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What’s happening in Chocolate: Indulgent pleasures get the green light

Until quite recently it seemed chocolate manufacturers had only two options to choose from when it came to define a future strategy. Unashamed and full indulgence would be the choice for the majority, with smaller more artisan manufacturers promoting the inherent health credentials of cacao and chocolate compounds in ‘raw chocolate’ formats (i.e. antioxidants, magnesium, caffeine) to encourage a heightened sense of wellbeing.

Fast forward to today, both strategies continue to thrive, with the chocolate category continuing to grow even in the midst of the global backlash on sugar consumption.

But today there is a third option on the rise, successfully bridging the gap between indulgent and functional and in the process gaining a premium position. Addressing consumer requirements to satisfy the need for indulgent craving, as well as meet their need to eat more healthily and balanced, creates new opportunities for brands to innovate around the “permissible indulgence” concept.

By formulating products that give the consumer “permission to indulge” chocolate manufacturers can make the purchase decision easier

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The permissible indulgence concept is multi-faceted: it allows brands to pair attributes of certain products with healthier ingredients. Even more so it allows chocolate producers to capitalize on the use of more sophisticated and indulgent flavors to leverage an idea of permissibility.

Using insight gained from our own in-house chocolate category specialists, and reputable market sources, we share below some of the methods chocolate manufacturers are using to embrace this permissible indulgence trend, and thus engage with both the premium indulgent consumer and the more health-minded treat seeker.

Embrace functional ingredients to leverage a status of permissible indulgence

The indulgent credentials of chocolate confectionery combined with the healthy halo of protein can allow chocolate brands to be positioned as permissibly indulgent and to engage with more health-minded consumers

We see some exciting new chocolate product launches in Mintel with a specific functional positioning, in the premium space, featuring familiar and unfamiliar ingredients; antioxidant rich fruit, & vegetables, ginger, botanicals & herbs, natural caffeine, green tea or magnesium, to name a few. Promoting rest, sleep, stress relief, mood, vitality and energy benefits. ​

Super food ingredients and probiotics are opportunities relatively unexplored by chocolate brands.

Especially in Asia we see a strong interest in healthier add-inn ingredients to pave the way for functional chocolates. Here value is added through functionality.

Unique textures will bring something new and disruptive to the market

Nothing like a unique surprising texture to lift a product to the next level. We see exciting new product launches that use a spin on classic food pairings. Think premium chocolate with salted pretzel pieces hidden inside, crunchy cookie pieces, soft chewy mint, creamy white chocolate pairing crunchy meringue and strawberry pieces….

According to Mintel consumer attitudes, 45% of UK consumers find chocolate with interesting textures to be more appealing than those without. Crunchy, smooth, chewy or contrasting - unique textures can add a premium element to chocolate, creating a point of difference. ​

Take popular flavours to the next level​

Year over year, the same flavors appear at the top in chocolate and confectionery. It’s time to take them to the next level:

  • Caramel has been in the top three flavors for chocolate and confectionery over the past five years. As the lines between sweet, salty, and spicy flavors start to blur, there is room to expand the "caramel flavor horizon" beyond salted, the most popular novel variant. Other caramel-compatible ingredients include blood orange, bourbon, and rose water, and the popularity of burnt caramel has also been promoted over the past year. ​

  • New fruits needed.  Confectionery flavors gravitate to a handful of universally popular fruits, led by strawberry, the ubiquitous unspecified "fruit" flavor, and orange. While some unusual fruits such as the Southeast Asian durian, and more unifying flavors like cherry, blueberry & raspberry appear in different regions, the overall category is clearly trying to find ways to differentiate by combining the “known” with more luxurious fruits with well perceived health benefits.​ Think about the numerous combinations with acai, acerola, lingonberry, …

  • Fruit & flower combinations. Cross-overs between categories are a great way to innovate. Chocolate manufacturers could use beautiful cocktail and craft beverage inspired flavour combination in pralines or clusters, for example. More fruit & flower inspiration here.
  • Savoury ingredients can also balance out sweetness - A number of brands are also formulating with savoury ingredients to stand out in a market dominated by sweet flavours. i.e. Ginger & Turmeric, Mustard Salt & Bay Leaf​.

Raise the standard of premium quality

Innovating around premium attributes (e.g. high-quality ingredients, sophisticated flavours, origin of specific raw materials) can contribute to increased value positioning. 

Methods used to increase premium quality credentials include:

  • Portion Control
    Offering smaller chocolate treats will remain an effective way of conveying greater control over sugar and calorie intake, and a more premium image at an affordable price. ​
  • Blurring lines between snacks and chocolate confectionery provides new opportunities for brands to achieve a more distinctive positioning and allows consumers to satisfy their cravings by tapping into the permissible indulgence trend. ​
  • Tap into ethical consumerism
    While some claims such as clean label will become nothing less than a given, we too expect that sustainable trading and farming and other environmental sustainability claims will globally gain importance in consumers’ eyes​ and will be a future standard.
  • Make it vegan
    Products made without dairy or other animal ingredients – have been gaining in popularity. Globally, launches increased 12% between 2017 and 2018, following the trend that started to really gain ground in 2016. ​ 

The opportunity

Even though increasing numbers of consumers are becoming interested in healthier eating regimens, the demand for balance between healthy foods and occasional treats is evident and is giving impetus specific premiumization in the world of chocolate.

Satisfying consumer cravings for sophisticated and indulgent flavors’, in such a way that enables consumers to feel good about themselves, creates new opportunities for brands to innovate around the permissible indulgence concept. 

What role can Taura play?

Taura enables manufacturers to create premium chocolate products which indulge the senses with the authentic flavour, aroma, texture and visual appeal of fruit. Fruit which we can combine with specialty inclusions and other on trend ingredients like botanicals and spices, vegetable and herbs.

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