US chocolate industry adapts to steadily slowing consumption
- U.S. retail chocolate sales have risen about 3% annually over the last 10 or 15 years, slightly faster than conventional foods as a whole, according to a UBS report. Last year's sales reached around $18 billion.
- But those sales numbers may be deceiving. The report also found that U.S. per capita volume consumption for chocolate has declined at a CAGR of 3% since hitting a peak in 2005 to 2006. Sales appear to be rising not because of increased consumption but rather because of favorable pricing for the industry.
- Dark chocolate, however, is a segment outperforming the category as a whole with 6.8% sales growth last year, as compared to 2.5% for chocolate overall, according to Nielsen. Dark chocolate comprised more than one-third (36%) of all chocolate launched in the U.S. in 2014, which then moved to 37% in 2015, according to Mintel.
The sales numbers, despite slowing per capita consumption, demonstrate consumers' trend toward premium chocolate varieties. Mainstream brands still make up the bulk of U.S. chocolate sales at about 88%, but the premium category is the second largest, according to Nielsen.
Premium chocolate makes up about 8% of total U.S. chocolate sales, according to Candy Industry. Premium chocolate can be a boon to even mainstream chocolate producers, as premium varieties tend to command higher prices and heftier profit margins.
Seasonal chocolate is also a major contributor to segment sales around the holidays, but it tends to carry lower margins due to heavy promotional spending. Easter leads candy-centric holidays, followed by Halloween and Valentine's Day. But even for this past Valentine's Day, Euromonitor predicted that volume sales for chocolate would drop 0.6%.