The consumer survey distinguished between three main types of chocolate and provided examples to help optimize the consumer understanding of each:
• Mainstream chocolate, i.e.Hershey, Snickers or Baby Ruth.
• Premium chocolate, i.e. Lindt, Ghirardelli or Ferrero.
• Fine chocolate, made by small artisan chocolatiers, who source the best quality cacao, create small-batch products with unique flavors and textures and educate consumers about the product and process.
• Most consumers enjoy chocolate across the spectrum, according to the survey. In all, 90 percent of consumers enjoy mainstream chocolate, 70 percent premium and 27 percent consume fine chocolate.
• Chocolate represents 60 percent of the $35 billion U.S.confectionery industry. Ranging from iconic brands to products made by micro producers, chocolate is a consumer favorite — enjoyed across ages, incomes, ethnic backgrounds and regions. But much like food choices in general, chocolate habits and preferences are changing. For one, the very different confectionery preferences among Millennials is fueling a surge in demand for flavor, ingredient and texture innovation.
• U.S. chocolate sales total more than $21 billion annually.
• 91 percent of households consume everyday chocolate, and the number rises to 96 percent for seasonal chocolate.
• Nine in 10 consumers believe they themselves are responsible for leading a balanced lifestyle, in which chocolate has a well-established role.
• Consumers enjoy chocolate as a treat, averaging 2-3 times per week.
• 84 percent of consumers agree chocolate is always a treat, never a meal replacement.
• 83 percent believe chocolate can be part of a happy, balanced lifestyle.
• Supermarkets represent the primary store for groceries for about half of shoppers but have not been able to capture the business of Millennials, who are more prone to shop at supercenters, specialty/organic stores and alternative channels.
• Not only do consumers feel chocolate belongs in a balanced lifestyle, it is also a beloved treat. Word associations are dominated by positive sentiment, such as yummy, tasty, delicious, good, decadent and heaven.
• Milk chocolate draws the highest outright preference, at 37 percent of consumers. Preference for dark rises with age, and fine chocolate consumers are the most likely to enjoy a mix of chocolate types. Among consumers who prefer dark, or all chocolate types equally, 36 percent say the cacao percentage has a significant influence on their purchase. Among core fine chocolate consumers, 73 percent believe the cacao percentage is important. Most consumers look for cacao shares between 66 and 80 percent, with core fine chocolate consumers leaning toward the higher cacao shares.
• Overall, peanut/peanut butter is consumers’ favorite added flavor, followed by caramel/toffee. Core fine chocolate consumers prefer almonds, followed by caramel/toffee and hazelnuts.
Source: The National Confectioners Association