Most Americans indulge in a chocolate-flavored treat every day as they view the treat as a reward, mood lifter, energy booster and the secret to surviving a tough day, according to Cargill’s ChocoLogic research.
The company fielded a proprietary survey to track chocolate’s appeal on its own, and also when incorporated into bakery, beverages, candy, ice cream, salty snacks and snack/nutrition bars.
Fielded in February 2021, the survey gathered responses from more than 600 primary US grocery shoppers.
For most of these consumers, chocolate flavors are their go-to choice.
Across the food and beverage categories included in the survey, respondents admit they choose chocolate-flavored options at least half the time.
Besides three in four surveyed view chocolate as a way to reward oneself, 72% of respondents agree that chocolate lifts their mood, while 59% say it boosts their energy.
About 52% of respondents find chocolate gets them through a tough day.
Those perceptions, combined with more at-home snacking occasions, help explain why one in three shoppers report increasing chocolate consumption during the pandemic.
While consumers admit they’ve boosted their chocolate consumption, few register remorse for their indulgence.
Consumer perceptions around chocolate suggest it may have an authentic role to play in better-for-you food choices.
Nearly seven in ten associate chocolate with health benefits, a characterization even more prominent among consumers of dark chocolate.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the survey found this perception is a key purchase driver for dark chocolate, with 52% of consumers choosing it because they believe “it’s healthier”.
The ChocoLogic survey also found interest in premium chocolate remains high, with cacao content, texture and claims around provenance among the cues consumers use to judge quality.
Half of consumers consider dark chocolate a more premium choice, 71% notice when chocolate has a grainy, coarse texture; and nearly one in four shoppers perceive chocolate that denotes its cocoa bean origin country as higher quality.
This premiumization trend was also evident when consumers were asked about product claims.
By far, the most sought claim across all categories was “made with real chocolate”, a factor 84% of shoppers said they were extremely or very likely to consider in their purchase decisions.
While the study reveals 45% of consumers are always looking for new types of chocolate, when it comes to chocolate flavor pairings, classics still win out.
Caramel and peanut butter topped the list by a significant margin, with 60% of consumers selecting them in their top three.
Behind these time-tested combinations, salty, mint, fruity and coffee/espresso flavors held similar sway – with no single option clearly rising to the top.
More novel flavor pairings such as spice, herbal and botanical notes appealed to a much narrower swath of consumers, but did show a slight uptick in interest amongst younger demographics – notably Gen Y and Gen Z.