Chocolate Cravings

While chocolate lovers indulge in this sweet treat year-round, perhaps no ingredient is more synonymous with Valentine’s Day. February 14th gives them an extra reason to enjoy even more chocolate bars and chocolate-covered treats. Even if you don’t buy into the romance aspect of the day, it’s still a good time to visit the sweets section of your local store.

If you haven’t spent much time perusing the aisles for chocolate indulgences lately, even during this past Valentine’s Day, you might not realize how much has changed. Store shelves are filled with options for just about everyone. Let’s look at the trends that are keeping chocolate items popular for every type of shopper.

Holiday Upticks

Consumers tend to gravitate to sugary pleasures around the holidays. We can see ‘upticks’ in shelf stable candy chocolate units and dollars throughout the year, including weeks leading into Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and most recently, Valentine’s Day.
SPINS:  Natural Channel & Conventional Multi-Outlet (powered by IRI);52 Weeks Ending 01.29.23; SS Candy Chocolate

Specialty-Positioned Products Show Strength in Chocolate

Although chocolate can be part of a self-indulgent eating occasion, that doesn’t mean shoppers are willing to settle for just any sweet treat they find. If shoppers are going to consume extra calories or reward themselves, they want to do it right. Chocolate sales in year-over-year growth points to consumer preference for more premium products: specialty and wellness chocolates grew 14% (+341M), outpacing all other chocolate counterparts. Today’s higher quality chocolates seem to bring out the foodie in everyone.
SPINS:  Natural Channel & Conventional Multi-Outlet (powered by IRI);52 Weeks Ending 01.29.23; UPC-Level data; Positioning Group; SS Candy Chocolate

Chocolate Type

A heart-shaped box of chocolates with some flowers might be the classic Valentine, but shoppers are enjoying chocolate in all forms. Looking at data over the past year, here are the chocolate products that posted strong dollar growth: 

  • Chocolate covered brittle (+331.4%) 
  • Chocolate fudge (+30.6%) 
  • Chocolate covered nut (+21.1%)
  • Chocolate covered fruit (+18.3%)
  • Chocolate malt ball (+17.9%)
  • Chocolate covered toffee (+15.8%) 
  • Chocolate squares (+14.7%) 

SPINS:  Natural Channel & Conventional Multi-Outlet (powered by IRI);52 Weeks Ending 01.29.23; UPC-Level data; SS Candy Chocolate; Product Type

Personal Priorities

Luckily, those products aren’t just satisfying a sweet tooth. Thanks to innovative brands, those chocolate treats meet the needs of shoppers with a variety of wellness goals, diets, and personal preferences. Over the last year, shoppers have proven that they are eager to try products that fit their lifestyle. Products that align with diet and lifestyles such as Paleo (+64.4%), Vegan (+17.8%) and Gluten Free (+7.8%) all captured more consumers spend than the previous year. The growth in Labeled Organic and Fair Trade chocolate products also indicate buyers remain conscious of the farming practices around the ingredients and the environmental, economic, and social standards they adhere to.

SPINS:  Natural Channel & Conventional Multi-Outlet (powered by IRI);52 Weeks Ending 01.29.23; UPC-Level data; Certifications and Label Inclusion; SS Candy Chocolate

Brands have also found success by upping the protein content for anyone counting their macros. Shelf stable chocolate candy products with 9+grams of protein, captured $83M (+22.2%) more dollars than the previous year.

Ethical Consumption Matters for the Chocolate Industry 

Shoppers aren’t just focused on ingredients. They want to know they’re supporting brands with responsible business practices and better-for-you missions. Shoppers know chocolate production has a troubled history and want to make sure their dollars don’t go to brands relying on low wages, child workers, or non-sustainable farming.  Take products from Certified B Corporations, for example: These businesses have proven a commitment to responsible production metrics that ensure profit does not outweigh people and the environment.

Growth among Certified B Corp shelf stable candy chocolate products are growing across all channels. This is especially true within the drug (+31.3%) and convenience (+21.3%) channels, which outpaced other retailers. It would seem on-the-go; convenience shoppers are reaching for these products while running their everyday errands.SPINS:  Proprietary Channels & Conventional Channels (powered by IRI);52 Weeks Ending 01.01.23; Attribute Performance; Certified B Corp; SS Candy Chocolate

Pursuing Opportunities

Today’s chocolate-loving shoppers have raised the standards and opened more opportunities for brands to earn their dollars and loyalty. Chocolate brands would be wise to emphasize the quality of their ingredients, their responsible sourcing and sustainability, and other attributes that prove that their products deserve to be the go-to dessert. You can also stand out in a crowded market, by joining forces with retailers outside existing channels/distribution to help you connect with customers to earn a reputation as an innovative brand.

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Looking for more information? Please contact the SPINS Account Manager for PRESENCE, Mike Murphy at