- The U.S. chocolate market is expected to surpass the $30 billion mark by 2021, according to a new TechSci Research report.
- Growth in the chocolate market is coming from consumers' rising disposable income and increased demand for sugar-free, dark chocolate, and especially premium chocolate varieties.
- On the manufacturers' side, growth is stemming from expanded distribution for both new and established chocolate makers in addition to product innovations and the increased use of chocolate as an ingredient.
Growth in chocolate is spread across the board, but certain segments stand above the rest. Premium chocolate is a fast-growing category that has spurred innovation from major chocolate companies, such as Hershey's Kisses Deluxe, and startups, particularly makers of bean-to-bar chocolate.
However, countline chocolate, which includes chocolate combined with caramel or wafers, remains the dominant category, due in part to its popularity among children. Using premium chocolate as a base in these products is one option, as is adding protein, which Mars recently did for its Mars and Snickers brands in the U.K.
In addition to premium chocolate, dark chocolate provides unique opportunities for manufacturers. Manufacturers can add dark chocolate to a product positioned as healthy or better-for-you and still maintain that positioning while enabling consumers to indulge, which expands the reach of the product.
Adding chocolate to foods and beverages can also extend certain categories' perceived eating occasions. With the Chobani Flip line, Chobani was able to combine Greek yogurt, generally relegated to breakfast eating, with chocolate.
But widespread adoption of chocolate in products could be hindered by a potential cocoa shortage. Cocoa production fell 3.9% in 2015 while global demand rose 0.6%. Chocolate producers like Nestle and Lindt & Sprüngli told Food Dive that they had not been impacted in terms of production for Valentine's Day, a major chocolate holiday.