Ferrero Rocher chocolate and hazelnut confectionery in a supermarket.
Alex Tai | SOPA pictures | LightRocket | Getty Images
Reservations aren't required this Valentine's Day as the pandemic is making romantic dinners less likely. But chocolate will still be an important part of the celebration as people express their love not only for their romantic partners, but also close family members and friends.
According to the National Confectioner's Association, 86 percent of Americans plan to buy chocolate or candy for Valentine's Day this year.
"It will likely look a little different in 2021 than other years, but surely friend recognition will still be very meaningful this season," said Phil DeConto, vice president of Category Management and Shopper Insights at the chocolate manufacturer Ferrero in an interview with CNBC.
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, spending is expected to decrease this Valentine's Day. Consumers spend an average of $ 165 on gifts and celebrations this year. That's $ 32 less than last year, mostly because people mostly party at home.
However, chocolate sales, especially for premium products, have increased. According to DeConto, total chocolate consumption has increased 4.7% in the last 52 weeks, and premium chocolate is double what it was before. The trend continues until Valentine's Day.
"Premium chocolate could play a role in ensuring normalcy or a disruption in mental health," Deconto said. Ferrero owns brands like Kinder, Nutella and Butterfinger, but also has premium products like Ferrero's Golden Gallery.
With these different confectionery brands in its portfolio, Ferrero can appeal to a wide range of consumers during the holidays outside of traditional romantic relationships. For example, parents can surprise children with a new kind of box of chocolates, while themed assortment bags are suitable for a Galentine Day celebration with friends. (Galentine Day, usually celebrated on February 13, was popularized by the sitcom Parks & Recreation more than a decade ago, and continues to have a following.)
Ferrero also saw 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.
"People make fewer trips, but when they are out, those trips count and the two possibilities, as we saw, were that the overall size of the basket increased and the size of the unit that people were buying increased." he said.