By: Zhane Isom | March 22, 2024

While unit sales take a hit, the category is still expected to see sales gains in 2024.

Chocolate remains a popular pick-me-up for customers, but recent price hikes have more customers looking for value, while new launches and a variety of options buoy impulse buys. Overall, category sales are expected to grow in 2024.

Chocolate candy dollar sales reached $3.67 billion, a 7.9% increase for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2023, per Circana. Out of all the chocolate segments, novelty chocolate candy saw the highest dollar sales increase (23.2%) for the period.

“My sources in the industry expect dollar sales for chocolate to grow between 2-4% this year,” said April Gelber, center store category manager for Cubby’s, which owns c-stores and supermarkets in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. “Most recent (Circana) data also shows that in the Midwest specifically, chocolate accounts for a larger percentage of total candy, mints and gum sales as compared to the rest of the U.S.”

However, although chocolate sales are rising, unit sales for the category are trending downward.

Chocolate unit sales dropped 3.8%, with sugar-free chocolate declining the most at 27.1% for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2023, per Circana. Price per unit increases likely contributed to the decline, with chocolate prices up 12.1% for the period.

“Chocolate candy has been hit hard with double-digit price increases leading to monthly volume losses over the last year. Over the last 52 weeks ending Jan. 28, 2024, pounds of chocolate posted a 4.5% decline,” said Dan Sadler, principal, client insights for Circana. “The price for chocolate heavily relies on the cost of cocoa, which is at an all-time high and is not expected to soften until later in 2024. This will likely lead to dollar growth, but pound sales will remain soft.”

Chocolate Trends

But despite rising prices, the chocolate category at c-stores is expected to see sales gains in the new year.

One trend driving chocolate sales is consumers wanting larger amounts of it for consumption.

Bags and boxes of chocolate that are greater than 3.50 ounces saw a 9.5% increase in dollar sales, according to Circana.

“Additionally, in our market and across the U.S., customers are trading up for the larger take-home packs at a higher rate vs. the instant consumable packs because of the perceived value in those larger pack sizes,” said Gelber.

Sadler even stated that more consumers are gravitating toward private-label chocolate items due to price increases.

Going forward in 2024, consumers will continue to base their chocolate cravings on price, value and trends.

“We are keeping our chocolate sets current with a balance of old favorites and fresh new items,” said Gelber. “You never want to not have a new item that is backed by loads of marketing.”

Source: CStore Decisions