Chocolate sales grew by 12 percent to $27 billion in 2020, according to new research from Packaged Facts.

The firm reports COVID-19 pushed chocolate sales higher as consumers turned to comfort foods and extended seasonal and holiday celebrations to cope with the disappointments of the pandemic. 

In its report “Chocolate Candy: U.S. Market Trends and Opportunities,” Packaged Facts projects chocolate sales will decelerate over the next five years, although the pandemic boom of chocolate sales in 2020 and 2021 will affect the market for years to come.

The firm says a quarter of consumers report they have or will extend seasonal celebrations, compared to pre-pandemic behavior, and some of these trends may stick. In 2020 and 2021, seasonal treats have been available at stores earlier. Marketers may continue to extend holiday chocolate promotions going forward to boost sales.

Additionally, the pandemic has led to more everyday occasions for chocolate as consumers have been snacking and baking more at home. Although people will resume many activities outside of the home as they get vaccinated, many are expected to continue working at home on at least a part-time basis. This will lead to elevated levels of home baking and snacking activity compared to pre-pandemic trends.

Many chocolate marketers are offering new products that tap into better-for-you food trends as consumers desire healthier snacks that still provide indulgence. Opportunities continue to expand in the better-for-you chocolate market, with clean label, vegan/plant-based, low-carb, organic, and no sugar added versions appealing more to consumers.