Consumers generally eat chocolate candy to indulge in a treat. Taste is the biggest driver of choice, followed by texture, and people continue to seek out products that satisfy their cravings. Some consumers, especially younger people, want even more indulgent and decadent choices.
On the other hand, better-for-you snacks are proliferating as snacking throughout the day becomes normalized for many consumers, particularly those who are working from home due to the pandemic. Many consumers want both better-for-you traits and indulgent qualities.
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Chocolate turns out to be a great product area for healthy snacks that also provide indulgent flavors, as dark chocolate is sometimes seen as a “superfood” with healthy features such as fiber, essential minerals, and antioxidants. Some studies also indicate that dark chocolate can improve health and lower the risk of heart disease when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
Reducing or Eliminating Added Sugars
Many producers of dark chocolate are reducing or eliminating added sugar content to make these products even healthier, appealing to general consumers as well as those with particular health concerns such as diabetes.
Using alternative sweeteners such as monk fruit extract, stevia, or erythritol can eliminate added sugars while maintaining a sweet flavor that consumers expect. According to Packaged Facts’ latest report on the chocolate market, sales of sugar free chocolate will rise the fastest of any chocolate type through 2025.
More consumers are turning to plant-based foods because they think products that come from plants are healthier and better for animal welfare and the environment. Some consumers are adopting a more plant-forward diet that reduces consumption of animal products without eliminating them altogether. This large and growing group of flexitarians is leading to more vegan chocolate product launches made without dairy milk.
For now, vegan chocolate is usually released under premium brands, but companies that sell mass-market chocolate such as Hershey and Mars Wrigley are indicating that vegan chocolate is in the works for the U.S. market.
Additional analysis of the chocolate industry can be found in the April 2021 Packaged Facts report Chocolate Candy: U.S. Market Trends and Opportunities, 13th Edition.
About the blogger: Cara Rasch is a food and beverage analyst for Packaged Facts. She studies consumer and industry trends in this space and has a B.A. in economics from Allegheny College.