The $20 billion U.S. chocolate candy market is mature, differentiated, and demanding. That makes it challenging for marketers of chocolate products seeking to distinguish themselves from the competition, according to "Chocolate Candy in the U.S.," a recently-released report from Packaged Facts.
Packaged Facts estimates the U.S. market for chocolate sold at retail at $19.5 billion in 2011, up 6.6% over the previous year. Everyday chocolate, seasonal candies, and premium chocolate all posted dollar gains for the market, though driven in part by price increases implemented to offset rises in raw material and other costs.
From a channel perspective, according to David Sprinkle, publisher for Packaged Facts, chocolate is showing particular resilience in convenience stores and natural food stores. In natural food stores, organic chocolates posted nearly 20% growth in 2011, according to SPINSscan data cited in the report. Conventional supermarkets nonetheless remain the main channel for chocolate sales, followed by convenience stores.
While the country remains challenged by economic doldrums, chocolate can be counted on to outpace overall food market growth. Packaged Facts identifies the following as factors that will continue to spur dollar gains in the market:
- The success and increasingly widespread acceptance of premium chocolates, spurred both by consumers' desire to indulge in this "affordable luxury" and by the influence of foodie culture
- Growth of chocolate retailers, both through franchise expansion and by successful independent shops looking to expand their footprints
- Continued innovation in packaging and flavors by major and niche chocolate manufacturers alike
- Increased marketing support and advertising expenditures
- Rising prices at retail, driven in part by higher input costs