Health benefits driving the dark chocolate trend

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 4th July 2008

Once the poor relation, left on the sweet shop shelf, dark chocolate is steadily gaining notoriety as Britain buys into a new, healthier image.

The latest research from MINTEL shows that sales in Britain almost doubled between 2005 and 2007, with sales hitting £85 million last year. Mathilde Dudouit, senior market analyst at MINTEL, believes that the consumer trend toward ‘good for you’ foods is driving growth in the category. “Although dark chocolate is still high in sugar, it is rich in antioxidants and is lower in fat than milk chocolate,” she advised. “Dark chocolate now has the reputation as being a healthier alternative to other chocolate and this has really struck a chord with Britain’s chocoholics.”

Dark chocolate is considered the healthier option because of its high raw cocoa content. First cultivated by ancient Mayan civilisations, raw cocoa is now considered one of the world’s most beneficial super foods due to its high content of antioxidants. And, with between 50 and 95% usually found in dark chocolate, it is this reputation that is driving sales of dark chocolate. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, tends to have a mere 25% cocoa content.

At the same time, luxury chocolate has also seen sales bubble up, rising 46% over the two years to 2007, when the market reached £140 million. Small niche players have reinvigorated the premium chocolate market. “Brits may not be eating chocolate as often as the used to, but they are certainly splashing out more on premium varieties. The trick today is to eat less, but to go all out when indulging so that it really is a luxurious treat,” explains Ms Dudouit.

Manufacturers have been committed to introducing healthier kinds of chocolate as well as bars that are calorie controlled. This, combined with Britain’s recent growing desire for more expensive dark and luxury chocolate treats has given the value of the market a much needed boost.

People are cutting back on the amount of chocolate they eat but sales in the two years to 2007 still represented a 10% increase in value, markedly above the meagre 1% growth realised between 2003 and 2005.

With a further 5% growth expected this year alone, the British chocolate market should be worth £2.23 billion by the end of 2008. And the trend toward premium and dark chocolate will continue to help stem the chocolate market meltdown, with sales of all chocolate set for a further 17% growth in the five years to 2013.

MINTEL believe that the next trend in the industry could be the combination of chocolate and wine. Wine bars could do well to offer a choice of finest chocolate to go with wine tasting sessions, according to Mintel. “In the same way that wine lovers deliberate over different grape varieties, single estate chocolate and chocolate made from different types of cocoa beans provide a real opportunity for the true chocolate connoisseur,” Ms Dudouit reported.

Chocolate and wine

The idea of chocolate and wine together was, in fact, recently tested by Swiss-based food manufacturer Barry Callebaut and the potential for a great combination was established, with certain wines matching different types of chocolate in the same way that they match different meal types.