Big players in the chocolate market make small changes to well-known brands in safe attempts to innovate.

When it comes to chocolate innovations, the big players in the market seem to constantly be coming up with new things – to drive sales as well as introduce excitement into the marketplace.

This year’s launch from Hershey’s though is the most notable. The company literally added air to its chocolate to create Hershey’s Air Delights. The aerated chocolate is available as a bar or as Kisses, and the packaging features chocolate air bubbles.

In a media release, Hershey says, “The smooth and creamy consistency of Hershey’s Air Delight Chocolate offers a surprisingly subtle, new way to enjoy pure Hershey’s chocolate. Its light and airy texture causes the chocolate to melt with ease over your tongue, making it the ultimate chocolate experience.”

Anna Lingeris, Hershey’s Air Delight spokeswoman, explains, “The masters at Hershey crafted Hershey’s Air Delight Chocolate for those looking for a unique and lasting chocolate taste experience.”

The move was just the latest attempt by one of the big players in the chocolate market to add a fresh twist onto a staple product. And, the tendency to stick as closely to proven brands as possible makes sense after reviewing the top sellers in the main chocolate categories.

The top selling chocolate weighing less than 3.5 oz. was Reese’s; the top selling chocolate weighing more than 3.5 oz. was M&M’s; and the top selling snack size chocolate was Snicker’s, according to data from SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm.

For Hershey, leveraging the power of its well-known brands meant more than just adding air; the company also took some of its most famous treats and changed their shape. Specifically, Hershey launched a line of Hershey’s Drops, which are small pieces of Hershey’s favorites including Milk Chocolate and Cookies N’ Cream; and, they launched Reese’s Minis, with plans for Rolo Minis next year.

Meanwhile, Mars was busy adding peanut butter to its Snicker’s, pretzels to its M&M’S and coconut to its 3 Musketeers.

The company has had some success with coconut already, adding it to M&M’S at first temporarily and now permanently. And Mars cites data, from SymphonyIRI Group, showing that coconut is one of the fastest-growing flavors in the chocolate segment, up 9.5%.

Continuing with its trend of tweaking it M&M’S, Mars also announced that it’s Dark Mint M&M’S – usually a staple of the holiday season – is becoming part of the permanent M&M’S line up.

“It’s always been a great product, but we’ve only sold it at Christmas time,” explains Tim Quinn, National Sales Director for Mars. “So in January and February, our consumer hotlines go off the chart with people saying, ‘Where can I get it?’ And now, you’ll be able to get it year-round.”

Like Hershey, Mars also changed the shape of a well-known product to create a fresh appeal. The company re-launched Dove Chocolate Bars, which now feature fresh graphics, and a wider size – with 11% increased weight for the same price.

“We flatten the bar a little bit and then made two rows, so it’s still breakable and you can share or just eat it slowly, but it really shows a much, much larger presence,” Quinn says.

Mars also launched Dove chocolate-covered raisins and Dove chocolate-covered peanuts.

“It’s going to be outstanding,” Quinn says.

And, while Nestle’s most publicized chocolate launch this year wasn’t a tweak to one of its staple candy products, it did involve a well-known brand.

The company debuted Skinny Cow candies. The line includes Dreamy Clusters, which are bite-sized treats with crunchy crisps, drenched in caramel and covered in either milk or dark chocolate; and Heavenly Crisp bars, which are wafers layered with either chocolate or peanut butter, and covered with a chocolate coating.

“Confectionery is a natural extension for Skinny Cow. We have created a delicious, low-calorie range of treats in satisfying portion sizes for consumers who want to enjoy the sweeter things in life without compromise,” explains Tricia Bowles, spokeswoman for Nestlé USA, Confections & Snacks Division

As long as shoppers gravitate to what they know - and like - the major players in the chocolate market will no doubt continue to promote brands that already have a reputation for success.