1. Indies & Symbols saw value and unit sales of chocolate grow in 2023

2. Chocolate price-per-kg has shot up nearly a fifth in the last year

3. Free-from choc is gaining momentum as price gap closes

4. Retailers are boosting choc sales by giving consumers extra reasons to celebrate

5. Social media savvy helps shift over £4m of MrBeast Feastables chocolate bar


1. Indies & Symbols saw value and unit sales of chocolate grow in 2023

When times are tough, us Brits reach for the chocolate. Nielsen IQ research reveals that chocolate represents the majority of consumption occasions across sweet treats [at 39% of occasions]. It’s pretty universal too – with nearly eight out of ten shoppers consuming the category. Most of us reach for the chocolate at some time in the afternoon (especially on Fridays) – which helps make the 2.30pm c-store treat run a staple of office life in the UK.

In fact, independents and symbols saw chocolate sales grow 15% in value sales and 4% in unit sales in the 11 months to November 2023 (Nielsen), according to Mondelez.

Anita Nye, from Eldred Stores Premier in Kent, claims that chocolate is a steady seller in her store. Yet, though it’s an everyday treat, it isn’t exempt from the everyday cost-of-living pressures her customers face. As a result, she says they’re increasingly leaning into value for their choc choices.

“I think that the single bars of chocolate really seem to be dropping out now,” she says.

“They’re seen to be just too expensive when you compare with the value of the multipacks or the bags. At our store we sell mainly PMPS – some customers feel they’re being ripped off by independents if they don’t get a PMP – and some Cadbury’s products are up to £1.35 now. They broke the pound barrier a long while ago and it is affecting what people buy.”

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2. Chocolate price-per-kg has shot up nearly a fifth in the last year

Willy Wonka must be having a nervous breakdown. Thanks to a bitter mix of hedge fund speculation, poor harvests and catastrophic weather, chocolate is trading at record prices – and expected to stay that way during 2024. This means making shoppers’ favourite bars costs more than ever (and real-world brands can’t even employ Oompa Loompas).

“The cost-of-living crisis has influenced pricing dynamics in the convenience channel, as demonstrated by a 17.6% increase in price per kilogramme for total chocolate within the last 52 weeks [Nielsen],” confirms Emma Perrett, marketing controller for Kinnerton Confectionery.

This means many mainstream brands have been tweaking pack sizes and formats over the last year to come up with a product at a reasonable price point.

“Chocolate is a good seller – everybody loves it – but I’ve really noticed that the sizes have shrunk over the last year,” says Sue Nithyanandan from Costcutter Epsom in Surrey.

This might be a barrier for shoppers seeking out a common-or-garden everyday treat. But at the more rarefied end of the choccie market, compact size can be seen as a virtue.

“In terms of cases sold, the top 10 SKUs Epicurium sold in 2023 were all impulse bars or chocolate wafers,” says Epicurium’s marketing manager, Richard Jefferson.

“These smaller sizes likely reflect the shopper need for a little indulgence: the impulse format can allow someone to satisfy a craving without feeling they’ve overindulged. Shoppers will still be willing to pay for the premium option if they feel it adds value and fits within their lifestyle. Palettes have become more sophisticated, and the quality of the chocolate is absolutely the essential factor.”

“Some consumers have opted for more economical options, while others have sought out affordable luxuries, leading to a diversification in product preferences,” adds Liam Mahoney, head of international sales at LoveRaw.

“In the realm of premium chocolate, discerning consumers are drawn to experiences that offer unique backstories and superior ingredients, even amid economic uncertainty. Brands like LoveRaw, offering a blend of premium quality and affordability, have flourished.”

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Woman shuts eyes and eats chocolate

Source: Credit apomares via GettyImages

3. Free-from choc is gaining momentum as price gap closes

There might be one unexpected upside of the industry price surge for free-from brands. As RRPs rise, free-from and moo-made chocolate are reaching parity. That’s helping bring new shoppers into the fold.

“[In contrast to dairy chocolate], the total free-from chocolate category has only seen a 5.7% increase in price per kilogramme – introducing new shoppers to the free-from chocolate category and helping consumers to make informed choices,” says Kinnerton.

She claims “notable growth” for free-from brand Nomo across various formats.

