Perhaps one of the best traits the chocolate bar industry has to offer is its maintenance of old favorites, coupled with innovative and exciting new flavors that give even the bravest of taste buds a run for their money.

The year 2015 has, so far, been no exception to that tendency.

The chocolate bar industry has certainly seen its days of glory — which are only continuing, as chocolate sales increased 2.46 percent – for a total of $13.3 billion, according to an IRI report from the last 52 weeks, ending June 14, 2015.

The good news is that for individual companies, old favorites in the bars category are still experiencing growth and remain best-sellers.

Novelty, sugar-free, gift box chocolates, and snack-size chocolate sales are suffering though, with novelty chocolate sales decreasing by 31.4 percent.

But there’s no questioning it, Mars, Inc. and The Hershey Co. remain as top grossing companies for U.S. chocolate products.

According to report from IRI, a Chicago-based research firm that looks at the latest 52 weeks ending June 14, 2015, Mars’ M&M’s remain the best-selling chocolate product in both size categories — below 3.5 oz. And above 3.5 oz. — with sales at $552 million and $621 million, respectively.

Reese’s, Snickers bars, Hershey’s chocolate, and Kit-Kat bars made it to the top five in the “less than 3.5 oz” category, and Hershey’s Kisses made it in slot number five in the “more than 3.5 oz” category.

But despite the popularity of long-time favorites, new flavors are always taking center stage.

In April of this year, Hershey unveiled Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Caramels Bar. This delicious creation features sea salt, molasses, and fresh dairy butter for a silky, smooth texture, with a suggested retail price of only $1.29 (1.1 oz.).

“Each bite of Hershey’s Caramels provides an elevated experience through the blend of luscious, creamy caramel and delicious Hershey’s chocolate that consumers know and love,” says Michael Rabinovitz, brand manager, Hershey’s Caramels.

And Mars has offered new twists on popular bars. Its new Milky Way Marshmallow with Caramel Bar, released in July, delivers a rich combination of fluffy marshmallow nougat covered in a layer of smooth caramel and enrobed in creamy milk chocolate. It sells for $1.09-$1.39 (1.7 oz.)

Another well-known bar will enter the scene in December, this time in the form of Mars’ 2 To Go sized bars: Milky Way Midnight. It will feature a resealable twistwrap and the usual creamy caramel and vanilla-flavored nougat, wrapped up in dark chocolate. A 2.8-oz. bar sells for $1.69-$1.99.

And finally, in November, Mars will offer the new Snickers Mixed Nuts bar, offering a mix of peanuts, almonds, and hazelnuts in addition to the traditional Snickers goodness of caramel and nougat, coated in milk chocolate. A 1.7 oz bar sells for $1.09-$1.39.

For Lindt & Sprüngli, which ranks as No. 4 in IRI’s list for chocolate products both above and below 3.5 oz., the candy maker’s innovators continue to be quite creative.

Its HELLO line, which started in 2013, is featuring two new tantalizing flavors — HELLO Chocolate Sundae and HELLO Pink Explosion. The Chocolate Sundae bar mixes milk chocolate with almond pieces and vanilla and chocolate fillings, while the Pink Explosion bar features a combination of milk chocolate and popping raspberry and cream filling.

“With eye-catching packaging, popular flavor combinations and a unique brand personality, Lindt HELLO redefines what premium chocolate can look and taste like,” says Thomas Linemayr, ceo and president, Lindt USA about the original 2013 line release. “We are excited about the collection and the opportunity to engage Millennials, a virtually untapped group in the premium chocolate space, with the HELLO products on digital and social platforms and in Target stores.”

With all these exciting new endeavors, it’s important to look at what the companies are doing behind these popular items.

And this year, the biggest chocolate company in North America is going green.

Hershey was recognized for its continuing improvement in environmental stewardship in Newsweek’s 2015 Green Rankings as No. 6, moving up 40 spots from last year’s ranking.

To earn the spot, Hershey:

  • Reduced waste by 40 percent and reduced packaging waste by a cumulative 16 million pounds through various company-wide initiatives.
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. distribution and logistics by 27 percent.
  • Introduced Hershey’s Miniatures packaging redesign that reduced waste while maintaining packaging quality and food safety.
  • Achieved zero-waste-to-landfill status at its El Salto, Mexico facility, one of 11 Hershey facilities to achieve this milestone, with 60 percent of its global production occurring at ZWL facilities.
  • Reduced company-wide water consumption by 70 percent.
  • Mars, Inc also has taken up a level of social responsibility with its announced recommendation in May that consumers limit their added daily sugars to 10 percent of their total calories.
  • Mars’ initiative adds the following points to its current list of goals:
  • Support new labeling approaches (on pack and digital), where such approaches are supported by a coalition of science and nutrition experts, regulators, retailers, industry leaders, and NGOs
  • Increase the number of Mars’ chocolate confections below 200 kcal per pack
  • Continue efforts to improve and diversify the nutritional composition of product portfolio
  • Promote the oral health benefits of sugar-free gum

It’s great to know that some of the biggest chocolate makers in North America offer delicious, innovative products both old and new, while also working for a healthier planet and healthier people.