What’s Driving Chocolate Innovation?


As the chocolate candy category grows increasingly fragmented, manufacturers are finding new ways to innovate.

The chocolate segment, which represents 60% of candy industry sales, or nearly $21 billion annually, according to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), is frequently divided into milk, dark and white chocolate types. More broadly, mainstream chocolate is seeing growing competition from premium and what’s known as “fine” chocolate varieties, defined as small, artisan chocolatiers that use the highest quality cocoa.

To navigate all the consumer desires within the chocolate opportunity, Washington, D.C.-based NCA released new survey highlights in collaboration with the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA).

Released in advance of the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, the research found that while preferences for dark, milk and white chocolate vary widely across age groups, a new generation of millennial shoppers is impacting the chocolate retailer experience.

The report divided consumers into three groups: mainstream chocolate, premium choclolate and fine chocolate consumers. The NCA/FCIA survey shows that millennials have an “above average” preference for fine chocolate, purchasing treats at supercenters, specialty/organic or alternative stores.

Fine chocolate consumers also believe that small-batch chocolate possesses superior taste and are willing to seek it out more frequently than other chocolate consumers, according to Bill Guyton, executive director of FCIA.

Click through for nine recent releases across the various chocolate segments.

Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Hershey


Hershey will roll out its first permanent Kit Kat flavor in almost 10 years with the introduction of Kit Kat Duos, which feature wafers coated in mint cream and dark chocolate. Kit Kat Duos will be available for retail distribution in December 2019.

2. M&M’s

m&ms hazelnut

Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s M&M’s Hazelnut Spread Chocolate Candies feature a hazelnut spread center covered in milk chocolate. The new variety is a permanent addition to Mars Wrigley’s portfolio. It rolled out in April 2019 in single (1.35 ounces), share-size (2.53 ounces) and stand-up pouches (8.3 ounces).

Photograph courtesy of Mars Wrigley Confectionery

3. BarNone


Iconic Candy brought back BarNone candy bars this spring. The milk chocolate-coated bars, which went out of production in 1997, feature cocoa wafers, chocolate cream and peanuts.

Image courtesy of Iconic Candy

4. Nordi

nordi chocolate

Finland-based Fazer Confectionery released Nordi, a line of Nordic-inspired dark chocolate, in the United States. “We saw a great opportunity to bring our promise, ‘Northern Magic. Made Real,’ to the U.S. market with our better-for-you, premium chocolate brand that imparts a sense of Nordic adventure through the taste of chocolate,” said Nathalie Ahlstrom, managing director of Fazer Confectionery. As a member of the World Cocoa Foundation, the company promotes responsible cocoa farming and advocates for an increase in farmers’ income levels in major cocoa growing regions. Four flavors include Sea Buckthorn & Salty Caramel, Hazelnut & Campsite Coffee, Raspberry & Tangy Licorice and Smooth & Dark Original.

Photograph courtesy of Fazer Confectionery

5. Ferrero Group

kinder joy

IRI’s annual New Product Pacesetters report included Ferrero’s Kinder Joy as one of the top 10 best-selling new products in convenience stores in 2018. Kinder Joy is an egg-shaped package designed “to surprise and delight” consumers. One half of the egg contains two layers of milky sweet creams topped with two crispy wafer bites filled with cocoa cream. The other half of the egg contains a surprise toy.

Photograph courtesy of Ferrero

6. Mr. Dot Bar

dot bars

In a mashup release, Midwestern favorite Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels introduced three varieties of the Mr. Dot Bar, incorporating its garlic and onion seasoned buttermilk pretzels with chocolate. “It’s intriguing, it’s yummy and it’s just unique in its own way,” said Dot’s creator Dorothy “Dot” Henke.

Photograph courtesy of Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels

7. Flipz


In April, Flipz debuted Flipz Mix, an assortment of sweet, salty and crunchy snacks that combine Flipz milk chocolate-covered pretzels with popcorn, pretzels and candy-coated chocolate pieces. Ideal as a shareable treat, Flipz Milk Chocolate Mix is available in a 4-ounce bag for an SRP of $2.49 and 6.5-ounce bag for an SRP of $3.49.

Photograph courtesy of Flipz

8. Fort Knox Chocolate Coins

fort knox coins

Adding spice to the chocolate novelty segment, Gerrit J. Verburg launched several new offerings, including Fort Knox Chocolate Coins in various sizes. Made in Holland and embossed to resemble U.S. currency, Fort Knox Chocolate Coins are available in four formats: Bags of Gold Coins, which come in 5/8-, 1.5- and 2-ounce bags; Medallions, which measure 3.94 inches in diameter; Trio of Medallions, a giftable item containing three 2-ounce medallions; and Mega Medallions, which are 4.92 inches in diameter.

Photograph courtesy of Gerrit J. Verburg

9. Red Delight

red chocolate

Created by chocolatiers from France and Switzerland, Chocolette Confectionary in January 2019 launched Red Delight chocolate collection in U.S. retail channels. Developed using patented technology and regarded as one of the world’s lowest calorie chocolates at 16 calories per piece, Gourmet Red Delight offers several flavors in a 3.5-ounce bar, including Extra Dark, Dark Chocolate With Orange and Almond, and Milk Chocolate With Hazelnut and Macadamia. Products are made without any cocoa oil substitutes, artificial colors or preservatives, and they are certified kosher, non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan where noted, with no added sugar.

Photograph courtesy of Chocolette Confectionary