Premium chocolate producers continue to innovate within the truffles, pralines and filled chocolates category while gift box chocolate sales have dipped overall.

Gift box chocolates generated $282.26 million in the year ending June 14, 2020, representing an 8.3 percent decrease from a year ago, according to IRI, a Chicago-based research firm. Unit sales also dropped by 15.7 percent to 54 million.

Ferrero USA leads the gift box chocolates category, with nearly 41 percent of the market share. Russell Stover follows with nearly 21 percent. World’s Finest Chocolate occupies 12 percent, while Lindt & Sprüngli and DeMet’s Candy Co., owned by Yıldız Holding, represent 6 and 4 percent, respectively.

Ferrero has four entries in the Top 20 brands and products tracked by IRI, with Ferrero Rocher gift box chocolates taking the No. 1 spot. Generating $69.5 million in the year ending June 14, those products saw a 5.5 percent increase in dollar sales from a year ago.

Ferrero’s Golden Gallery Signature Gift Box, first showcased at Sweets & Snacks 2019 and launched in time for Christmas, earned $1.39 million in sales over the same period, representing a 35 percent increase from a year ago.

Golden Gallery Signature’s eight pieces are uniquely named and inspired by the high quality ingredients used to craft them. They include Dark Opera, Caramel Leonardo, Biancoretti, Hazelnut Duo, Coffee Maestria, Giandujot Ferrero, Milk Cupola and White Opera.

"Ferrero has a long legacy in premium chocolate," said Alessandro Rapali, v.p. of marketing, premium chocolate, North America. "As the No. 1 praline brand in the world, Ferrero is uniquely poised to lead the market with the expansion into a whole new chocolate space, bringing multiple fine chocolate flavor varieties to one assorted box."

Godiva Chocolatier is represented in the Top 20 twice, with Godiva gift boxes and Godiva Goldmark, launched in 2019. Available in 11, 17 and 30-piece varieties, Godiva Goldmark generated $5.8 million in the year ending June 14, representing a 922.1 percent increase from a year ago.

In February, Godiva launched Godiva Domes, individually-wrapped, dome-shaped chocolate pieces packed in vibrant petal boxes for sharing and everyday gifting. They’re available in three varieties: Milk Chocolate Coconut Crunch, Dark Chocolate Double Chocolate and Milk Chocolate Crispy Hazelnut.

Lindt’s Lindor truffle gift boxes also performed well over the year ending June 14, generating $3.36 million. That’s up 223.4 percent from last year. Lindt gift boxes brought in just over $12 million, up 5.4 percent from a year ago.

Meanwhile, gift box chocolates from Ghirardelli and Russell Stover, both owned by Lindt & Sprüngli, saw significant declines. Ghirardelli gift boxes generated just over $1.2 million in the year ending June 14, down 23.8 percent from a year ago. Russell Stover brought in $58.3 million, down 32.5 percent from a year ago.

Russell Stover announced in January it would expand its production facilities in Kansas and Texas and close its plant in Montrose, Colorado next year. Lindt & Sprüngli said in its 2019 sales report North American sales had grown organically by 5.4 percent, and despite the “changing retail landscape, characterized by substantial price pressure, all three brands — Lindt, Ghirardelli and Russell Stover — contributed equally.”

In March, Modern Gourmet Foods announced Belgian chocolate brand Guylian, known for its praline-filled chocolate Sea Shells, would expand its presence in the United States with support from the importer and distributor. Though it currently ships to 16 European countries, Guylian is available in more than 120 countries and 75 percent of travel retail shops across the world.

Globally, Technavio reported demand for truffles was set to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 5 percent between 2018 and 2022, with incremental sales growing by $1.67 billion. The research firm noted 41 percent of the growth would come from the Americas.

Both Technavio and Infiniti Market Research cited establishment of organized retailers as a driving force behind increasing truffles sales. Infiniti pointed to supermarkets and hypermarkets, or “big-box stores,” as major distribution channels, along with drug, convenience and specialty stores.

Flavor innovation with super-premium chocolatiers

Super-premium chocolatiers are at the forefront of innovation in flavor and presentation, and the truffles and filled chocolates they introduced within the last year continue to push boundaries.

Minnesota-based St. Croix Chocolate Co.’s Koi Inyodo creation charmed judges of the International Chocolate’s Salon’s 2019 Top Truffle Artistry Awards, earning 4.5 stars and Gold in the Best Exterior Design, Best Packaging, Most Unique and Best Overall Truffle Artistry categories. 

Packed in a stenciled shipping create were two hand-painted koi fish, one filled with yuzu ganache and roasted buckwheat praline, and the other filled with honey ganache and a black sesame seed crunch.

One judge said of St. Croix: “Your packaging is always a showstopper, and your flavors live up to the expectations created by your packaging.”

Florida-based Norman Love Confections also included yuzu in new additions to its Signature Collection, the company’s core product line. Among the flavors are passion fruit, yuzu mango and Shot in the Dark, featuring espresso and coffee-infused cream in an intense dark chocolate filling. 

“Many of the flavors in the current Signature Collection have been part of the collection from the beginning, but new ideas are what make us who we are,” said Chef Norman Love, founder, owner and president of Norman Love Confections. “When inspiration strikes, we develop new flavors, refining and perfecting until they are ready to be added to the collection.”

Vosges-Haut Chocolat founder Katrina Markoff is known for combining unique, high quality ingredients in her truffle creations. Her latest collection, inspired by the Grateful Dead, features pieces such as Tennessee Jam, made with Mediterranean olive oil, blackberry puree and blue spirulina; and Dusty Delilah, made with Reishi mushrooms, rum tincture, coconut, Mexican vanilla, raspberry and 72% cacao dark chocolate.

“Chocolate is one of the most powerful words in the food dictionary, and the ability to tell stories through it is so ripe and able,” Markoff told Candy Industry. “People are really open to eating chocolate, and when you’re getting them to open their minds to new ideas through it, it can be a really powerful change agent.”