young consumer biting a clean chocolate bar

Clean Chocolate Trends for Self-Care Shoppers: 4 Trends to Watch in 2021

Consumers Add Clean Chocolate to Self-Care Plan

Chocolate is certainly a popular treat at Easter time (and at Halloween and Christmas), but shoppers don’t need a holiday to indulge. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen shoppers are eager to put a chocolate treat in their shopping baskets as a way to treat themselves during lockdown—especially when self-care is on everyone’s mind. After all, who doesn’t enjoy breaking off a piece of chocolate...and then another...and then finishing the entire bar in one sitting?  

We’ve looked at SPINS data and uncovered 4 clean chocolate trends that show how today’s chocolate lovers are satisfying their sweet tooth:  

1. Clean Ingredients Are on the Rise for Chocolate Lovers

Just because shoppers are treating themselves to a delectable piece (or several pieces) of chocolate, they’re not abandoning their commitment to mindful shopping. Products that SPINS classifies as clean have no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives—and chocolate candy with this designation are on the rise. According to year-over-year SPINS data for the 52 weeks ending February 22, SPINS vital chocolate candy is up 11% across natural and conventional outlets, while products that are not are down 2%. 

product label for alter eco chocolate

Alter Eco chocolate products are responsibly sourced and produced, including Fair Trade ingredients and Certified B Corporation certification offerings. 

2. Ethical Consumption Matters for the Chocolate Industry 

Shoppers aren’t just focused on ingredients. They want to know they’re supporting brands with responsible business practices and better-for-you missions. Shoppers know chocolate production has a trouble history and want to make sure their dollars don’t go to brands relying on low ages, child workers, or non-sustainable farming.  Take products from Certified B Corporations, for example: These businesses have proven a commitment to responsible production metrics that ensure profit does not outweigh people and the environment. 

Certified B chocolate products in natural and conventional channels 

Certified B chocolate products in the SPINS Regional & Independent Grocery Channel

Pile of chocolate bars using Tony's Chocolate

Tony’s Chocoloney wants all chocolate to be produced without the use of inhumane conditions or slave labor. Their products came from completely traceable chocolate sources and the company pays cocoa farmers a premium. 

3. Regional Independent Grocery Is Leading the Way in Adding Clean Chocolate Products

Speaking of the regional grocers, who consistently lead the industry in trends and innovation, chocolate sales are up overall—not just for Certified B products. Regional Independent Grocery shows 15% year-over-year growth compared to 5% growth for cross-channel growth across natural and conventional. For brands, this strong growth is noteworthy because these stores are connecting with shoppers, don’t have the heavy CPG competition that can overshadow you, and allow an opportunity to establish a long relationship with retailers.  

4. Natural and Specialty-Positioned Products Show Strongest Growth in Chocolate

Although chocolate can be an indulgence, that doesn’t mean shoppers are willing to settle for just any sweet treat they find. If shoppers are going to consume extra calories or reward themselves, they want to do it right. Chocolate sales in year-over-year growth points to consumer preference for premium products: Specialty & Wellness chocolates and Natural-Positioned chocolates grew 15%,  significantly outpacing Conventional’s 3% growth. Today’s higher quality chocolates seem to bring out the foodie in everyone.  

How You Can Appeal to Shoppers with a Sweet-Tooth

Chocolate remains a tried-and-true favorite, and a year of lockdown proved that’s not changing anytime soon. Today’s chocolate-loving shoppers have raised the standards and opened up more opportunities for brands to earn their dollars and loyalty. Chocolate brands would be wise to emphasize the quality of their ingredients, their responsible sourcing and sustainability, and other attributes that prove that their products deserve to be the go-to dessert. You can also stand out in a crowded market, by joining forces with regional grocers to help you connect with customers and earn a reputation as an innovative brand. 

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