Re-affirming chocolate’s near universal appeal, a recent survey from Cargill reveals that most Americans indulge in a chocolate-flavoured treat every day. Observed as a reward, mood lifter, energy booster and the secret to survive a tough day, the company’s ChocoLogic research discerns consumer’s preferences, motivations and attitudes toward the decadent ingredient.

The Cargill 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 collected responses from over 600 primary US grocery shoppers. For most of these consumers, chocolate flavours are their most preferred choice. Across the food and beverage categories included in the survey, respondents accepted that they choose chocolate-flavoured options at least half the time.

Gretchen Hadden, marketing lead for North American cocoa and chocolate business of Cargill stated- “The adage that ‘everyone loves chocolate’ really is true – less than 3% of consumers report avoiding chocolate. However, while chocolate may be the world’s most beloved ingredient, our research suggests consumers have strong opinions on what they like – and don’t like – about this timeless indulgence.”

Given that most consumers relish a daily chocolate treat, it is no wonder that three in four find chocolate as a way to reward oneself. 7 out of 10 (70%) agree that chocolate lifts their mood, while 59% admit that it boosts their energy.

Over half (52%) of the Americans find chocolate gets them through a tough day. Those perceptions, merged with more at-home snacking occasions, aid describe why one in three shoppers report rise in chocolate consumption during the pandemic.

While consumers agree that they have boosted their chocolate consumption, few register remorse for their indulgence. Actually, consumers’ perceptions around chocolate point that it may have a genuine role to play in better-for-you food choices. About seven in ten relate chocolate with health benefits, a characterization even more conspicuous among consumers of dark chocolate. Perhaps not surprisingly, the survey revealed this perception is a core purchase driver for dark chocolate, with 52% of consumers choosing it since they believe ‘it’s healthier’.

The survey by Cargill also discerned that interest in premium chocolate remains high, with cacao content, texture and claims around provenance among the cues consumers use to assess quality. 50% consumers consider dark chocolate a more premium choice, 71% notice when chocolate has a grainy, coarse texture; and about one in four shoppers perceive chocolate that denotes its cocoa bean origin country as premium quality. This premiumisation trend was also noticeble when consumers were inquired about product claims. By far, the most sought claim across all classes was ‘made with real chocolate’, a factor 84% of shoppers stated that they were extremely or very likely to consider in their purchase decisions.

While the study discloses 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 considerable 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. Other novel flavor pairings like spice, herbal and botanical notes appealed to a much narrower swath of consumers, but did show a slight uptick in interest amongst younger demographics – especially Gen Y and Gen Z.

Apart from exploring the consumer purchasing considerations and preferences within specific food and beverage categories, the survey’s demographic data adds a valuable layer for Cargill’s customers as they ponder upon preparing the perfect chocolaty product to appeal to their end consumer.

“The insights gleaned from this research give us – and our customers – a window into consumer’s attitudes and evolving expectations around this much-loved ingredient.It can help guide our thinking on whether to revitalize tried-and-true products or adapt to changing tastes with new-to-the-world innovations, and is one more example of the added value we offer our customers,” added Hadden.

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