued, even with high prices, and cocoa from the Caribbean and Central America began to appear in a number of countries.”