In the face of the enduring hardships stringed out by COVID-19, consumers worldwide, from Millennials to Boomers, are increasingly considering a more holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle in 2020.
According to market findings by Innova Market Insights, seven out of 10 consumers have made changes across the past year to improve their physical health and seek a balance of it with inner mental and emotional aspects.
In light of this trend, premium chocolate thrives among food shoppers and targets a broader desire for indulgence without regret during unchartered times.
According to a recent press release by the US-based National Confectioners Association (NCA), sales of chocolate and candy have overall increased during the pandemic.
The trade organization states that American consumers are looking for a sense of normalcy and joy at an otherwise uncertain time. Their intense emotional connections to chocolate and candy can help provide that.
In NCA’s sales performance analysis from March 15, 2020 to August 9, 2020, overall sales of chocolate and candy have increased 3.8%, with premium chocolate (+12.5%) outpacing the rest of the confectionery category.
The grocery channel, especially, has become a key driver for chocolate and candy sales growth as consumer behaviors continue to evolve during the pandemic, and more people shop at grocery stores.
In the grocery channel alone, chocolate and candy sales are up 16.6%, with premium chocolate (+21.4%) outperforming the confectionery aisle.
NCA previously reported that premium chocolate, defined as items priced at $11 per pound or more, grew more than 18% of all confectionery sales in the US in 2018, according to 2019 survey ‘Getting to Know the Chocolate Consumer,’ conducted in partnership with the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA).
As 2020 is yet to come to an end, we look forward to more comprehensive data on premium chocolate sales, which may confirm an unvaried consumer crave for chocolate of higher quality despite the COVID-19 situation.
Current insights on overall sales of premium chocolate in the US may mirror those in higher-end fine chocolate. Still, fine chocolate sales may not necessarily overlap those of premium chocolate.
Fine chocolate—also variably reported by the marketplace as Ultra-Premium, Gourmet, Artisan, Specialty, or Craft chocolate—has not closely been defined as a price-point category but more generally referred as an approach encompassing the production of high-quality chocolate products, made with fine flavor or specialty cacao beans and natural food ingredients by small to medium scale chocolate makers.
Besides, FCIA defines fine chocolate in terms of its flavor, texture, and appearance, as well as how its limited ingredients, high cocoa, and low sugar content, are sourced and processed, thus offering the consumer the added benefit of a genuine holistic involvement through education.
The same 2019 survey revealed how core fine chocolate consumers are more aware of the characteristics and values they seek in their products. To get what they want, fine chocolate buyers opt for less conventional channels than grocery stores, such as specialty and organic food vendors, farmers’ markets, and specialty online chocolate shops.
The online channel, especially, is the preferred venue of fine chocolate consumers, with about 70% of them having purchased chocolate online at least once in 2018, versus a scant 25% of shoppers overall.
With consumer-facing festivals being postponed and physical specialty shops shut down or reopened in partial swing due to cost-inefficient safety practices, the online channel has become even more mainstream to buy fine chocolate. In contrast, curbside pickups are becoming a standard in-person delivery option disposed to consumers by local fine chocolate artisans and companies.
To better understand the impact that the coronavirus outbreak and consequent lockdown measures have played on fine chocolate businesses of diverse kind, size, and geography, FCIA is coordinating a survey in partnership with the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI) later this fall.
To be alerted of the FCIA/FCCI business survey and related activities, it’s possible to sign up for the FCIA weekly newsletter—delivered both to member and nonmember subscribers each Friday.
As part of a COVID-19 response strategy, FCIA launched Make Mine Fine, a mapped directory to showcase member businesses that offer online sales of fine chocolate.
To support fine chocolate businesses struggling with the COVID situation, consumers can purchase products through the links published on individual entries of the business list, buy equipment to make chocolate at home, and even learn about fine cocoa and its producing countries.
As fine chocolate companies are committed to sourcing the best quality cacao, paying premiums to farmers, and supporting sustainable farming practices, consumers will indirectly support the happiness of enjoying their best experience as chocoholics.