The hot chocolate category may be small, but there's plenty of activity. TNS values hot chocolate at £95m for the 52 weeks ending 18 June, up 13% year-on-year.
Richard Cooper, brand marketing manager at Aimia Foods, which is responsible for the Galaxy hot chocolate brand, reckons the trend for indulgent food and drink is key to hot chocolate's impressive growth.
"It is interesting that the growth of low-calorie hot chocolate products appears to have stopped. Like many other categories, people are constantly balancing the need for luxury indulgent products with lower-calorie substitutes and in chocolate it appears, for the moment, that luxury, indulgent products are winning the consumer vote."
He says the confectionery tie-ins are doing particularly well because of their close association with the main brands. Aero is the latest confectionery line to jump on the hot drinks bandwagon. Nestlé says that the product is performing well.
Another recent entrant in the indulgent end of the market is Green & Black's with its organic hot chocolate drink. The product contains 16.3% organic dark chocolate, which in turn contains 60% cocoa.
Aimia's Cooper reports that women are the key purchasers of hot chocolate drinks, specifically as a reward for a hectic lifestyle. "Our research indicates that a little hit of chocolate in a drink is considered to be less indulgent than a bar of chocolate." However, he adds that children should not be forgotten, because they are key consumers and so influence purchases.
Cadbury hot chocolate returns to TV next month for the first time in years. The ad campaign follows the range being brought back in-house by Cadbury Trebor Bassett.
Mike Tipping, head of customer relations at Cadbury Trebor Bassett, says the company intends to grow the market. "Through investment we aim to grow the number of people buying hot chocolate, frequency of purchase and spend per trip."
In low-calorie hot chocolate, Options is one of the dominant brands. Owner Twinings says its success has been driven by innovation. For instance, Options sachets have attracted new younger buyers because they are seen as convenient.
In malted drinks, the Horlicks brand has been targeting younger consumers. Laura Graham, assistant brand manager for Horlicks, says: "Our redesign in 2004 had a big impact and brought in 1.6 million new users including many in the 16 to 35-year-old category."
The brand has also been helped by the 'How do they sleep at night?' commercials, which return at the start of the traditional Horlicks season on 29 October - the day the clocks go back. n