“For total coverage in the convenience sector, Nomo’s Caramel Filled Bar achieved a value of £716k with a YoY growth of 53.5%, while the Cookie Dough XL Block Bar generated £116k and the 3PK Lollies, a new listing in convenience for 2023, earned £175k [Nielsen].” 

She adds that NOMO’s “continued focus on diverse formats and flavours” is helping stores meet the “growing enthusiasm” for vegan and free-from chocolates in the mainstream market.

“NPD listings within the convenience channel have been a major driver for growth, amounting for 79.6% or £1.92m of the [overall] YoY value change – and 20.4% of the YoY value growth can be attributed to the growth of the core range,” she says.

Mahoney agrees that ensuring plenty of NPD for convenience stores is an essential way to grow the overall market.

“With the plant-based category continuing to soar in value, LoveRaw has positioned itself distinctively in the chocolate market as a dedicated curator of indulgent, nostalgic and high-quality products, capturing the hearts and minds of consumers nationwide,” she says.

“The latest innovations from LoveRaw, the Nutty Choc Balls & Cre&m Wafer Bars, have become a staple on the fixtures in convenience stores and are helping the brand to become the architect of allowing more space in store, for additional products as they continue to outperform.”

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4. Retailers are boosting choc sales by giving consumers extra reasons to celebrate

Cadbury’s has always been a cornerstone of the c-store chocolate market that’s signposted the category for shoppers. And for 2024 it’s celebrating 200 years in existence with a feast of activities, promotions and celebrations. Not the least of which is its new 180g Limited Edition Cadbury Dairy Milk Bars, available in a range of retro designs spanning from 1915 to the present.

Vince and Fiona Malone of Tenby Village Stores in southwest Wales wasted no time in getting behind the celebrations, decking out a dedicated bay with chocolate and themed POS and inviting customers to come and celebrate Cadbury’s birthday with a bar of chocolate. They even set up a giant Cadbury chocolate POS mug in-store to give customers a fun photo opportunity (see above pics).

Over in Epsom, Sue is equally keen to embrace the opportunity. “We’re doing quite a bit of work this year around Cadbury’s being 200 years old – which is phenomenal really to be around that long, isn’t it?” she says.

“There is a big campaign called The Big Win-Win which we’re getting involved in,” she says.

“When someone buys a bar of chocolate there is a competition QR code – so customers can win a prize and at the same time nominate your store to win a prize. My team are getting together to film some TikToks to promote it on Monday – so that will be interesting!”

However, one thing chocolate-lovers haven’t been celebrating is the loss of the Caramac bar, which Cadbury rival Nestle discontinued in November 2023. Anita says that this is ironic, since the announcement the blonde chocolate bar was being retired created a renewed ripple of interest among customers.

“People hadn’t bought a Caramac from us for ages,” she says. “But the minute you couldn’t get it anymore a steady stream of customers were coming in and wanting one!”

Nestle says: “We are very sorry to disappoint fans, unfortunately we had to make the difficult decision to discontinue Caramac. We know fans will be disappointed to see it go, but this change will enable us to focus on our best-performing brands, as well as develop exciting new innovations to delight consumers’ tastebuds.”

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Mr Beast Feastables Chocolate Bars

5. Social media savvy helps shift over £4m of MrBeast Feastables chocolate bar

One of the key messages from the c-store frontline is that many brands slowed innovation last year to focus on fiddling with product sizes and pack formats instead.

As Anita puts it: “I think that the big brands are holding back – they’re waiting to time new releases for when the effect of energy price drops start to be felt by people.”

However, new lines did successfully migrate from the US last year when Spar was chosen as exclusive convenience partner for YouTube deity MrBeast’s Feastables range of chocolate bars from July 2023. For the uninitiated, MrBeast has built a massive social media following of under-18s who can’t get enough of his wacky videos in which he gifts the public cash for surviving crazy challenges.

“The entire Spar organisation worked really hard to bring this opportunity to Spar stores and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to be the first in convenience to supply customers with the range of four Feastables chocolate bars,“ says Trudy Hills, Spar UK trading director.

Heavy social media marketing and strong POS helped send chocolate block sales up 122% in Spar in the 12 weeks after launch. Hills says that since the launch Spar stores have sold over £4m (retail sales) of Feastables.

So could the c-store sector see even more MrBeast chocs make the journey across the pond to hopefully ignite a Prime-style sales scramble in 2024?

“There are other Feastables products in the range in the US, which we are potentially looking to introduce in the future,” Hills says.

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