Chocolate sales grew an estimated 6.6 percent in 2011, totaling approximately $19.5 billion in U.S. retail sales, according to Rockville, MD-based Packaged Facts, a market research group. Of that, premium chocolate accounted for 19.7 percent of chocolate sales in 2011, reaching an estimated $1.13 billion. According to Packaged Facts report, Chocolate Market in the U.S.: Trends and Opportunities in Premium, Gourmet and Mass Chocolate Products, the demand for premium chocolate will persist as a leading growth trend, especially when the economy recovers.
The healthy chocolate trend is likewise expected to fuel the market as a subset of the premium trend according to Packaged Facts. Organic chocolate sales grew 19.8 percent, reaching approximately $32 million in 2011.
"For many chocolate-loving Americans it's more about the experience than it is about mere consumption. To meet this demand, premium chocolatiers are setting off on culinary adventures, discovering new layers of flavor and textures by experimenting with umami flavors or developing products to match consumers' moods," said Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts.
Chocolate sales industrywide are expected to grow to $98.3 billion by 2016, according to a report released by the Dallas-based research firm MarketsandMarkets. The market has been witnessing a trend of shifting consumer preferences towards the dark and premium chocolate segments. The health benefits of cocoa act as a major driver for the market.
According to its June 2011 report Future Directions for Functional Foods, Leatherhead Food Research says dark chocolate "now accounts for 38 per cent of the U.S. chocolate market and is bought in up to 40 per cent of UK households".
A lot of the growth will come from regions such as Asia, Brazil and the Middle East. India is the fastest-growing market for chocolate in the world right now, according to Mintel Group. Sales there have doubled to $857 million in 2011, up from $418 million three years ago.
"There is tremendous untapped market opportunity for Western premium chocolate brands in India," said Peter Ayton, global consumer analyst at Mintel. For luxury chocolate makers in America, it's a chance to break out from a crowded home market and expand into a fast-growth emerging market.