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With candy universally popular, endlessly varied, and ubiquitously available, the overall U.S. market is largely mature. Moreover, ever-growing consumer health and obesity concerns have kept consumption levels generally flat, even as marketer competition and innovation have been dampened by a sluggish economy, by market consolidation, and by rising costs.
Difficult times can drive consumers to comfort foods such as candy: the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index for third quarter 2004 shows Hershey and Mars products garnering the greatest increases in customer satisfaction ratings over the past year. Along with caloric and carb concerns, nonetheless, demographics conspire against any near-future surge in market growth.
The competitive response? An ongoing free-for-all whereby marketers are stretching beyond former class, retail, segment, and product boundaries to grab sales and share from competitors. Simultaneously, marketers are updating marketing, tweaking offerings, and launching new products to target candy consumers of all stripes.
Within the chocolate category, competition is centering on gourmet and premium chocolates. IRI-tracked sales of premium brands in the mass market have grown at a compound annual growth rate of about 16%, while sales of organic chocolates are growing at a 30% clip, compared with 3%-4% growth rates for chocolate candy overall. Most notably, IRI-tracked chocolate candy sales for Lindt and its acquired subsidiary Ghirardelli have risen at a 36% compound annual growth rate, from $22.0 million in 2000 to $75.6 million in 2004. Thus, while Hershey ranks first by dollar gains in chocolate candy over the 2000-2004 period, Lindt ranks second, outpacing Mars and Nestlé.
Productscan data on package tags for chocolate candy introductions reveal gourmet/upscale products as the key market driver, with total package tags rising from 89 in 2000 to 187 in 2004, compared with a rise from 13 to 107 for low carbohydrate/sugar package tags. Within the premium arena of gourmet, upscale, natural, and organic products, dark chocolate (with 91 tags) is nipping at the heels of milk chocolate (104 tags), with a growing number of players marketing dark chocolate products on the basis of specified cocoa content and cocoa bean origins and varietals.
At the same time that premium marketers are adopting mass-market habits such as candy bar formats and frequent-snacker packaging, mass marketers are stretching into the premium chocolate category. Bracketing out novelty chocolate candies, the candy weighing in most expensively in IRI sales tracking is not Scharffen Berger candy bars or Lindt Valentine’s chocolates or Newman’s Own Organics, but Mars’ Dove Time Past Nine ($27.74/pound). With Mars pushing Double Chocolate Truffles and Scharffen Berger selling in Safeway, the caste system in chocolate candy is a thing of the past.
Packaged Facts’ new report, The U.S. Market for Chocolate: Chocolate Bars, Bagged/Boxed Chocolates and Gourmet/Premium Chocolates, analyzes sales and growth potential for the chocolate category within the confectionery market (a companion volume covers non-chocolate candy), including gourmet and low-carb/sugar-free products; surveys marketing and new product trends; and dissects consumer demographics for chocolate candy overall and for leading brands, along with variations in food- and health-related attitudes among chocolate candy consumers, heavy users of chocolates, users of premium brand chocolates, and non-chocolate candy consumers.
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