Taking a step back though, chocolate bars are only as good as the chocolate industry as a whole. And the good news is, it seems to be a good time to be a chocolatier.
U.S. chocolate sales increased again in 2013, according to a report from Mintel, “Chocolate Confectionery - US.” Overall, they grew 24 percent from 2008-2013.
As for the future, Mintel forecasts that chocolate sales will increase another 14 percent from 2013-2018.
“The category benefits from an engaged consumer base,” Mintel says. “It’s viewed as an affordable indulgence, and maintained strong engagement among its users through the economic downturn, and into the period of recover.”
But who specifically is buying all this chocolate?
It seems younger consumers are actually more likely than average to buy and eat chocolate, because of a combination of factors, including: the likelihood that consumers 35-44 years old have kids who eat chocolate and the fact that older consumers are more likely to have to limit their chocolate intake because of health concerns.
And it’s not just older consumers who have concerns. Things aren’t quite as sweet as they could be, as the category’s growth is expected to be slower than in the past. That’s in part because many consumers are now avoiding chocolate altogether because of health concerns.
Add to that the fact that the market is so saturated with competing products, and the fact that there’s just more snack options out there in general and things look even more bleak.
There is good news for those in the chocolate bar business, though.
The bars, bags and boxes of chocolate weighing less than 3 ounces leads the segment in sales and growth. In fact, it’s driving the category, maintaining a 40.7 percent share, and a dollar sales growth of 28 percent from 2008-2013. Meanwhile, gift box and sugar-free chocolate sales struggled in 2013.
And, nearly 9 out of 10 adults purchase chocolate from themselves or others in their home. Specifically, 86 percent of adults purchase chocolate, and 74 percent eat it.
“This is a strength of the category, implying an engaged audience with a vast array of interest, tastes and needs,” Mintel reports. “However, it also suggests that little growth can come from adding new consumers to the market.”
In other words, sales growth will have to come from getting current consumers to increase their spending. And capitalizing on snack trends, and appealing to consumers interest in healthy and convenient foods.
New flavors are a must:
Here’s where mainstream chocolate makers have really shined. They continue to innovate and introduce new chocolate bars to the market.
And there’s no denying that a few large companies control most of the category. In 2013, the top five chocolate companies sold about 88 percent of the chocolate, up from 87 percent in 2012, Mintel reports.
The category is dominated by The Hershey Co., with 41 percent of the market, followed by Mars Inc., with 29 percent of the market. Nestle is in a distant third, with 6 percent of the market, followed by Lindt and then Russell Stover.
The top five have continued to innovate, albeit usually through line extensions.
For example, Nestlé recently introduced Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups, which transforms the classic candy bar into peanut butter cups. Each cup features a smooth, super peanut-butteryButterfinger filling with just the right amount of crunchy pieces mixed in, all surrounded by delicious milk chocolate. A 1.5-oz. single pack with two cups has a suggested retail price of $0.89-$1.19.
Then there’s Mars, which in the last year has introduced a new Snickers Rockin Nutroad bar. And, the company extended its Milky Way brand with a new Milky Way French Vanilla bar.
The company also introduced its new M&M’S Chocolate Bar. Made with the best quality, creamy, smooth milk chocolate…