Monday, February 18, 2008

Premium Tastes

Premium chocolate has grown hugely in popularity over the past few years. Sales has increased 129 percent over the period 2001 to 2006, from $896 million to $2.05 billion in the USA alone.

There are various reasons for this latest growth. First, medical research suggests that the flavanols and antioxidants in chocolate have the potential to reduce rates of stroke, heart failure, cancer, and even ironically, diabetes.

Mintel's U.S. Premium Chocolate Confectionery report further cites the growth in tastings and flavour profiles amongst US consumers.

Future trends to watch out for:

1. Premium chocolate launches have received considerable attention, and the flavor notes of premium chocolate have ranged from basics like dark, milk, caramel, and coffee, to more exotic flavors including honey and chai.

2. Chocolatiers' imaginations can run wild as premium chocolate consumers seem up to just about any challenge: exotic flavors that have come to market include ice wine, goat cheese, and olive oil.

3. Other trends include single origin (chocolate made with cocoa exclusively from one region), organic, Fair Trade and sustainable.

4. Chocolate with high cocoa content (ranging from about 45% to about 72%) now has the cocoa percentage printed on the label so consumers seeking high-cocoa chocolate (for health or taste reasons) can easily find products that suit their needs.

5. Since chocolate has become the subject of extensive medical research, it is not surprising that new "functional" chocolate is on store shelves. Products promise to be rich in antioxidants and to help with a number of health issues. Also, in an attempt to make chocolate healthier, an increasing variety of sugar-free premium chocolate is coming to market.

6. Options for customising or personalising premium chocolate are becoming relatively popular, analogous to personalizing M&Ms. In the case of premium chocolate, it is usually the label or foil overwrap that is personalized, not the chocolate itself.