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While the industry suffered some setbacks during the recessionary period, it is expected to grow over the next five years. Companies will likely shift their focus to organic and dark chocolates in order to capitalise on the greater awareness of health issues.
In 2011, the US chocolate market sold at retail was worth an estimated $19.5 billion, up 6.6% over the previous year.
Chocolate marketers today are drawing inspiration from other segments of the food and beverage industry in an effort to boost sales - these include chocolates that feature super fruits, functional ingredients, savoury touches and ethnic flavours.
The US eats more chocolate by volume than any other country, says the International Cocoa Organization. Consumers are demanding value -and wild flavours, such as bacon and wasabi.
The top four players are expected to account for about 63.9% of the industry in 2012, up almost 15% from 2007. The jump in market share from 2007 is because Kraft Foods was not yet a major player until it acquired Cadbury, which significantly added to Kraft Food's chocolate revenue beginning in 2010.
Only 2.5% of firms employ greater than 500 workers and 6.5% of the industries employ 100 or more workers, yet they command the majority of industry revenue. This is because these are the major players that employ thousands of workers and enjoy well-known brands that attract brand loyal customers.
On the other hand, smaller enterprises employing fewer than 20 people make up 79.1% of the industry.
Although many consumers view chocolate as an occasional treat and don't obsess over its effect on health, fat is becoming a major issue for manufacturers. So-called 'fat taxes' are threatened in a number of major economies, including the US.
Chocolate could ride the trend for nutraceuticals. Nestlé has already announced plans to invest US$510m in "pioneering anew industry between food and pharma". Medicinal herbs could be used as an ingredient, or even aspirin. Additional better-for-you ingredients such as super-fruits, nuts and oats may become more common.
In many countries, chocolate is an essential component of religious events, special occasions and festivals. The seasonal chocolate market is worth US$4.9 billion in the US. Easter is the biggest chocolate event globally and, although the shelves can appear full of competing products, the market is in fact far from saturated. Easter products launched worldwide rose 45% during 2011.
For more information on the US chocolate market, see the latest research: US Chocolate Market
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