Less a treat, more a necessity

According to FoodReference.com, Aztec emperor Montezuma drank 50 golden goblets of hot chocolate every day. It was thick, dyed red and flavoured with chilli peppers. Now a velvety brown, the drink has regained its natural colour, retained its air of indulgence and cut down on the calories!

A 2010 report from leading market research charity Mintel revealed a growth of 20% in the hot chocolate market between 2007 and 2009, highlighting its potential for investment. Despite the economic downturn, the market is now worth just under £100m. “By contrast, once-iconic malted drinks, such as Horlicks and Ovaltine are now seen as old-fashioned and less relevant to today’s consumer. As a result, sales declined by 12% between 2005 and 2009,” it said.

The hot chocolate and malted drinks markets are, however, struggling to increase purchase and consumption rates: “Seen as heavier and more calorific than regularly-drunk alternatives such as tea and coffee, both drinks suffer from a perception of being an ‘occasional’ drink.”

It does not help either that these products are seen as highly seasonal. Mintel’s research shows that 17 million people drink them primarily in the winter or when the weather is cold, in contrast to the 7 million consumers who drink them all year-round.

Cadbury’s Hot Choc Chunks are a new innovation to watch, allowing consumers to melt real pieces of chocolate into milk, says Mintel: “By re-inventing hot chocolate as a dessert rather than just a drink, greater usage may be stimulated as well as adding a fun factor to a very traditional sector.”

Mintel’s focus group also found that consumers use these heavier beverages to avoid unnecessary snacking: “Marketing campaigns could promote the products as helping, rather than hindering, calorie control,” it suggests.

Hot competition

In 2005, US media giant Fox News entered into a discussion about Starbucks and its Chantico brand of hot chocolate, highlighting consumer demand for a premium drink that mirrored the high quality solid chocolate also available on the market.

At the same time said the media giant, urban bakery Au Bon Pain had begun offering a trio of high-end cocoa drinks under the title of “Choco Bon Loco: A Crazy Chocolate Experience”, adding that speciality boutiques and other retailers had also been experimenting with new and wildly exotic flavours. Hot Chocolate alone was no longer enough; the race was on to develop flavours beyond the standard.

Rooted in mysticism and linked through the ages with hedonism, films like Chocolat have only served to enhance the warm and romantic nature of this increasingly delicious drink.

Joan Steuer, president of Chocolate Marketing, a chocolates consulting firm, told Fox News that the U.S. thirst for high-quality rich stuff was the result of several trends, among them a need to escape, “even if just for a while”. Even in recent history then, hot chocolate has largely been viewed as a treat to be enjoyed only on occasion.

Product developments

When it comes to chocolate, the consumer palate is more than open to new experiences and we have seen an array of product developments, both on the mass market and in niche sectors, rising to the challenge of our ever evolving tastes. In London, Time Out magazine saw it as a mini revolution: “The advantage here is that you can enjoy all the different styles of hot chocolate, ranging from molten grand cru varieties at the city’s best chocolatiers, to short, thick shots of black Florentine chocolate in Italian caffès. Such are the capital’s cocoa-flavoured innovations that you can sample even the authentic tastes of Mexico with little more than the swipe of an Oyster card.”

No matter how high the quality of the drink, our celebrity obsessed society has made us increasingly weight conscious and the perception of hot chocolate had to change if the market was to continue to grow.

The link between chocolate and health has long been established, but in application it has become even more fascinating by the day. Step into any good beauty salon these days and you can treat yourself to a chocolate face mask, so strong are its antioxidant, and thus complexion boosting properties believed to be. The point at which we struggle however, is that it does us any good when we put it into our mouths.


Chocolate is a growing sector within hot drinks and to reflect this Aimia offers a wide range of Hot Chocolate products, suitable for all tastes and budgets. Besides leading brand Galaxy, Aimia offers Freshers Granulated Hot Chocolate “our new agglomerated hot chocolate” and Amour de Chocolat, an ultra indulgent “add-milk” chocolate for vending. Low fat – school friendly options are available and Percol provides a Fairtrade chocolate drink.

Independent consumer research revealed that the newly developed Galaxy Instant Hot Chocolate received excellent scores in taste tests and outperformed its competitors in a number of key categories including texture, creaminess and frothiness ensuring a more indulgent treat every time. The new smoother recipe, made with real Galaxy chocolate, has an intense chocolatey flavour yet is free from preservatives, artificial colours and hydrogenated vegetable oils (HVOs).

A spokesperson for Aimia commented: “Consumers drink hot chocolate for a ‘me-time’ treat, so Galaxy Instant Hot Chocolate represents a little bit of affordable luxury that they are happy to indulge in. This means that premium products offering a real chocolate ‘hit’ provide great opportunities for retailers to cash in on a market that looks set to stay strong where others are weakening.”


Consumer insight into low calorie hot beverages has shown that consumers are treating low calorie hot chocolate beverages as a chocolate substitute. Last year saw the re-launch of Cadbury Highlights, the low calorie drinking chocolate, with a new recipe and packaging design, saying that the new recipe had a more chocolatey taste.

The range also sees the previous Café Latte and Fudge variants renamed as Chocolate Mocha and Chocolate Fudge. The Mint, Orange and Toffee SKUs have been de-listed to create a tighter range of core products which focus on chocolate, in line with the new positioning.

Barry Callebaut Beverages

Van Houten, from Barry Callebaut Beverages is said to contain 50% less sugar than in traditional drinking chocolate recipes. At the same time this chocolate-flavoured drink contains around 24% in cocoa powder, as compared to the UK market average of 9%-15%.

The company’s Ania Faurea commented: “It is an excellent drink which keeps its chocolate flavour label while offering a more intense taste.” The latest trends in chocolate consumption and particularly for chocolate bars reveal a growing demand for dark chocolate products with a strong flavour. This new product is offered under the Van Houten label which has become one of the references for chocolate drinks, and superior beverages in general.

“It sends a clear brand message to customers,” Ania continued, “a group of quality-demanding consumers, ready to maximise their pleasure thanks to the intensity of the cocoa, while also enjoying the slimming message of less sugar. In addition, although women and senior citizens make up the growing population sector which favours ‘light products’, such products could also be offered to children and in due course this could help re-position vending machines in schools…”


Aero Hot Chocolate is a great tasting hot chocolate with a unique bubbley texture. It is available in a choice of flavours: Chocolate, Mint and now Orange. At 99 calories a serve it delivers against the growing consumer trends of indulgen
ce and permissibility.

Nestlé’s Skinny Cow Hot Chocolate is an important new product in the hot chocolate category. At 40 calories and 3% fat per serving, this HVO–free drink provides a great option for consumers looking for a light option without compromising on taste.

Available in two delicious flavours – Indulgent Chocolate and Chocolate Mint in 200g jars or stick packs.

For those counting the calories, a cup of hot chocolate is the perfect compromise; for others, the gourmet options will tantalize the taste buds no end. Less a treat, more a necessity, hot chocolate is on the rise and coming to a machine near you…