Consumers’ Love for Chocolate Holds Strong

The NCA released a new report about perceptions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding the sweet treat.

October 15, 2021

Chopped Up Chocolate

WASHINGTON—Sales of chocolate in 2020 were strong, according to a new report by the National Confectioners Association, with chocolate accounting for about 60% of all confectionery sales in the U.S.

The report, “Getting to Know Chocolate Consumers 2021: Exploring Consumer Demographics, Consumption Preferences and Shopping Habits for Mainstream, Premium and Fine Chocolate,” takes a closer look at the rapidly growing fine chocolate segment, which has seen a significant increase in frequent and exclusive consumers since the start of the pandemic.

“Chocolate sales reflect some of the world’s most iconic brands hand-in-hand with small batch fine chocolate,” said the report. “It is the range of items and continued innovation in flavor, texture, ingredients, packaging and branding, reflecting changing consumer preferences, that drives the continued high consumer engagement in household penetration, trips and spending.”

More than 80% of consumers consume chocolate in at least two of the three chocolate segments, which are mainstream chocolate (brands like Hershey and MARS), premium chocolate (Lindt or Ghirardelli) and fine chocolate.

Eighty-three percent of consumers purchase mainstream chocolate, and half of those respondents say mainstream is their typical chocolate choice. Premium chocolate is consumed by 67%, and 27% say premium is their typical chocolate choice—up from 23% in 2018. One in three consumers eats fine chocolate, and 5% say it’s their typical chocolate choice.

Most consumers view chocolate as an occasional treat, partaking in it two to three times a week. Positioning chocolate as a permissible, beloved treat for consumers will help manufacturers, as well as retailers, sell the product, according to the report.

Fifty-eight percent of consumers care about how their chocolate is produced. At no surprise, millennials and Gen Z especially care about the source of their chocolate.

“Using the Gen Z and Millennial response as a barometer for future interest, the importance of social and environmental stewardship in chocolate production and packaging will increase further,” said the report.

The report is comprised of shopper data collected using an online survey conducted in August 2021 among a national sample of 1,506 consumers between the ages of 18 and 75.

NACS Magazine’s October Category Close-Up focuses on the candy category and its performance in 2020. NACS State of the Industry data indicate that chocolate bars continued to represent the largest percentage of the category’s sales at 43.9% and saw both sales and gross profit increase in 2020, averaging $34,990 and $18,600 per store, respectively. The second largest contributor to the category was non-chocolate bars, with sales up 14.4%, NACS SOI data indicate.