It’s fine to have a treat. Really, you can do so and, most importantly, still lead a healthy lifestyle. That's what 98 percent of 1,000 Americans surveyed last year told Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S. In addition, nearly three out of four people (73 percent) indulge in treats “just because they want one.”

Looking to update an earlier survey conducted by the company on consumer behavior, Mars Wrigley wanted to see “how Millennials and Baby Boomers experience treats, the role of social media in treating and more.”

Survey results provided insights on generations and their inclinations. First, chocolate remains a powerful draw, even when it comes to passing up that morning cup of Joe.

Hence, the survey quizzed consumers on whether they would choose between coffee and chocolate. The results say it all:

  • Most Americans (53 percent) said that if pressed, they would rather give up coffee.
  • Compared to all other Americans, 62 percent of parents prioritize chocolate over coffee.
  • The only part of the country where coffee wins over chocolate is the West, including the caffeine mecca of Seattle.

Sharing also remains part of the American psyche. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans think a treat is sweeter when shared with a friend. Given that roughly two-thirds of all consumers are active on social media, the survey revealed that more than one-quarter (28 percent) of Americans bought a treat because they wanted to share a picture of it on social media. As expected, that percentage increases significantly for Millennials; 52 percent have purchased a treat to share on social media.

While on the subject of Millennials, some other interesting statistics surfaced from the “Treat Report.”

  • Nearly half of Millennials (47 percent) choose a treat to boost their mood, compared with 36 percent of Gen Xers and 28 percent of Baby Boomers/
  • Compared with other age groups, Millennials are much more likely to indulge in a treat as a reward for an accomplishment.
  • Compared with older generations, Millennials are more likely to consider brand loyalty when purchasing a treat.

When choosing what treat to select, most consumers (85 percent) prioritize taste. No surprise there.

Cost is a secondary concern, with less than half of respondents reporting that the price of a treat is a key consideration. Given treats’ indulgent nature, it makes sense that taste trumps price.

As mentioned earlier, the survey numbers showed that a treat doesn’t need to be a justifiable indulgence – nearly three out of four people (73 percent) indulge in treats “just because they want one” — but some consumers do look for a special reason to treat themselves.

  • 50 percent of respondents choose a treat to relax or unwind.
  • 42 percent include treats in special occasions, like birthdays or holidays.
  • A smaller group of Americans (35 percent) indulge in a treat as a reward for an accomplishment.

Finally, the report confirmed a given: Americans love to treat themselves, with 27 percent preferring chocolate or candy treats, followed by baked goods and savory treats taking third (26 percent).