Cocoa Market in the US

See how cocoa is developing within the US food and beverage industry

June 7, 2024 – Innova’s extensive top-down and bottom-up research into the chocolate and cocoa market within the US allows for a deep dive into the ingredients’ influence and development within the country. Here we explore new product launch innovation, the growing popularity of plant-based and ethical claims, and the specific trends emerging in key categories like bakery, desserts, and sports nutrition.

Macro Trends Context

Key macro megatrends are impacting the food and beverage industry, and by extension the US cocoa market – creating both challenges and opportunities for businesses. Firstly, health pressures are a major concern, with aging populations, rising obesity levels, and strained healthcare systems driving consumer demand for healthier options. Secondly, economic uncertainty is a global issue, with growth forecasts falling below historical averages and inflation remaining elevated. This is causing consumers to be more price-conscious and seek value for money. Thirdly, technological transformation continues at a rapid pace, with innovations like CRISPR gene editing and generative AI shaping the future of food production and consumption. Finally, environmental effects are becoming increasingly prominent, with climate change putting sustainability in sharper focus. Consumers are demanding more sustainable practices from companies, including environmentally friendly packaging, waste management, and ethical sourcing.

New Product Launch Trends

Overall, the number of new product launches featuring chocolate or cocoa ingredients in the food and beverage industry remained relatively flat over the past five years. While the overall launch count declined slightly, the percentage of launches featuring chocolate or cocoa ingredients remained consistent at around 12%.

Bakery products have remained the top category for new product launches in the US cocoa market since 2019, representing one third of launches. Desserts and ice cream featuring chocolate or cocoa ingredients is the second largest category launcher and has been stable within the past five years. Sports nutrition launches featuring chocolate or cocoa ingredients saw an increase, rising by 3% in the past five years. Snacks and dairy are additional categories with increased numbers of chocolate and cocoa launches.

Most chocolate ingredients stayed consistent as a percentage of launches. This includes chocolate, chocolate liquor, chocolate chip, and dark chocolate. Milk chocolate and white chocolate did see a slight increase. Cocoa powder saw a more significant increase in usage.

Cocoa Market Trends: Claims and Positionings

Plant-based and vegan claims are growing rapidly in the US cocoa market. This trend is particularly strong in bakery and sports nutrition. Ethical sourcing claims are also on the rise, with consumers increasingly interested in products that are sustainably sourced and produced. Sugar-free and no added sugar claims are gaining traction, seen on 5% and 6% of launches respectively. Real chocolate or cocoa claims are becoming increasingly popular as well.

Cocoa Market in the US

Category Spotlight: Bakery

Bakery launches with chocolate or cocoa have remained relatively stable within the past two years. Sweet biscuits and cookies account for nearly half of the launches, while cakes and pastries saw a slight increase in chocolate or cocoa ingredient usage. White chocolate, while representing only 5% of launches in the category, has been growing noticeably. Cocoa powder and cocoa mass are also ingredients on the rise. Plant-based and ethical claims are the fastest growing on chocolate and cocoa products in the category.

Category Spotlight: Desserts and Ice Cream

Just over half of desserts and ice cream launches contained chocolate or cocoa ingredients. 71% of non-dairy ice cream and frozen yogurt launches had these ingredients as well, followed by dairy-based ice cream and frozen yogurt at 60%, and frozen desserts at 51%. Most chocolate ingredients remained stable in growth, with milk chocolate seen slightly more. Additionally, two in three launches in the category simply stated “cocoa” as the ingredient. Similar to the bakery category, plant-based and ethical claims are growing.

Category Spotlight: Sports Nutrition

Sports nutrition products with chocolate or cocoa ingredients increased in the past year, growing to 18% of launches in the category. Chocolate or cocoa ingredients dominated the sports bar subcategory – seen on 76% of bars. Conversely, 14% of sports powders contained chocolate or cocoa ingredients.

Over half of all launches with cocoa or chocolate ingredients contained cocoa powder. Cocoa extract is an emerging ingredient in the category as well. Sugar and weight management claims, ethical, and plant-based claims all grew in the past five years.

What’s Next in Cocoa Market Trends?

Chocolate or cocoa have a positive emotional connotation for most consumers. Adding them to not only desserts and bakery but other food and beverage can make the ordinary a treat. Words and imagery that evoke indulgence, such as double, triple, and gooey, can be used to help enhance product appeal. Chocolate or cocoa ingredients can also be used to cover the taste of healthy ingredients.

Consumers are interested in the health aspects of their chocolate and cocoa products as well, with many preferring to choose options with claims of no sugar added, and sugar-free. Using words such as real or natural to describe chocolate or cocoa ingredients can further increase the perception of healthiness in products. Sustainable sourcing, fair-trade practices, and ethical issues are additionally important for consumers. Brands can promote these attributes on their packaging, providing transparency in their ingredient sourcing to further entice consumers.


This article is based on our report, “Chocolate & Cocoa: Insights into Ingredients in the US Market.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
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