The poor weather this summer has been a boon for hot chocolate. Sales usually drop by 50% during the summer months - but the cooler weather has boosted sales by 14% on the same period last year.

Overall, the hot chocolate market recorded an increase of 5.4% last year, according to TNS [w/e 17 June 2007], but the news was not so good for the malted drinks sector, which fell by 17.1%.

Hot chocolate has benefited from a raft of new launches and product development. "Hot chocolate has an indulgence factor," says Tesco's hot beverages buyer Mark Suddaby. "There's been a move in the past 12 months to the luxury end - to have real chocolate and flakes in it."

From November, Tesco will begin a six-month deal to exclusively stock Moment Du Chocolat, a Maltesers and Galaxy ready-to-drink product that can be microwaved and has real Maltesers on top.Consumers take the lid off, empty the bag of Maltesers on the top and heat the drink in a microwave, which melts the Maltesers.

In keeping with the same trend, Cadbury Dairy Milk Luxury is made with a mix of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate (75%) marbled with a touch of dark chocolate (25%). It is Cadbury Trebor Bassett's first chocolate drink made entirely from chocolate.

Aero hot chocolate, launched by Nestlé 18 months ago, has performed well. It is worth £3m and has a 4% share [IRI w/e 14 July 2007]. "This is excellent for a new brand," says Graham Walker, Nestlé UK trade communications manager.

Smaller producers are also keen to tap into the demand for indulgent chocolate drinks. The Spanish Chocolate Company recently announced it would bring the 'luxuriously smooth' Spanish Chocolate to the UK, and Ciocchino plans to revolutionise the sector with a marketing campaign that aims to revive the Continental-style 'sipping' market.

Meanwhile, to encourage hot chocolate 'on the go', Aimia Foods has launched new lines of stick sachets for its chocolate drinks, which include Maltesers, Galaxy Bliss and Galaxy instant hot chocolate.

The consumer appeal of chocolate drinks has not managed to spill into the malted drinks category however. "It's in bad decline as it's aimed at a greying market and suppliers are not managing to capture new users," says Suddaby.

Horlicks, however, is taking on the challenge with the launch of Horlicks Extra Light last month. Company research showed that women aged 25 to 45 lead busy, often stressful lifestyles and find it difficult to unwind before bed.

"Horlicks Extra Light fulfils this requirement by offering a calming hot milky drink that helps them relax," says Horlicks senior brand manager Alex Pettigrew. n