As consumers turn to healthier lifestyles, the features of their favorite foods become pivotal in their purchasing choices. For brands, determining which features resonate best with consumers can be tricky business. Even chocolate and sugar confection manufacturers are being affected by this shift in consumer behavior. Some are turning to “halo” claims, like vegan, gluten free, organic and free trade, to put a healthier spin on indulgence.

The health movement is not likely to change chocolate and confection from fundamentally being an impulse purchase. Chocolate manufacturers need to convince consumers to buy their brand when the impulse strikes, and one of the ways to do this is through persuasive on-pack communication. In the broadest terms, selling chocolate and sweets this way is nothing new, but there are notable shifts in strategy happening. In an industry where pack size matters, and space on pack is scarce – it’s all about the claims.

 

Solving the Chocolate Confection Claim Challenge

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Gone are the days when distinctive designs and taste promises were the marketing method of choice. Manufacturers are increasingly using claims which aim to put a “halo” around the moment of indulgence – either an ethical one or a health one.

Arguably, alleviating guilt around a confection purchase could also increase the frequency of purchases by making those impulse buy moments seem less gluttonous. Many niche players have started gaining momentum by using this strategy. They are slowly grabbing market share from large players, which is fragmenting the market.

Before chocolate and sugar confection manufacturers randomly slap healthier claims on their packs, the question of which claims will drive the best sales results should be carefully considered. Therein lies the confection claim challenge.

Consumers talk… confection manufacturers should listen

Consumer discussions around chocolate and sugar confection are now heavily focused on these halo-type features. As an example, all of the top five discussion topics amongst consumers in chocolate, and four out of five in confection, are focused on halo topics. Which of these halo trends are already addressed by the market and which present an opportunity? The analysis below might help answer those questions.

 
  – Signals Playbook™ Insights

– Signals Playbook™ Insights

 

Looking with more detail at health and wellness features specifically in the US, we can see that vegan, protein, dairy free, and sugar free generate a lot of consumer discussion, but lack in being featured as claims. Organic and gluten free already have a substantial presence on the shelf.

 

Chocolate - Health & Wellness Consumer Needs, US

 
  – Signals Playbook™ Insights

– Signals Playbook™ Insights

 
 
 

So which features will help manufacturers win the palates of consumers? To help us get to the chewy center of this topic, we looked at chocolate confection halo features on three criteria: level of interest of consumers, number of products with the claim today, and average cost of products with each claim. By crossing these data points, we can harvest key insights to help brands make sense of the confection claim challenge.


Examining halo features

 

Chocolate UK Consumer Needs - Price Comparison

 
  – Signals Playbook™ Insights

– Signals Playbook™ Insights

 
 

Top 5 insights around halo claims on chocolate

  1. Feature pricing is more aligned with production costs than with consumers:

    Clearly, delivering some of these features at scale can be a costly venture. The most expensive of all features in the UK market is the bean-to-bar claim.

  2. Organic & Gluten-Free may be overdone:

    The level of consumer interest as reflected in their online discussions of these claims is disproportionate with the number of products in the marketplace leveraging them.

  3. Milk-free milk chocolate:

    Is this the next big thing? It seems the dairy-free trend goes well beyond beverages, and is showing up strongly in consumer discussions within the context of chocolate confection. There are still relatively few products offering this option in the market today.

  4. Sugar-free and low sugar:

    As consumers increase their awareness around sugar consumption, the quest for chocolate treats limiting this ingredient is on. Consumers want less or no sugar without compromising on taste. This becomes challenging for large corporate brands, as less sugar often means more cocoa or alternative ingredients, and a can imply a higher price tag.  

  5. Protein is on the rise:

    We have seen in other snack products that consumers are seeking added protein to boost nutritional intake, and perceived health of their favorite snacks. This is now manifesting in sweet treats as well, and the chocolate flavored protein bar has now morphed into the chocolate bar with high protein.

 

The signals are clear, but evolving. It’s safe to say that leading healthier lifestyles is a driving force behind consumer behavior. Even when it comes to chocolate. Since, traditionally, chocolate was positioned as a sweet indulgence, this pivot towards healthier options is having a disruptive effect on the market. Knowing this, chocolate manufacturers should be aware that today’s product decisions require a view of the entire category ecosystem through multiple data lenses. They should be looking not only at the consumer and direct competitor’s portfolios, but also the emerging players, early trend signals, technological developments, and category influencers.