Domestic confectionery market to recover as more consumers demand premium, niche chocolate brands
On a per capita basis, the level of chocolate consumption in China still has plenty of room to grow in comparison to the global level, although the domestic chocolate industry has in fact witnessed a big boost in sales recently. With more top international chocolate makers tapping into the Chinese market, their growth engines rely heavily on the high-end and super high-end segments, where sales have soared as a result of the rapid overall consumption upgrade in China. Experts are also pointing their fingers at handmade and niche chocolate as the future craze in the Chinese confectionery market.
Demand for premium chocolate is quickly growing in the Chinese market as the country experiences rapid upgrades in consumption, with the niche and handmade chocolate markets becoming the new favorites.
However, experts have noted that it is proving difficult for domestic confectionery brands to capture the market's attention as foreign players continue to take the lead.
With "tremendous" demand for chocolate in emerging markets looking set to continue this season, the world's third-largest cocoa processor, Singapore-based Olam International, is projecting a sharply smaller global surplus. Excess cocoa supplies that reached a record last season will probably drop to about 50,000 metric tons this time around, Gerry Manley, head of cocoa at Olam International, was quoted as saying in a Bloomberg report released in November.
Particularly, demand has picked up in Asia, whereby countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, India and China are demanding more and more cocoa powder for products like cookies and ice cream, the report said.
According to a report by Euromonitor International, a global consulting firm, China's chocolate market is likely to recover by year-end after it experienced a 3 percent decrease in 2015 and a further 1 percent drop in 2016.
With the decline starting at the beginning of 2015, the domestic chocolate market witnessed about 120,000 tons in sales in 2016, down 3.84 percent year-on-year, data from the consultancy showed.
Zhu Danpeng, a food industry analyst, told the Global Times on Sunday that these sliding figures only indicate that sales were down in the mass market, as shown through official statistics channels.
"Actually, the whole industry has witnessed strong growth, particularly in the high-end and super high-end segments where products are usually bought via cross-border e-commerce, independent shopping agents [also known as daigou] or other channels, which are not calculated in the official statistics," Zhu explained.
The consumption of chocolate in China is less than 1 kilogram a year on a per capita basis, a mere tenth of the figure in Europe, meaning there is much room for consumption growth in the future, according to domestic market research firm Ebrun, South China Morning Post reported in September.
Valued at about 20 billion yuan (.02 billion) in 2015 in terms of sales, the market for chocolate in China is expected to grow to 40 billion yuan by 2020, Ebrun was quoted as saying in the report.
Foreign brand dominance
It has become more difficult for Chinese brands to tap into the domestic chocolate market due to fierce competition from foreign players, Zhu said.
The top 20 global chocolate brands, which originate from countries such as the U.S., Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and South Korea, have been striving to cater to Chinese consumers as they have high expectations for the nation's chocolate market.