Exclusive: Global chocolate market’s resilience offers major Christmas cheer

The chocolate confectionery market remains one of the highlights of the annual calendar, as editor Neill Barston discusses with Mintel’s director of insights, Marcia Mogelonsky, as we examine some of the industry’s key Christmas releases

As Marcia Mogelonsky confesses, she ‘just loves chocolate’ – which is fortunate for her, being considered one of the market’s leading consumer trends analysts exploring the varying nuances of the industry around the world.

Having worked for the Mintel research group for over two decades, her time with the organisation is seemingly about to draw to a close following a decision to shortly become an independent consultant for the ever-evolving confectionery industry. (see our exclusive Christmas video interview with Marcia here).

Notably, as the US-based expert explains, there are a raft of considerable changes impacting the sector that keep her on her toes, as she pours over international trends shaping the wider sector.

From the launch of new healthier option segments, emergence of guidelines and legislation attempting to regulate sugar and calorie intake, through to the prominence of premium chocolate markets, she says it’s the diversity of the industry that keeps her going.

Beyond that, it’s the many intriguing and dynamic companies and individuals and the products that they collectively craft that are an endless source of fascination. While she concedes that her own family background in the Jewish community means it’s Hanukkah rather than Christmas she will be celebrating this year, she’s keenly aware of just how significant the season is to people around the world.

“Everyone wants an advent calendar, and if it’s filled with chocolate, that’s really good. I have seen them filled with everything – I had to explain to my husband the other day that it’s not as good to get 28 pairs of socks, as it is with chocolate.

“He’s not getting the point of the advent calendar, the thing about them is that the happiness they bring, is that they’re offering just a little bite,” she observes of the key gifting tradition that remains one of the most enduring symbols of the season. In terms of wider trends that have been making headway this year for the chocolate and confectionery market, she explains that its warming flavours, such as spiced pumpkin are continuing to capture many consumers’ attention.

Another flavour favourite, she notes, is that of gingerbread, which proves a perennial winner when paired with chocolate, which is something product developers and retailers have latched on as a constant theme for the Christmas period.

“I think you take the flavour or spice profile from any Christmas treat, and ‘chocolatise’ it,’ I think that will be the next big thing. I haven’t seen a plum pudding flavour chocolate yet, but I don’t see why there shouldn’t be one for next year.

“I watch a lot of British Bake Off shows, and the steamed pudding flavours could be in chocolate, as what people are looking for at Christmas in chocolate, they are looking for in everything else – warmth, family and togetherness,” says the analyst, who says that tapping into traditional flavours that have an element of nostal- gia is something that is particularly important to the sector.

Big festive business
Clearly, the human instinct to celebrate and indulge is a powerful driver of the Christmas confectionery market – which according to recent studies from Technavio, is set to increase globally by a total of $9 billion in value at a growth rate of six per cent, is a testament to its strength amid wider market challenges in supply chains. While, as discussed in our UK market feature within this edition, consumers are facing financial pressures this year that are causing an extended period of concern in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s an underlying resilience to the confectionery industry.

With chocolate confectionery being widely thought of as an affordable luxury, retailers are at least hoping on a wider scale that the market will continue to progress with positive momentum into next year.
One of the main trends Confectionery Production is observing is the burgeoning demand for premium chocolate ranges on a global level. This just happens to be one of Marcia’s specialist subjects, having written the first Mintel report on the luxury market back in the early 2000’s.

“We worked out the definition of what defines premium chocolate, and it’s price, packaging and presentation. It has changed so much – I’ve seen small companies become big, and big companies go, as we’ve seen recently with Hotel Chocolat being sold,’ she reflects on the complexities of the market.

In her view, there is still hope that small and independent chocolate businesses can thrive in the industry, noting several companies in the US has expanded out from initially being regional to become more national in their sales outlook. With the retail sector facing tougher times on a global level, does she believe there is in fact a future for chocolate stores?

“Chocolate is a very sensory product, people buy it not just for the taste, but the aroma, and the experience of buying it. If you know the product – and have been eating it for years, you might buy it online. But if there’s a new line out there – people want to taste and see it, as they don’t know what it is. That’s going to be the problem for online retailers – how will they get people to try them, especially in an economy where people are watching their pennies.

“So chocolatiers will have to work out a deal with independent stores to have them near checkout points, where you can see and touch these ranges. I think that’s the best way to keep them going,” notes the analyst, who says that one of the biggest revelations of the past couple of decades within the industry has been the ability of retailers own brands to match the quality of premium producers. It’s certainly a factor that continues to make it a highly competitive market.

As for her own experiences, Marcia has reported on its remarkable twists and turns down the years, but what is it that continues to fire her inspiration? “I just love the industry, because there’s so much you can do with chocolate. It’s not just a product, it’s a flavour. It’s tracking how it can find its way into all sorts of corners of your food life that you hadn’t expected. For example, I was making a ratatouille from a fancy cook book, which had a secret ingredient of a square of dark chocolate melted into the sauce – who would think of that! You’ve always got to have some emergency dark chocolate around for your cooking needs. The whole thing is an adventure, the different flavours and shapes.”

Unveiling major Christmas releases

While the market may be experiencing its share of tests at present, the major brands are keen to make their mark on this year’s global confectionery market.

As Mondelez International explains, the run-up to its extensive Christmas activities begins many months before the peak season. This year, the business is offering a luxurious treat to the range by re-vamping the Cadbury Chunk Collection.

