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CircleUpJune.24.20226 min read

Top Chocolate Industry Trends of 2022

The Chocolate Industry At A Glance

It’s no secret that around the world chocolate is savored and celebrated every day, making it one of life’s small special pleasures. As a result, the chocolate industry is large and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.   

Today, the global chocolate industry is valued at $171 billion and is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 4.50% between 2022 and 2028, according to Vantage Market Research. That being said, while the industry is growing overall, newcomers are slow to make a dent in the legacy industry. 

Based on the top 10 attributes for 2022, the number of brands entering the market is slowing down. From 2020 to 2021, brands with the attribute “Chocolate” increased by 39% while from 2021 to 2022, brands increased by only 28% according to Helio.

Consumer Preferences in Chocolate

Taste in chocolate is a personal preference that varies from person to person, and can sometimes even cause an emotional debate. Have you ever seen a milk chocolate lover try and defend dark chocolate? We didn’t think so. 

But when it comes to purchasing chocolate, there are six major attributes that most consumers agree are the most important when making a pick. In the graph below, you’ll see that “Flavor,” “Value for Money,” “Texture,” “Ingredient Quality,” “Giftable,” and “Packaging” all are important factors in consumer preference based on the blue bars. The yellow line depicts the average online review rating among reviews that mention each of the six categories.

Figure A. 

Consumer Preferences for Chocolate Purchases

While “Giftable” is the fifth most important purchasing criteria to customers. Chocolate brands with “Giftable” attributes are performing above the weighted importance to customers, which means “Giftable” is performing well for Chocolate and exceeding customer’s criteria.

Additionally, we see that “Flavor” could use improvement overall and it looks like brands are beginning to address this issue since the count of brands using “Flavor” as an attribute is on an upward trajectory with 17% increase 2020 to 2021 and 31% increase 2021 to 2022.


Top Chocolate Industry Trends


Chocolate: A Snack with Mental Health Benefits

2021 was still at the height of the pandemic. With the stress and burden that came with COVID-19, utmost importance was placed on maintaining mental and emotional health. One of the easy ways for consumers to cope was to turn to food products that make them feel good with quick and easy snacking that also provided mental health stimulation. Chocolate was more than able to fulfill that need.

In fact, chocolate has such a positive effect on endorphins that one study found that at the point chocolate melts in the mouth, all areas of the brain are stimulated far more intensely and for longer than from kissing! And it’s not just science that’s proven this. Consumers are on board too. Whether it’s simply for indulgence or celebration, many people agree that consuming chocolate helps support their emotional well-being. A study by Barry Callebaut emphasizes this by reporting that 72% of chocolate consumers from around the world believe that confectionery treats play an important role in the emotional aspect of their overall wellness.

A 2019 study of U.S. consumers by FMCG Gurus found that 61% of respondents snack on chocolate. A Helio analysis of consumer reviews on chocolate found a very similar result. “Snack” occurred in 7,993 reviews in 2021, which 1.1% of all reviews for the category chocolate. However looking at 2020, there were 19,974 reviews containing “Snack from which we can infer that  2020 was a big year for chocolate and many customers sought out chocolate for a snack. 

Figure B.

top chocolate review terms

When it comes to attributes associated with the highest consumer ratings, “Hazelnut” has the highest ratio of 5-star reviews to 1-4 star reviews, making chocolate snacks with hazelnut flavors presumably the most popular. “Snack”, however, was a close second with the second-highest ratio of 5-star to 1-4 star reviews, and the highest ratio of 4 and 5-star reviews to 1-3 star reviews making snackable chocolate very popular among consumers. 

Figure C.

Chocolate review rating distribution


Vegan & Sustainable Attributes

Consumer interest in plant-based diets and ethical standards have steadily risen over the past few years. This has influenced chocolate manufacturers and brands to launch a new variety of chocolate products. Today, there are more milk-free products. Chocolate manufacturers have also released products that use dairy alternatives like nut-based milk or beverages. In fact, The global vegan chocolate confectionery market is expected to reach $1.41 billion by 2028, registering a CAGR of 14.8%.

Most of the cocoa used in most chocolates is sourced from areas that have shown support for slavery. Not to mention, the method they use for harvesting raw cocoa is in no way sustainable. Nowadays, a lot of consumers prefer to know where exactly chocolate manufacturers source their supply of cocoa. A survey done by the National Confectioners Association reports that 62% of chocolate shoppers place value on whether the manufacturers engage in responsible labor practices, 56% are concerned with the sustainable sourcing of the cocoa, and 53% want transparency of the production process.

Consumers now expect brands and manufacturers to invest in and put efforts into adopting sustainability practices in the production and sourcing of their products. This has increased the number of brands that have launched chocolate products with ethical claims. 

A look at closer at “Vegan”, “Sustainable”, and related attributes overall in the figure below, there was a significant increase in these attributes from 2020 to 2021 and they continue to increase in 2022. Chocolate brands describing themselves with the term “Ethically” increased by 94%. Even though the brand count for these attributes did not grow nearly as much from 2021 to 2022, this is inline with Chocolate at the category level having less brands entering the market. “Vegan” attributes preformed similarly, with brand count grew by 57% from 2020 to 2021 and only grew by 29% from 2021 to 2022.

Figure D.

chocolate brand attributes

One thing to note from Figure B.: “Vegan” or “Sustainable” attributes are likely not in the highest frequency group of terms used in consumer reviews. This is because people are likely less inclined to include those terms in review, but rather leave reviews for brands that are known to be vegan and/or sustainable. “Health” is the closest term to this group of brands within the Chocolate space and occurs in 0.3% of total reviews for chocolate in 2021.

The Health Conscious Chocolate Consumer

The results of COVID-19 have encouraged people to prioritize their health and wellness more these days. It has inspired them to start consuming healthier products as well as live healthier lifestyles. Chocolate products are no exception. According to Cargill research, almost 70% of all respondents associated chocolate with health benefits. The survey also found that 52% of consumers choose dark chocolate because they believe “it’s healthier.”

As people become more and more conscious of the food choices they make, chocolate flavors that mix the health benefits of cocoa with other natural sugars will also continue to rise. This also means an increase in dark chocolate products with less sugar content but higher percentages of high-quality cocoa. 

“Dark” chocolate had a larger increase in 2021 at 28% in the number of brands but grew the same as “Milk” in 2022 at 24%. Today, Helio tracks about 1,000 brands with dark chocolate products. Below is a sample of the top chocolate brands across Helio with a Helio Growth Predictor Score of .99, meaning they most likely to see significant growth in the next 12 months. 

Top Chocolate Brands in Helio as of June 2022

Deziria | HPG .99

Manoa Chocolate | HPG .99

 Undercover Quinoa | HPG .99

Ranger Chocolate | HPG .99

Choczero | HPG .99

That’s it for the top chocolate trends of 2022. Consumer demands are ever-changing, but what seems to be never changing is the common love and fascination people from all over the world have when it comes to chocolates and the warmth and happiness this sweet treat always brings about.

If you are interested in growing your chocolate business, reach out to our Helio or CircleUp Credit Advisors team today!