Chocolate ‘Innovation’ Drops 25% Over the Past Year as Industry Copes With Covid

Mar 31, 2021 | Insight

Image: Mariana Silvestre via Pexels

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.”


Easter is coming up soon and much like other special times of the year such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Halloween, chocolate plays a big part of the celebration.

And while the chocolate industry gears up for these events, according to new research from Mintel, there have been markedly fewer new choices for chocolate lovers across the globe this Easter, as chocolate innovation slumped 25% over the past 12 months.

According to Mindel, “From bunnies to chicks, Easter chocolate accounted for one in ten (10%) chocolate product launches globally in the last 12 months. Well over a quarter (28%) of all global chocolate launches are seasonal, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween.”

“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.”

Mintel adds that it’s not just Easter that has witnessed a halt in innovation: over the past 12 months launches of all seasonal chocolate have fallen by 18%, while new product development in the chocolate industry overall has declined by 14%.

US Home to Biggest Lovers of Chocolate

The US 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, says Mintel. This is followed by Europe where one in three (32%) new chocolate launches carry a seasonal claim, and Latin America with a quarter (26%).

“The pandemic has dramatically slowed chocolate innovation as the usual channels and tactics used to attract new consumers have been shut down,” said Marcia Mogelonsky, Director of Insight, Mintel Food and Drink.

“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.”

One in Twenty Chocolate Launches are Vegan

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

Well over a quarter of all global chocolate launches are seasonal, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween.

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, said Mintel.    

“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.”

The Path to Sugar Reduction

Mintel also notes that the increased attention placed on health and wellness over the last year has put further pressure on sugar reduction efforts.

According to their 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.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased attention on overall health, as well as the obesity epidemic that plagues several nations,” said Mogelonsky.

“This has added further pressure on chocolate’s health credentials. Confectionery will never be a conventional ‘health food’ and the path to sugar reduction remains bumpy. The war on sugar will remain a challenging battleground as our research reveals that consumers largely want to keep their usual chocolate products without sugar reduction.”

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