Trading up to more premium lines is a big consumer trend in the chocolate market.

According to Mintel, consumers’ perceptions of the overall quality of chocolate unsurprisingly come down to its ingredients. In its latest chocolate report, it says: "High-quality ingredients are the key identifier of premium chocolate, associated with premium by 59% of chocolate eaters. Provenance is an important tool for chocolate brands to spotlight the high quality of ingredients, such as educating consumers on how the taste of the chocolate is influenced by the origin of the cocoa beans and other ingredients."

One new premium chocolate bar that’s set to cause a stir is KitKat Ruby not least of all because it’s pink. The pink colour comes from the fact that it is coated with Ruby chocolate, derived from Ruby cocoa beans, which have an intense berry-fruitiness taste that occurs naturally with no artificial flavours or colour added.

Ruby chocolate was created by Swiss chocolatier Barry Callebaut, which spent over a decade creating what is thought of as a fourth kind of chocolate to add to the traditional varieties of dark, milk and white.

First available in the UK exclusively through Tesco stores, KitKat Ruby is now available to all retailers. And although KitKat is known for a myriad of flavours and limited editions, Nestlé says Ruby demands special attention as 94% of its sales have been incremental to the category plus it has helped attract younger, millennial shoppers.

But Ruby is not the only new premium line from KitKat. The brand is extending its premium sharing box, KitKat Senses, into the impulse category with the launch of two new singles: KitKat Senses Salted Caramel and KitKat Senses Hazelnut.

Each bar comprises three chocolates, which Nestlé says are perfectly packaged for the consumer’s next ’me-time’ moment. The Salted Caramel comprises a thick layer of salted caramel filling infused with crunchy caramel flakes and crispy wafer covered in chocolate; while Hazelnut contains a layer of praline, crunchy hazelnut pieces and crispy wafer, all covered in chocolate.

Nestlé says the new singles give retailers the opportunity to trade up their shoppers’ breaks. A spokesperson says: "As a category, premium singles are growing in value, up 26% year-on-year. This growth is coming from millennial shoppers and the rise of the ’treat yourself’ mentality, whereby shoppers are self-treating and rewarding themselves. To fulfil this occasion shoppers are looking for an indulgent chocolate hit from a quality product."

Levi Boorer, customer development director at Ferrero, adds: "As part of consumers putting a greater focus on treating as part of a balanced approach to lifestyle choices, we have seen some take a ’quality over quantity’ approach, whereby they favour premium confectionery products over others.

"It is therefore important for retailers to continue to offer a wide range of confectionery products as part of the impulse singles fixture to cater for as many shoppers as possible."

One brand that’s been long known for its premium credentials is Green & Black’s which recently launched two new premium bars. Green & Black’s Truffle contains a dark chocolate truffle encased in a dark chocolate shell while Green & Black’s Praline is a milk chocolate praline with chopped, roasted hazelnut pieces, in a smooth dark chocolate shell.

Brand owner Mondelez says the bars are ethically sourced, contain no artificial flavours, preservatives or colours and aim to capture the growing premium singles market and meet the needs of consumers looking for a luxurious new way to unwind.

The dark side

Mintel’s research found that a high cocoa content was considered to be a premium quality by one in three (35%) chocolate eaters. Its report states: "Consumers could also be recognising that a high cocoa content means less of the other ingredients, creating perceptions of a purer product, while the less sweet taste could be perceived as being more sophisticated".

In addition, Mintel found that 60% of consumers see dark chocolate as being healthier than milk chocolate.

There’s no doubting that thanks to the success of brands such as Hotel Chocolat, chocolate with a higher cocoa content is doing well. However not everyone likes it with many people finding darker chocolate too bitter.

Mondelez believes it has the answer in the form of Cadbury Darkmilk. Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelz, explains: "Research has identified that as we go through different life stages, our tastebuds change. This is true for many foods such as olives and coffee, and some consumers increasingly look for a richer tasting chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage vs milk chocolate. However, that is not to say we are all happy to reach for very high percentage cocoa products. There are degrees of acceptance and some consumers find dark chocolate a little too bitter and therefore believe it is not for them."

Cadbury Darkmilk was launched to meet this consumer demand. Made with 40% cocoa, it provides a decent hit of cocoa but combines it with a creamy and smooth taste. The range comprises three variants Cadbury Darkmilk Original, Almond and Salted Caramel all in 85g bars but there is a new single 35g bar format of Original to help drive impulse sales.

Laura Gray, brand manager for Cadbury at Mondelez, says: "In testing, Cadbury Darkmilk achieved our best-ever results for both taste and concept, and these were indicative of the full market as the tablets launch has achieved our aim in driving incremental sales to the category.

"The singles addition, in both standard and price-marked formats, will help independent retailers drive impulse sales. Research shows that the perception of improved value, speed of sales, convenience and heightened customer trust make stocking price-marked packs a great option, with a fifth of shoppers going so far as to say they would choose a particular convenience store if they knew it stocked price-marked packs. To make the most of the opportunity, retailers should make sure they’re stocked up at launch and ahead of our first TV campaign in May."

