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Chocolate is something of an icon of the fine food industry. Indulgent and luxurious, with sustainability credentials and proud provenance if done well, it’s a stalwart of the fine food retailer’s shelves.
While its real estate shows no sign of waning, 2023’s shoppers are after something a little different– keep an eye out for eco points, health consciousness and that all-important fine food sparkle to keep your chocolate sales booming this year.
Indeed, the retail market for chocolate is expected to be worth nearly £5.9 billion right now – up 15% on 2017 and boasting year-on-year growth of 3% – according to Mintel’s recently published Chocolate Confectionery – UK – 2022 report.
“Volume sales have also grown, up 6% on 2017, despite the government focus on sugar reduction and consumer interest in healthy eating,” explains Richard Caines, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel.
While British consumers are more health-aware than in previous years, that’s not to say that they are always willing to sacrifice the indulgence that chocolate provides.
“The perception that better-for-you foods lack sensory appeal means consumers don’t want to compromise factors like taste to achieve healthier lifestyles,” states Kate Kehoe in FMCG Gurus’ Confectionery Consumption Habits in 2022 report, published in October.
Another trend – the rise of plant-based eating – is most certainly having an impact on the sector, with vegan/no animal ingredients claims featured on 18% of new launches in chocolate in 2021, up from 8% in 2017 according to Mintel’s report.
An appetite for innovation
It also found that variety is the spice of life, with 44% of chocolate consumers stating that a chocolate brand that regularly launches new variations is a more attractive proposition than one that sticks to the same old range.
According to Ella Mackay, founder of FATSO, this consumer appetite for adventure is a boon for the sector.
“On average, UK consumers purchase chocolate 43.6 times a year. And we’re pretty certain that wouldn’t be the case if consumers didn’t have a plethora of choices.
“Our taste buds, taste range and appetite for discovery drives the foodies of the world. Therefore, even in one of the most saturated categories, there is always room to grow and expand. And let’s face it, who could say no to more chocolate?”
Michael Farhi, director at RJF Farhi Ltd, has found that offering a wide selection of chocolate options offers a tangible boost to business.
“Our wider product range promises a feast of chocolate confections for every occasion with something to suit every taste; chocolate-covered fruit and nuts in a range of chocolate coverings from cinnamon-dusted chocolate almonds to plump, juicy raisins.” Ultimately, says Michael, “Farhi believes we should all indulge our inner chocoholic!”
What’s to come in 2023
Quality, health and environmental concerns will maintain their power at the heart of conscientious shoppers’ buying decisions – and brands working hard to fulfil this growing demand will flourish.
“As there is an ongoing growing and awareness with the importance of sustainability, quality ingredients and recyclable packaging, Farhi is constantly evolving to ensure that it meets requirements; improving the ingredients; working with palm oil- free chocolate, higher cocoa content, shellac-free in fully compostable, recyclable packaging solutions and very affordable within the luxury confectionery space (which is where the brand sits),” explains Michael.
“We’re seeing a lot of innovation in vegan chocolate, finding alternatives to milk without reverting to dark,” says Ella.
“We’re also seeing more brands take on different flavours – incorporating the likes of sourdough bread! There’s always space to be creative in the food sector, and it’s great to be part of a category that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down with its innovation.
That said, the category needs to do far more to overcome long-standing issues around ethics in particular slavery within the cocoa farming industry.”