Easter chocolate innovation falls 25% amid Covid-19, according to Mintel studies

Despite relative buoyancy reported across key global confectionery markets as Easter approaches, coronavirus conditions have resulted in a 25% cut in chocolate product innovation over the past year, according to Mintel research, reports Neill Barston.

According to the organisation’s latest analysis, a total of 10% of chocolate launches internationally were Easter-based chocolate items, ranging from traditional bunnies and chicks, through to more novelty ranges across the world.

As Confectionery Production has reported, there have been some notable seasonal confectionery releases within the past month in the build-up to a trading period that has traditionally been considered in many territories as the second most significant behind Christmas.

This has been reflected by latest figures from research group Kantar released this week that have shown in the UK, sales of Easter chocolate eggs increased by nearly 50% to a value of £153 million, with around 80 million in total sold within Britain on average each year.

This year there appears to have been a greater emphasis on higher-value premium brand ranges targeting the adult market, with well established players including Ferrero, Lindt (classic bunny range pictured) and Prestat, being joined by individual offerings from supermarket chains.

However, trading conditions within the UK, as with many other countries have remained challenging, with last year’s Easter was heavily impacted due to pandemic retailing restrictions – which as far as Britain is concerned, are set to continue this weekend, with high street stores remaining closed.

In addition, a number of key trade events including this year’s ISM in Germany were cancelled amid the pandemic, which have traditionally proved drivers of innovation within the sector, with live tasting events not possible during the past year.

According to Mintel, over a quarter (28%), of all chocolate confectionery launches are seasonal, but the fall in product launches has not been restricted to Easter, but over the past 12 months, all releases at key occasions across the year have fallen by a total of 18%, with new product across the industry overall having reportedly declined by 14%.

The US (which last year actually recorded a slight increase in confectionery sales despite the pandemic), has the biggest hunger for seasonal confectionery, where more than a third (36%) of all chocolate launched over the last 12 months features a seasonal claim. This is followed by Europe where one in three (32%) new chocolate launches carry a seasonal claim, and Latin America with a quarter (26%).

As previously noted, the UK has in fact seen some especially notable launches over the past three months targeting the Easter period, with major manufacturers appearing to favour a dual strategy of maintaining core product lines, while delivering additional novelties. Among the standout lines for this year has been Fortnum and Mason’s sailing ship egg, Hotel Chocolat’s Ostrich Egg, as well as other high-end releases from Prestat and Ferrero to name a few.

Marcia Mogelonsky, Director of Insight, Mintel Food and Drink, commented on the reduction in innovation within the market.

She said: “The pandemic has dramatically slowed chocolate innovation as the usual channels and tactics used to attract new consumers have been shut down. Sampling and gifting through specialist outlets and other brick-and-mortar options, for example, have proved to be a challenge.

“Many manufacturers have stalled budgets and investments in new product development until economies improve. While innovation has slowed, the internet has proved to be a success story for some producers who have successfully introduced new products and launched extensions of familiar and comforting brands through online sales and social media.

“Coping with holidays has been a real challenge for the chocolate industry. 2020 Easter sales declined as that holiday was the first to be celebrated in lockdown. Key chocolate occasions such as Halloween and Christmas also suffered as manufacturers worked to get confectionery to locked-down consumers.”

As Mintel revealed, Britain leads the way in vegan/no animal new chocolate product launches over the last year, with the UK was responsible for almost one in five (17%) of these new types of chocolate products (including the likes of HiP, Plamil, Moo Free Chocolates), followed by Germany (11%). Meanwhile, the US (6%), Australia (5%), and South Africa (5%) are responsible for one in twenty of these launches.

Overall, in the last year, vegan/no animal ingredients chocolate accounted for just over one in twenty (6%) chocolate launches globally, up from 5% the year prior.

“Easter eggs have been given a vegan makeover as plant-based eating gains traction across food categories. As the demand for plant-based food across categories grows, chocolate brands are launching new milk chocolate bars that rely on plant – rather than animal – milk. They are also reformulating some of their most popular brands, replacing dairy milk with plant-based milk.”

Furthermore, the wider trend for sugar reduction and wellbeing during the pandemic has added a further complexity to the overall global market.

While there appears to be wider awareness of such products, challenging trading conditions appears to have impacted further on their development – with Public Health England’s much publicised campaign last year revealing that over a four-year period (between 2015-2019), its target of 20% sugar reductions was not met by the industry. In fact, chocolate ranges marginally increased overall sugar levels by 0.4% in that period.

According to Mintel research, low/no sugar and sugar-free chocolate account for only a fraction of new product development. In the last 12 months, ‘sugar adjusted’ chocolate was responsible for less than one in twenty (4%) launches globally, up from 3% the previous year. This comes as just four in ten (41%) British chocolate buyers have tried low sugar chocolate.


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