Chocolate companies are gearing up for one of the biggest confectionary showdowns of the year. The “chocolate season” begins just before Halloween, taking in Christmas (which accounts for about a quarter of total annual sales in both the U.S and the U.K.), Valentines Day and ending in the consumption of Easter eggs (the busiest time of year for chocolate consumption). Whilst the Swiss eat the most chocolate per person, people in the U.K. will eat almost twice as much as their American counterparts.
U.K. chocolate Christmas sales began in August
At the end of August, the Daily Mirror reported that discount retailer B&M in the U.K. were selling Cadbury Snowballs (milk chocolate spheres covered in icing) and Snowy Fingers (a half white, half milk chocolate version of standard Finger biscuits). Two weeks earlier, however, Costco had already put giant, 2kg tins of Quality Street on its shelves for an ample £11.62 (around $14). That’s 25% cheaper, pound for chocolate pound, than rival Tesco.
Chocolate was first marketed to the masses…
Chocolate has often been a good barometer of the state of the economy and an indicator of social change. The New York Times reported how in the early part of the 20th century, chocolate cigarettes were mainly marketed to women, many of whom were under social pressure not to smoke in public. Since World War II, chocolate has been an integral part of ration packs to keep troops perky overseas and during the Great Depression, Hershey’s nickel chocolate bar was an “affordable lunch”. From the 1970s onwards, the first chocolate shops opened across U.S. shopping malls delivering chocolate to the middle class masses.
… but chocolate has had a luxury makeover
At the turn of the 21st century, chocolate had a facelift. As everyone started paying more attention to what they ate and what it came packaged in, the desire grew for more “healthy” chocolate from smaller, fair trade producers. By 2009, Nestlé and Cadbury were selling fair trade-certified chocolate bars, such as Milky Ways and KitKats. And now the chocolate world has moved on again. People are increasingly seeking out luxury, craft products–upmarket gins and premium non-alcoholic beverages–and confectioners have followed suit. And as many new luxury chocolate brands hit the High Street, like British brand Hotel Chocolat and French brand, Le Chocolate des Français, the bigger chocolate companies are following suit. Premium advent calendars are also growing–they grew at a staggering 41% during 2017–both in chocolate and non-chocolate versions.