Over the last few months, COVID-19 has caused significant disruption to consumers’ daily lives, which has also impacted their snacking habits.

FMCG Gurus research indicates a high proportion of consumers said they were snacking more regularly, while around one in five global consumers said they were being less attentive to calorie intake. Chocolate is one product consumers have been turning to, but how often and what product features are they seeking in the U.S.?

FMCG Gurus' U.S. chocolate survey reveals 93 percent of U.S. chocolate eaters are prone to purchasing single-serve chocolate bars, with one in 10 consumers having one on a daily basis. Over the past 12 months, 38 percent of consumers said their consumption of single-serve chocolate bars have increased. 

This increase can be associated with consumers seeking out moments of comfort and indulgence due to COVID-19. Three-fourths of consumers in the U.S. said they have sought out snacks that offer moments of comfort, including chocolate-based products. Chocolate products also allow them to relax and unwind. In times of uncertainty and stress, consumers are prone to seeking out products to treat themselves as a form of escapism and comfort. 

However, this increase in chocolate product consumption will have a negative impact on waistlines, something consumers will want to address. As such, consumers will increasingly look to re-evaluate their snacking habits over the next year, seeking out better-for-you options that offer taste and nutrition simultaneously. Nearly 80 percent (79 percent) of global consumers say they plan to eat and drink healthier as a result of COVID-19. FMCG Gurus research shows 66 percent of consumers in the U.S. believe chocolate bars to be an unhealthy snack. 

Nonetheless, there is a key opportunity for brands and manufacturers to offer healthier chocolate bars to consumers. In the U.S., 69 percent of consumers say they would be willing to pay a premium for chocolate bars that provide high protein claims. Protein is a sought-out ingredient and is heavily associated with healthy living. The inclusion of functional ingredients within chocolate bars will be beneficial to brands and manufacturers as consumers look to switch from traditional snacks to healthier alternatives. 

Sustainability is also a major area that needs to be addressed when positioning chocolate products. This is highlighted as 81 percent of consumers in the U.S. find sustainable ingredient claims appealing. Consumers have become increasingly concerned about the environment, with more than 40 percent believing the damage done is irreversible. This has, in turn, led to consumers actively seeking brands and manufacturers that are addressing these global issues.