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Kira Karapetian

By: Kira Karapetian on February 13th, 2018

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Why Chocolate Might be the Key to a Healthy Heart this Valentine’s Day

Trends & Research

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Valentine’s Day is here and consumers across the country are searching for the perfect way to show their love. Chocolate continues to be one of the most popular Valentine’s Day gifts and those indulging this year need not feel guilty. Buying patterns for chocolate follow broader grocery shopping trends -- consumers are investing in “better-for-you” ingredients and brands that provide greater transparency.

February also marks American Heart Month, a federal event that brings awareness to the dangers of heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends maintaining a healthy diet for optimal heart disease prevention - this includes avoiding added sugars and steering clear of sodium-laden foods. Luckily, the myriad of chocolate options mean that shoppers can have their “heart-healthy” chocolate bar and eat it, too.

Transparency Drives Sales for Specialty Chocolate
Consumer demand for product transparency is on the rise - Americans remain loyal to brands that provide information about the ingredients being used within food, personal care and pet products. Unsurprisingly, then, shoppers are expected to purchase “healthier” specialty chocolate products this year. According to Nielsen Product Insider, powered by Label Insight, sales for specialty chocolate, chocolate containing cacao, have increased by 26.3% from a year ago, reaching nearly $11 billion. Specialty chocolate sales are expected to spike in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day: Nielsen Product Insider data shows that sales for specialty chocolate were up for 17.3% for the two weeks prior to Valentine's Day 2017 (the weeks of February 11th and 18th) compared to Valentine's Day 2016 (weeks of February 13th and 20th).

Shoppers Flock to Clean-Label
Nielsen recently revealed that one-third of all food and beverage sales are now generated by clean-label products. Consumers are purchasing products with ingredients they trust and can easily understand, even when they’re seeking an indulgence. Last year, more than half (51%) of specialty chocolate sales came from products that are clean label. And specialty chocolate sales during Valentine’s Day jumped to 53%. Consumers seem to be interested in products that are good for their sweetheart’s health and good for the environment; sales for chocolate that contained cacao and were also Clean Label outpaced traditional specialty chocolate with a 40% dollar growth from the year prior.

close up  of chocolate pieces  heart shape on white background.jpegSales Dollars for “Heart-healthy” Chocolates on the Rise
Those following an AHA-recommended diet can rest assured, there are many speciality chocolate brands who comply with heart-healthy dietary regulations. Nielsen Product Insider data revealed that sales for chocolates free from GMO ingredients saw an 11.3% increase in sales from a year ago. Similarly, sales dollars for chocolates containing all-natural ingredients enjoyed a 5.7% growth in 2017 from the year prior. Perhaps most tellingly, specialty chocolate that was also free from added sugars saw an annual sales increase of 67.6%. This coincides with a recent survey showing that 47% of consumers are planning to eat less sugar or buy more 'no sugar added' products this year.

Protecting Your Heart - How Retailers Can Help
Consumer demands for greater transparency only continue to grow. Sales continue to rise for products that offer all-natural ingredients, avoid added sugars and are GMO-free. Even when purchasing sweets, American shoppers have made a clear statement that brands using “healthier-for-you” ingredients will see success and growth.

While last-minute holiday shoppers are rushing to purchase their Valentine (or themselves) a sweet treat to celebrate the day, food producers and retailers should consider shoppers’ growing preference for brands offering greater transparency and more visibility into the ingredients being used.

Nielsen Product Insider is available to non-food manufacturers and retailers in the U.S., along with the food and beverage view, which has been adopted and is in use by a major U.S. retailer and household name FMCG manufacturers. This first-of-its-kind solution is powered by Nielsen Retail Measurement data and Label Insight’s ingredient and attribute data to transform on-pack ingredient information, as well as drug and supplement fact panels into measurable attributes.