Inflation bites this Valentine’s Day, but plant-based chocolate and indulgent “pick me ups” trend
14 Feb 2023 --- The rising cost of living is proving that consumers this Valentine’s are spending less on premium brands and purchasing fewer items. However, small and affordable treats such as candy, confectionery and chocolate bars do well in times of economic uncertainty, as consumers seek a little “pick me up,” particularly for the season of love.
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Harvir Dhillon, an economist at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), says the cost of living crisis is likely to “put a damper on Valentine’s Day spending this year.”
“Consumers are reining in non-essential spending and organizing more modest romantic plans. As a result, retailers may see lower sales of traditional Valentine’s Day gifts like chocolates.”
Meanwhile, olam food ingredients (ofi) recently unveiled chocolate and confectionery trends predicted to shape 2023. The company highlighted how consumer spending habits would change when money is tight.
“There’s no doubt that consumers are facing a challenging year amid rising inflation. But even with cost pressures, chocolate remains one of the most popular ways to celebrate Valentine’s with loved ones,” David Yen-Lin Liu, VP of cocoa liquor at ofi, tells us.
“Fifty-three percent of consumers state ‘quality’ as a top factor when deciding which brands to buy. ‘Affordable’ and indulgent products like candy, confectionery, or chocolate bars do well in times of economic uncertainty. Also, people could shift toward seeking out these moments of indulgence at home, which means they’re more likely to want a premium experience when they do.”
Plant-based options also remain important to consumers this Valentine’s Day, stresses Yen-Lin Liu. Ofi’s recent polling data shows interest in this area is still growing, with 61% of consumers indicating that they are consuming more plant-based products than two years ago.
“However, with costs increasing for everyone, brands will need to work harder to show the value of being plant-based, not only in terms of taste but also the health and environmental benefits,” he adds.
Yen-Lin Liu also cites that the National Confectioners Association (NCA) has predicted that sales for Valentine’s Day will increase by 5% this year as consumers are “increasingly attracted to premium chocolate and confectionery products,” he says.
Most Americans commonly buy chocolate and candy to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
The Valentine’s Day season represents about US$4 billion in confectionery sales each year, according to data from IRI, a US-based market researcher.
“There’s no better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with chocolate and candy – it’s an affordable indulgence, and 93% of people say they would like a gift of chocolate and candy this year,” Lauren Boland, director of communications at NCA, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“The confectionery industry has always kept innovation top of mind, and that’s evident in the wide variety of options available on the shelves of retail stores, in checkout aisles and online shopping carts,” adds John Downs, NCA president and CEO.
“Feel good” chocolate
Moreover, the NCA says these sweet treats can strongly support emotional well-being and enhance special moments on and around Valentine’s Day.
Backing this notion, Taura by IFF recently revealed that delivering memorable “total sensory” experiences in the chocolate confectionery market is crucial as brands are experimenting with unusual flavors, audacious ingredients and textures, alternative formats and usage occasions such as Valentine’s Day, as a way to channel more alternative or unconventional moments of peace and calm, or pleasure and escapism.
Chocolate already has a strong position as a “feel good” category, and there is room to grow its significance – above and beyond the physical taste experience, says Taura by IFF as part of its “Conscious Confectionery” campaign.
Keeping within the realms of chocolate launches, FoodIngredientsFirst takes a closer look at NPD, which has been rolled out to mark this year’s Valentine’s season.
New items from Ferrero are plentiful with Butterfinger Valentine’s Minis, Butterfinger Mini Heart Shaped Box, Crunch Valentine’s Minis, Crunch Minis Heart Shaped Box, 100 Grand Heart Shaped Box, and the Assorted Chocolate Minis for Valentine’s Classroom Exchange from Butterfinger, Crunch, 100 Grand, and Baby Ruth.
Lady M Confections, the creator of Mille Crêpes, unveiled its Valentine’s Day Bon Bon Gift Set. The “You Are Loved Gift Set” is packaged in a classic heart-shaped gift box and inside are three new Lady Bon Bon flavors.
The new gourmet candy flavors are: Lychee Rose Almonds, roasted almonds dipped in a lychee, rose and raspberry-infused white chocolate; Raspberry Kissed Jellies, soft, chewy, and vibrant French raspberry fruit jellies are sprinkled with delicate sugar crystals; and finally, Salted Caramel Pearls, sweet and crispy cereal balls coated in a salted caramel-infused milk chocolate shell.
In a spin on tradition, Dr Pepper debuted its newest flavor innovation to become part of the brand’s permanent portfolio to mark this Valentine’s month as Dr Pepper Strawberries & Cream hit shelves in the US.
The new beverage is the original flavor of Dr Pepper swirled with layers of strawberry flavor and a smooth, creamy finish.
Meanwhile, Tyson Foods’s Nuggets of Love – the brand’s limited-edition release of heart-shaped chicken nuggets – are back by popular demand.
By Elizabeth Green
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