Turns out that for true chocoholics, the recession doesn't matter much: They just gotta have it. While the final numbers for 2009 aren't in yet, Mintel reports that chocolate sales continued to be strong in the U.S. and worldwide. Even countries not known for candy-bar cravings, including India, China and the Ukraine, made major gains.
"While there are plenty of opportunities to trade down in many other categories -- for example, people who like to buy fine wine in restaurants can now drink slightly less fine wine at home -- the only cure for a chocolate craving is chocolate," Mintel analyst Marcia Mogelonsky tells Marketing Daily. "There's no room for maneuvering."
People are fairly rigid about types of chocolate they buy, she says. "In the U.S, people are about evenly divided in their preference for either milk or dark chocolate. If you love dark, trading down to milk chocolate isn't an option for you -- your only choice is to go without."
Mogelonsky says that America's appetite for fancier chocolates, "sparked when the economy was strong and we were busy rewarding ourselves for everything," formed chocolate habits that have stuck, even as either affordable indulgences have fallen away.
Take Lindt's Lindor Truffle Balls: "You can just have one and satisfy a craving. And compared to other things, chocolate -- especially in small quantities -- just isn't that expensive." And while other high-end brands, such as Godiva, may find themselves hurt by lower traffic in malls, "these are available in supermarkets, too. They're everywhere. So why would you give it up?"
In the U.S., Americans purchased 2.6% more chocolate than in 2008. And even as the takeover saga between Kraft and Cadbury Schweppes continues, U.K. chocolate lovers bought 5.9% more chocolate this year. In China, chocolate confectionery sales rose 18%, and in the Ukraine, 12%. Argentineans ate 1.8% more, and in Belgium, which claims it produces some of the world's finest, sales gained by 3.2%.
On a dollar basis, the Swiss still win -- spending the equivalent of $206 per person each year -- followed by the Brits at $106, and Belgians at $90. Americans spend about $55 per year.