FMCG Gurus details chocolate trends ahead of our World Confectionery Conference

With FMCG Gurus insights group set to appear at this year’s World Confectionery Conference, the group offers its view on major trends within the chocolate category, writes Neill Barston.

According to the organisation’s marketing executive, Kate Kehoe, consumers decision making over product ranges remains influenced by a number of core factors.

With shoppers remaining comparatively hard-pressed in the UK at least, amid a backdrop of near 40-year inflation highs, market confidence has remained fragile.

This in turn has had an impact on confectionery sales during 2023, and it’s just one of many topics that this year’s World Confectionery Conference – which features FMCG Gurus senior analyst Mike Hughes join the speaker line-up to examine how the market have shifted, and where they may be heading in the next twelve months – so make the most of our final Early Bird conference rates for our event on 5 October at the Harrogate Convention Centre, UK, with a £30 discount off attendance rates being offered until 5 October, through contacting sales manager Chris Meer, quoting Early Bird23, at [email protected] 

Speaking on the organisation’s latest analysis of the chocolate segment, Kate Kehoe believed there were a number of market complexities at play.

She said: “Consumers turn to chocolate products for a variety of reasons. During times of financial uncertainty amid today’s cost of living crisis, one reason that consumers turn to chocolate is to find a sense of escapism from their everyday worries and anxieties. FMCG Gurus’ consumer insights reveal that 40% of global consumers have sought out chocolate products that remind them of past and simpler times. This indicates that chocolate products can often be seen to elicit an emotional reaction and to aid feelings of relaxation.

“However, this consumption of chocolate can often be associated with guilt, and as a result, chocolate brands should be promoting guilt-free indulgence. Consumers highly value chocolate products that are conveniently nutritious. FMCG Gurus’ findings highlight that 63% of global consumers find chocolate products that are high in protein appealing.

“Following this, consumers also value chocolate that contains energy-boosting ingredients. This highlights the opportunity for brands in the chocolate market to minimise feelings of guilt when consuming chocolate, and instead through the use of functional ingredients offer a nutritional boost.”

However, in her view, she added that it is important to note that while functional ingredients are of high appeal among consumers, it is essential that these are not overpromoted at the expensive of sensory appeal. While consumers value healthy products, they also value moments of indulgence, and prioritise taste, so chocolate brands should offer products which balance these key product attributes and consumer need states.

Furthermore, she added that consumers are increasingly concerned about the state of the environment and the impact of the food and drink production industry. As a result, a large proportion of consumers have made conscious efforts to act more sustainably through their dietary and lifestyle habits.

She added: “Importantly, consumer concern stretches beyond their concern for the environment and interlinks with concerns about how this can also impact their health. As a result, concerns are seeking out chocolate products that they deem green and clean.

“In terms of ingredients, free-from chemicals and artificial ingredients are of high appeal to a large proportion of consumers. FMCG Gurus’ consumer insights reveal that 75% of global consumers value and find natural claims appealing in chocolate categories. The presence of natural, chemical-free ingredients in chocolate products will significantly enhance consumer perceptions of value through their associations with health, sustainability and high quality.”

In addition, she added that as a result, brands  respond to the rising demand for authentic, real, and natural ingredients in chocolate products. In addition, with increase of proactive consumers who are seeking out food and drink products that aid health and wellness, streamlined ingredient lists and free-from claims will also be of high appeal to consumers.

Transparency is key

As the analyst noted, at a time of increased consumer scepticism, chocolate brands must offer transparency and reassurance to consumers. With increased awareness around green-washing and health-washing scandals, consumers are wary of complex labelling and overexaggerated health or environmental claims.

For instance, FMCG Gurus’ findings show that 51% of global consumers say they are concerned about hidden ingredients in food and drink. Therefore, consumers are seeking out reassurance that health claims and functional ingredients trustworthy and reliable. As a result, brands must ensure that labelling is kept simple, clear and includes clinically-proven evidence to support any health or sustainability claims on food and drink packaging.

Interestingly, she added that across the globe, plant-based diets have moved away from being associated with ethical elitism and for the young, environmentally savvy consumers. Now, plant-based products have moved beyond being just for those following a strict dietary plan, but have become incorporated into many consumers diets, including those who rotate between animal based and plant-based products, with FMCG Gurus’ consumer insights revealing that 31% of global consumers would describe their diet as ‘Flexitarian’.

Kate concluded: “While consumers are more open to plant-based chocolate products, the plant-based market has seen a stagnation with sales as a result of rising costs and sensory appeal. As a result, brands must look into innovating plant-based chocolate from a sensory and price perspective.”


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