Chocolate sales are booming this Valentine’s Day, as consumers stay close to home

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Ferrero Rocher chocolate and hazelnut confectionery seen in a supermarket.

Alex Tai | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

No reservations are required this Valentine’s Day, as the pandemic makes romantic dinners out less likely. But chocolate will still be a key part of the celebration, as people express their love not only for their romantic partners but also close family and friends as well.

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Eighty-six percent of Americans are planning to purchase chocolate or candy for this year’s Valentine’s Day, according to data released from the National Confectioner’s Association.

“It will probably look a little different in 2021 than other years but certainly that acknowledgement of friends is still going to be very meaningful in this season,” said Phil DeConto, vice president of category management and shopper insights at chocolate maker Ferrero, in an interview with CNBC.

Spending this Valentine’s Day is expected to be down, with consumers spending an average of $165 on gifts and celebrations this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. That’s down $32 from last year, largely due to people celebrating mainly at home.

But chocolate sales, especially for premium products, have been growing. According to DeConto, total chocolate consumption during the past 52 weeks has increased by 4.7% and premium chocolate is up double that, with the trend continuing into Valentine’s Day.

“Premium chocolate has been able to play a role in providing a level of normalcy or a mental health break,” said Deconto. Ferrero owns brands like Kinder, Nutella and Butterfinger, but also has premium products like Ferrero’s Golden Gallery.

With these diverse candy brands in its portfolio, Ferrero is able to appeal to a wide array of consumers during the holiday outside of traditional romantic relationships. For example, parents may surprise children with a novelty-shaped box of chocolates, while themed assortment bags may work for a Galentine’s Day celebration with friends. (Typically celebrated on Feb. 13, Galentine’s Day was popularized by the sitcom Parks & Recreation more than a decade ago and continues to have a following.)

Ferrero has also been seeing increased demand for its Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread as consumers cook breakfast at home. DeConto said people are buying bigger jars of Nutella and more units as well.

“People are making fewer trips out but when they’re out, they’re making those trips count and the two ways we’ve seen that count was the overall basket size has increased and the size of the unit people are buying has increased,” he said.

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