*The following piece was originally published on Medium.com.
The winter holidays are a special time of year for the chocolate and candy industry. From hanging candy canes on Christmas trees to gifting fine chocolate, celebrating the season with the products we represent is an annual tradition in many American households.
In January, I will have the honor of speaking at the Fine Chocolate Industry Association’s Elevate Chocolate event where I will be sharing what makes our industry and the products we make so special. As I think about my presentation, I’d like to share with you a few of the topics that I will discuss:
Consumers view our products for what they are — a treat. Treating is connected to emotional well-being, which 3 out of 4 Americans have said is just as important as physical well-being. Almost 90 percent of Americans have said that a world without chocolate and candy is no world at all. Our category is unique: we’re not just making great-tasting products, we’re helping to create memories. There is no end in sight to the emotional and social connections that consumers have with our products, including fine chocolate, seasonal treats, gum, mints, and all of the beloved brands.
Chocolate and candy are special treats that have played an important role in cultural traditions and seasonal celebrations for thousands of years. From unusual flavor combinations and sophisticated ingredients to unique packaging and groundbreaking manufacturing techniques, the confectionery industry has been able to sustain that longevity through innovation. The fine chocolate industry is at the forefront of innovation as fearless chocolatiers continue to sprout across the country with new formats and flavor profiles.
As society becomes more aware of the social and environmental impact of products and services, consumers are becoming more mindful of sustainability in their purchasing behavior. When it comes to chocolate sustainability, claims are gaining momentum with consumers. Whether you are a brand manager, marketer or retailer, connecting the dots for your brand with sustainability is essential to growth, especially with Gen Z and millennial consumers. FCIA’s work through its Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund identifies and preserves fine flavor cacao varieties for the conservation of biological diversity and the empowerment of farming communities.
There must be a collaboration of all companies in the industry, from supplier to manufacturer, marching in the same direction as it relates to sustainability. Allied organizations such as NCA, FCIA and the World Cocoa Foundation must continue to work together to ensure the future of chocolate.
Earlier this year, FCIA adopted a new strategy to more effectively promote quality, innovations, ethical sourcing and best practices in the fine chocolate industry. I am thrilled to present at Elevate Chocolate, and I am just as excited to learn more about FCIA’s efforts and the growth of the important fine chocolate category. NCA’s Chocolate Council will be involved in this important discussion.
From communicating and educating consumers to celebrating the valuable chocolate industry, FCIA’s strategic focus areas align closely with NCA’s mission, vision and core values for the entire confectionery industry. I encourage category professionals to join us on January 12 in San Francisco as we reveal new custom consumer research that explores what is ahead for the chocolate sector.
From all of us at NCA, we wish you and your family a happy and prosperous holiday and Happy New Year!