Cadbury Bournville is, of course, Mondelez’s original dark chocolate offering and it is benefiting from two new range extensions. First up is the return of Cadbury Bournville Orange. First launched in 1927, the bar combines strong cocoa notes with real orange fruit pieces. It is now a permanent part of the range, tapping into the trend for orange chocolate. In addition, Bournville is moving into the sharing bag format for the first time, with the launch of new Cadbury Bournville Giant Buttons.

The Cadbury sharing bag portfolio is now worth £126m and growing at 6.6% (Nielsen) led by Cadbury Dairy Milk Giant Buttons which is the number one product in the segment.

Mathieu Maggi, brand manager for Cadbury Bournville, says that by teaming the most recognisable dark chocolate brand with the iconic Cadbury Giant Button format, Mondelez has created a real opportunity for retailers to drive sales.

Beyond the quality and ingredients of the products themselves, shoppers are placing a greater importance on the ethical credentials of them too. Boorer at Ferrero, says: "Our approach to sustainability is based on our company’s social responsibility strategy ’sharing values to create value’. We implement this every day and this is a practice that affects all stages of the supply chain of our high quality ingredients. We have a strong commitment to sustainable farming practices and safeguarding and protecting the environment. For example, the quality of the cocoa we use in our products really matters, and we ensure it is both sustainable and ethically sourced. One of our key commitments in building a sustainable agricultural supply chain is to source 100% certified cocoa beans by the end of 2020.

"It is encouraging to see consumers putting a greater focus on the ethics of their products, as it will help to improve standards across the industry."

Availability and display are vital

Confectionery is one of biggest categories in convenience, plus it’s the one where most products are bought on impulse. This means availability and display are really important.
The main confectionery fixture should be easy to shop, in a highly visible location. Follow the basics to maximise sales in the category and capture the attention of forecourt shoppers:
Focus on the best-selling lines;
Have a range that covers all need states: self-eat, sharing and gifting;
Place best sellers in the best-selling area;
Use manufacturers’ point-of-sale material;
Make the most of brand investment have displays in-store when consumers will be most aware of products as a result of advertising or media investment;
Don’t forget the basics; keep fully stocked and keep the display tidy;
Group products with similar attributes adjacent to each other. Source: Mondelez

Retailer view Anita Andrews Lock’s Garage, Allensmore, Hereford:

"We are selling as much chocolate now as we have ever done. People don’t seem to be cutting down, in fact the big Duos bars are flying out.We get through two boxes of those a week.
"We have a run of confectionery on the wall on the way to the till and it’s the usual Twirls and Mars bars that sell best.
"We also sell a lot of Ritter but that’s not near the till; shoppers have to go to another display to find that.
"We stock Ooh! Chocolata bars which sell at £2.99 and they are really popular. We stock their normal bars as well as some of their dairy-free, vegan bars."
Lock’s Garage was the winner of the West Country and Wales regional category (4mlpa-plus) of the Forecourt Trader of the Year 2018.

new products

New M&M’s Eggs, already proven best sellers in the US and Australia, are now available in the UK.
KitKat’s current promotion gives consumers the chance to win one of 10 holiday breaks, each worth up to £8,000. In addition there are hundreds of ’getaway goodies’ to be won every day until March 28.
Maltesers Buttons are now available in a £1 price-marked treat bag. Mars Wrigley says the brand has been successful in introducing younger consumers to Maltesers.
Glasgow-based Rebel Chocolate’s milk chocolate contains half the sugar of the market leaders; 57% cocoa, which is twice as much as the market leaders; 25% protein for nutritional enrichment; and no gluten or lactose.
Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo, already a £48m brand in the UK (Nielsen data), is now available in a £1 price-marked pack.
Gnaw says it has combined health and taste in its new 35g chocolate and granola bars. They are handcrafted in Norfolk and available in three varieties: Milk Chocolate with Peanuts, British Granola & Seeds; Milk Chocolate with Cranberries, Raisins, British Granola & Seeds; and Dark Chocolate with Orange, British Granola & Seeds.

Big nights in leads to big sales

Levi Boorer, customer development director at Ferrero, says a key driver of growth in the UK chocolate market is the popularity of the ’big night in’ occasion, where families look to recreate the cinema experience without having to leave the house.
"This has contributed to the incredible, consistent growth of sharing bags, which continue to be a strong proposition at almost £1.1bn," he explains.
"We capitalise on this popularity by launching seasonal variants of our sharing bags throughout the year, such as limited-edition packs of our Kinder Choco-Bons for Easter and Halloween."
Boorer adds that traditional boxed chocolates also continue to be a popular choice for those opting for a night in, especially among shoppers looking for a more premium experience.
"For those seeking a high-quality product to either give as a gift, or in the case of a ’big night in’, to share, Thorntons Continental, Thorntons Classic and Ferrero Rocher remain among the most popular choices all year round," says Boorer.
At Mars Wrigley Confectionery, brands such as Maltesers and M&M’s continue to be popular with consumers for sharing with friends or family. The company says M&M’s Crispy Large Choc Bag is still one of the most popular sharing bags and saw a 16.1% increase in value sales year-on-year (Kantar data).
Meanwhile, Maltesers 100g is the fourth- largest boxed SKU in the category and saw a huge 138.1% increase in value sales year-on-year.
The large block category is also doing consistently well with two of the top 10 large block products coming from Mars.