Renewed focus on accessible gifting, along with consumers turning to chocolate to lift their spirits and cheer up loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic, has buoyed the truffles, pralines, filled chocolates category.

Truffles, pralines and other filled chocolate are often delivered through gift boxes, a category tracked by IRI, a Chicago-based research firm. IRI’s data show gift box chocolate generated just over $317 million in the 52 weeks ending June 13, up 12.9 percent from a year ago. 

By comparison, gift box chocolate sales pulled in $282.2 million in the year ending June 14, 2020, down 8.3 percent from the previous year. In the year ending Sept. 8, 2019, gift box chocolate generated $321.8 million — almost $5 million higher than the 2021 total — but that was still down 6.1 percent from 2018.

Ferrero USA continues to lead the gift box chocolates category, increasingly gaining market share to reach 43 percent in the year ending June 13, 2021. That corresponds to just under $137 million in sales, up 22.3 percent from a year ago.

Russell Stover remains in second place, but it has lost market share, dropping from 27 percent in 2019 to 19 percent in 2021. The brand generated $60.6 million, up 1.6 percent from a year ago.

World’s Finest Chocolate, maker of Queen Anne Cordial Cherries, has held steady in the third spot, pulling in $38.4 million in the year ending June 13. That’s up 7.8 percent from a year ago. Whitman’s follows in fourth, with the Whitman’s Sampler earning $14.5 million. That represents a 42.6 percent increase from 2020.

Rounding out the Top 5 is pladis’ Demet’s Candy Co., with its Turtles generating $13.5 million in the year ending June 13.

Ferrero’s Golden Gallery Signature collection, which the company launched in time for the 2019 holiday season, is its fastest-growing gift box item, according to IRI data. The collection, which features pieces in milk, dark and white chocolate, earned $2.1 million in the 52 weeks ending June 13. That represents a 50.5 percent increase from a year ago.

"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."

At the 2021 Sweet & Snacks Expo, Ferrero announced it would expand the Golden Gallery Signature Collection with two new pieces: 

  • Caramel Intenso: An intense dark chocolate shell that hides a smooth caramel center flavored with a hint of sea salt
  • Chocolate Sonetto: Milk chocolate studded with hazelnut and almond bits that is finished with a dusting of finely grated white chocolate

Ferrero also announced plans to expand the Golden Gallery Signature Dark Collection to national distribution for the 2021 holiday season. Featuring six pieces, it includes:

  • Dark Cupola: Dark chocolate enrobes cocoa ganache, decorated with a milk chocolate swirl
  • Dark Opera: A bittersweet dark chocolate hazelnut cup topped with cocoa shavings
  • Dark Caramel Leonardo: A nutty praline base combines with soft salted caramel, encased in dark chocolate
  • Dark Coffee Maestria: Rich coffee blended with finely ground Arabica beans encased in dark chocolate
  • Giandujot Dark: Dark chocolate confection paired with solid hazelnut cream
  • Dark Sonetto: Dark chocolate studded with hazelnut and almond bits, finished with a dusting of white chocolate

The Fannie May brand, acquired by Ferrero in 2017, experienced the most growth in the category, according to IRI data. Fannie May gift box chocolates pulled in $2.3 million in the year ending June 13, up 578 percent from 2020. The Pixies gift boxes generated $3.7 million over the same period, up 443.3 percent from a year ago. The Mint Meltaways gift boxes earned $1.6 million.

Rick Fossalli, vice president and general manager for Fannie May Confections, told Candy Industry last year that Ferrero has pushed the largely regional brand onto the national stage by making the chocolates available on Amazon. Additionally, Fannie May has remodeled or refreshed a number of its retail stores.

“Ferrero is unbelievably focused on quality, and so are we,” Fossalli said. “It’s been a really great partnership. We’ve learned from them, they’ve learned from us.”

Meanwhile, GODIVA announced in January it would move away from its own brick-and-mortar stores, pulling out of 128 North American locations to place an “aggressive focus” on its food-drug-mass (FDM) retail strategy. However, GODIVA said it would maintain retail operations in Europe, the Middle East and China to reflect the unique cultural preferences of those markets. 

“We are making it even easier for our consumers to enjoy GODIVA, whether that’s by treating themselves or gifting, so that everyone can have access to our premium chocolate,” said GODIVA CEO Nurtac Afridi in a statement to media. “GODIVA is already available in many retailers in North America, and we will continue to increase our presence there while always upholding the premium quality, taste and innovation that we have been renowned for since we were founded in Brussels in 1926.”

In May, the company launched “The Wonder of GODIVA,” a global campaign to support its FDM portfolio, including its Masterpieces, Domes and Goldmark truffle collections.

"GODIVA is evolving to become a part of our consumer's daily life, beyond just holidays and special occasions,” said John Galloway, GODIVA’s chief marketing and innovation officer. “We are committed to creating destinations, products, and experiences that allow chocolate lovers to treat themselves with GODIVA every day, making mundane moments wonderful, in grocery and retail stores, as well as online."

IRI data shows sales of the Goldmark Collection have performed well, growing by 43.7 percent to reach $8.5 million in the year ending June 13. 

In the wake of GODIVA’s North American brick-and-mortar departure, Swiss chocolatier Läderach announced it would take over the leases of 34 GODIVA stores across the U.S. Earlier this month, the company announced it would open 15 stores on Simon retail properties.

Though known for its chocolate bark, FrischSchoggi, Läderach also offers a variety of pralines and truffles, including the Masters Bonbon Mandarine praline, created by Elias Läderach specifically for the World Chocolate Masters 2018.

Bissinger’s Handcrafted Chocolatier, acquired by Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Co. in 2019, also opened a store in the former GODIVA location in Saint Louis Galleria.

To help chocolate fans send socially-distanced love to their friends and family during the pandemic, Simply Chocolate — the chocolate gifting platform of — launched the Say It Simply line, 19-piece collections featuring messages and wishes for a variety of occasions.

San Francisco-based See’s Candies has found a different reason to celebrate this year. In recognition of its 100th anniversary, the company introduced the Centennial Collection, along with truffle collections for Valentine’s Day and Easter.

"See's has a sweet history, and we look forward to bringing some new pieces and memories to our customers,” See’s President and CEO Pat Egan said. “For our 100th anniversary, we've combined our backstory with fresh, innovative thinking to inspire new, and delicious, ways to celebrate. We all need some joy these days, and we promise there is a lot more to come.”