In a new report on the global confectionery market, Leatherhead Food Research said annual sales of chocolate in Western Europe increased 2.2 per cent in dollar terms between 2004 and 2008. By contrast, Central and Eastern European sales rose 9.1 per cent annually between 2004 and 2008, making it the fastest growing chocolate market in the world.
Explaining the figures for Western Europe, the report stated: “Volume growth has been rather limited in recent years, due to factors such as health concerns and people switching to healthier snacks.”
Although Western Europe still commands a 37 per cent share of the global chocolate market, it is gradually losing ground to North America and fast growing regions led by Central and Eastern Europe.
Many of the biggest chocolate suppliers in the world have moved to Central and Eastern Europe in recent years to take advantage of lower labour costs. And this trend, according to the report, has boosted the local market.
The supplier migration has given international brands a stronger presence in the region. Combined with the help of economic growth, which has fuelled consumer demand, this supply side trend has helped Central and Eastern European increase its dollar share of the global market from 9.10 per cent in 2004 to 10.87 per cent in 2008.
Overall the chocolate sector has shown the healthiest growth in the confectionery market in recent years, outpacing both sugar confectionery and chewing gum. Sales grew by 4.4 per cent annually on a global level between 2004 and 2008, while sugar and chewing gum increased 3.3 and 3.8 per cent respectively.
Within chocolate, the most significant growth driver has been increased demand for premium varieties, such as single origin and Fairtrade products. But in the face of the economic downturn, Leatherhead said it remains to be seen whether this trend will be sustained.
Another important driver, particularly in Western Europe, has been sales of dark chocolate, which is perceived to be a healthy option.
Leatherhead said that in more developed parts of Europe and North America, dark chocolate is forecast to remain a major growth area on account of its healthier properties.
Looking forward, chocolate is tipped to remain the fastest growing category in confectionery. Sales are forecast to increase by about 15 per cent between 2009 and 2013, while the overall confectionery market is expected to grow 14 per cent.
This represents a slowdown on the last four years. Between 2004 and 2008 global confectionery sales rose by almost 17 per cent, and chocolate sales increased 19 per cent.