This involves expansions into new pack sizes to tap into the sharing occasion and drive value, as well as including the addition of a new Caramilk chunk within the collection. With Cadbury Caramilk having driven 17 per cent incremental sales to the category and being a hit with millennials and families, the inclusion of these chunks is set to increase the variety of shoppers into the gifting category.

The new chunk will sit alongside the popular Cadbury Dairy Milk and White, Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel and Cadbury Dairy Milk Wholenut chunks, with the collection sure to generate excitement among shoppers this Christmas, being essential to those festive moments during cozy nights in. It is also rolling out a new Cadbury Buttons Selection Box this year, and with Cadbury Buttons being one of the best-sellers in the category, it’s set to be a great success.

The contents of the box are sure to appeal to all tastes, as it includes four different flavoured treat bags: Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons, Cadbury Dairy Milk Orange Buttons, Cadbury Dairy Milk Salted Caramel Nibbles and Caramilk Buttons, so there’s something for everyone in this brand-new product.

Another family favourite making a welcome return is the Dairy Milk Coins series, which the brand believes is ‘guaranteed to spark joy in-store.’ These nostalgic stocking fillers are individually wrapped in festive gold foil, are set to drive incremental sales to finish the season off, with the excitement of the big day just around the corner.

Core gifting and sharing SKU, Cadbury Fingers Collection Box, is receiving a redesign this Christmas, to dial up the luxury of the Cadbury Fingers festive collection. Retailers can further tap into the sharing category with Cadbury Dairy Milk Winter Orange Crisp 360g, which is now available across the market for the first time this year.

For its part, Ferrero has unveiled a host of festive treats for the Christmas season, including a grand assortment of chocolates, special edition Nutella glass jars and Keebler Fudge Stripes gingerbread cookies in a limited edition, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Elf movie.

“The holiday season is about making memories and our robust line-up of festive, limited-edition products can be the catalyst in helping loved ones do just that,” said Jim Klein, chief customer officer, Ferrero North America. “Whether families want to celebrate every day in December with the Kinder Holiday Mix Countdown Calendar or bake something delicious with Nutella, there are so many opportunities to create magical holiday moments with Ferrero.

Among its core highlights for Christmas 2023 are its Ferrero Collection Grand Assortment, an indulgent series of chocolates that features two new additional flavours; Cappuccino, a creamy, luscious filling combining the distinctive flavour of coffee alongside milk, encased within a crunchy shell. It also includes Manderly, a crunchy specialty with a velvety hazelnut creamy filling, with a core almond taste. In addition, it also features its traditional Ferrero Rocher, and Raffaello (a California white almond and coconut from the Pacific. Islands), available in 12 and 24 counts. Fans of the Kinder brand will not miss out this season with a special Holiday Mix Countdown Calendar.

Quality Street specials
Within the UK, Nestlé Confectionery announces its Christmas 2023 line-up made up of classic holiday treats and brand-new winter wonders. With distinctive flavours and textures that capture the spirit of the season, the range offers something for everyone.

Quality Street has introduced a new bar on the block for Christmas 2023. Two favourite flavours have been fused together to create something extraordinary. The new Quality Street Collisions Hazelnut & Caramel Chocolate Sharing Bar brings together indulgent caramel, a smooth hazelnut filling, and crunchy hazelnut pieces all encased in milk chocolate.

Also this Christmas period, Quality Street fans can find a new shaped The Purple One sweet, available exclusively in a limited number of The Purple One Bags. As part of a trial, a small number of Quality Street tubs, cartons and tins will also include the Orange Crunch sweet in a slightly different shape. Both sweets will take on the shape of the Caramel Swirl sweet but will maintain their unique and well-loved flavours.

Jemma Handley, senior brand manager for Quality Street, said: “We are trialling a different shape for two of our sweets this Christmas season. We know how iconic Quality Street sweets are and we have made sure that it is the same great tasting Purple One and Orange Crunch that people know and love inside their iconic coloured wrappers.”
In the world of After Eight, a new treat is arriving in time for the festive season, the After Eight Winter Fondant bag, made up of iconic London landmark shaped mint fondant sweets. Returning once more is After Eight Gin &  Tonic & Mint, featuring a gin and tonic-flavoured mint fondant enrobed within rich dark chocolate. Furthermore, Smarties Candy Cane Giant Tube contains a special mix of red and white milk chocolate Smarties, while Aero Candy Cane Bubbles have a delicious, aerated vanilla flavour centre and half red and half white shell.

Rowntree’s Randoms Festives are also new for 2023. Wrapped in winter wonderland-themed packaging, the new sugar pouch contains festive and random jelly shapes in delicious fruity flavours. White chocolate fans will be keen to try the new Milkybar Speculoos. Also in the premium segment, Lindt has introduced Lindor Irish Cream, a new limited-edition flavour for the festive season.

New Lindor Festive Edition Milk and Assorted box’s and a new designed Lindor sharing tin have also launched for Christmas, released nationwide in grocery and independents, Lindt Chocolate Shops and www.lindt.co.uk/shop. Founded in 1845, the brand has extended its reach considerably down the decades, and the company now produces over one billion Lindor truffles in almost 100 different countries worldwide with a rainbow of mouth-watering flavours from Salted Caramel, Double Chocolate, to White, Dark and Blood Orange. Many seasonal and limited-edition varieties are available with exclusive flavours available in the Lindt Chocolate shops throughout the country.



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