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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Premium chocolate is increasingly populist


Packaged Facts' report on Chocolate Candy in the U.S. shows that chocolate dollar sales rose in 2011 while unit sales remained flat, meaning that even recession-battered consumers have proven willing to pay more for their chocolate. 

So chocolate makers need not worry as much as other food marketers about rising prices. Not much will deter consumers from indulging in this affordable luxury.   Moreover, despite boom times for store brands in the packaged food and beverage industry overall, not much will convince consumers to save money by switching from their favorite brands.  In mass-market outlets, store brands account for 21% of unit sales of microwave popcorn, but only 1% of sales of chocolate bars.

Consumers in fact are increasingly looking to chocolate to satisfy discriminating tastes and demands, reflecting in part the raising-the-bar influence of foodie culture.  For example, sales of organic chocolate in the natural food channel were up a whopping 20% in 2011, according to SPINSscan data cited in our report. 

Chocolate manufacturers have taken note that premium is increasingly populist.  Companies that traditionally kept to a narrow, “exclusive” retail footprint have expanded their product lines to mass-market channels, with the more upscale supermarket chains and outlets among the favored outposts.  And brands that were mostly known for gifting have partially re-positioned themselves as everyday treats, whether for self-indulgence or for sharing with others.  Nothing is more popular than sharing, and nothing is more democratic than chocolate decadence.

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