Tips for Small Businesses: Succeeding in the Chocolate Industry

Whether you're a small-batch chocolatier or a local chocolate shop, having an effective marketing and distribution plan is crucial for standing out in a competitive market and reaching your target audience.


5/17/20237 min read

According to a recent report by, the global chocolate market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 4% between 2021-2026; to reach around USD 172 billion by 2026. With such a large market, small businesses need a solid marketing and distribution plan to ensure their products are visible and accessible to consumers.

The world of chocolate is vast and diverse, with a rich history and a promising future. A well-crafted marketing and distribution strategy is critical to success for small businesses looking to make their mark in this industry.

Let's indulge in the world of chocolate marketing and distribution as we explore the sweetest ways to reach your target audience and stand out in a competitive market.

Unwrapping the Secrets of Chocolate Marketing and Distribution

Understanding the Chocolate Market

Chocolate is a multi-billion pound industry that continues to grow. In the U.K. alone, the chocolate confectionery market was worth £3.8bn in 2022, with an estimated 660,900 tonnes of Chocolate a year.

Many chocolate products are available, from traditional milk chocolate bars to artisanal dark chocolate truffles. The most common types of chocolate products include:

· Milk chocolate

· Dark Chocolate

· White Chocolate

· Flavoured Chocolate

· Organic Chocolate

· Fairtrade Chocolate

· Artisanal Chocolate

Several factors affect the demand and supply of chocolate products, including:

· Cocoa prices

· Consumer Preferences and Trends

· Seasonal demand

· Availability of raw materials

· Manufacturing costs

· Competition from other confectionery products

Identifying Your Target Market

Your target market is absolutely crucial for effective marketing (Mintel (2021). You need to know who your customers are to create marketing strategies that resonate with them. You'll save your resources on marketing efforts that don't generate revenue. According to a survey by HubSpot, companies that conduct proper target market research are 3 times more likely to achieve their marketing goals than those that don't.

white and black computer keyboard
white and black computer keyboard

Conducting Market Research to Determine Your Target Market

There are several ways to conduct market research to determine your target market. One of the most effective methods is through customer surveys. You can create a survey that asks questions about your customers' demographics, interests, behaviours, and preferences. This will give you valuable insights into your customers and what they want from your chocolate products.

You can also conduct market research by analysing your competitors. Look at the products they offer, who their target market is, and how they market their products. This will help you identify gaps in the market that you can fill and target customers your competitors need to target.

Examples of Different Target Markets for Chocolate Products

There are many different target markets for chocolate products. Some examples include:

Luxury Chocolate: Targeting high-income individuals willing to pay a premium for high-quality, artisanal Chocolate.

Organic and Fair Trade Chocolate: Targeting socially-conscious consumers who care about the environment and ethical business practices.

Functional Chocolate: Targeting health-conscious consumers looking for Chocolate with added health benefits, such as reduced sugar content or added nutrients.

Gift Chocolate: Target customers looking for chocolate gifts for special occasions, such as Valentine's Day, Easter, and Christmas.

By identifying your target market, you can create marketing strategies that speak directly to them and increase the chances of converting them into loyal customers.

Developing a Marketing Strategy for Your Chocolate Business

Determining your key selling points, choosing the most effective marketing channels, creating a budget for your marketing activities, and telling your brand story are all essential components of a successful marketing strategy for your chocolate business.

Key Selling Points

To create an effective marketing strategy for your chocolate business, you must identify what makes your chocolate products unique and attractive to your target audience. Determine your key selling points by considering factors such as:

· Flavour profiles

· Ingredients

· Quality

· Ethical and sustainable sourcing practices

Highlighting these selling points in your marketing materials will help differentiate your chocolate goods from competitors and appeal to consumers who value quality, sustainability, and ethics in their purchasing decisions.

Choosing Marketing Channels

Choosing the proper marketing channels for your chocolate business is crucial to reaching your target audience effectively. Consider the following channels:

· Social media platforms: Still the most popular online activity, with 62% of internet users using it to research products. (Statista) Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and LinkedIn are all excellent platforms to help get seen.

· Email marketing: is this king with a reported ROI of 4,200% in 2023

· In-person events: farmer's markets, food festivals, popup shops, and tastings

· Content marketing: blogs, newsletters, and educational resources

Each channel has unique strengths and weaknesses; you should choose the ones that align with your target audience and brand identity. For example, if your target audience is active on Instagram, you may want to focus on visually-driven content, such as high-quality product photos or short videos.

Budgeting for Marketing Activities

Creating a budget for your marketing activities helps you allocate resources effectively and maximise your return on investment (ROI). Consider the following when creating your budget:

· Marketing channels you plan to use

· Marketing materials production costs

· Advertising costs

· Event participation fees

· Staffing costs

A clear budget helps ensure you don't overspend on marketing activities, negatively impacting your profitability.

The Importance of Storytelling in Chocolate Marketing

Storytelling is a powerful tool that helps you connect emotionally with your target audience. By sharing your brand story, you can establish your brand identity, communicate your values and mission, and differentiate yourself from competitors.

For example, Divine Chocolate, a UK-based fair trade chocolate company, emphasizes its commitment to ethical sourcing and empowering women cocoa farmers in West Africa through its marketing campaigns. This messaging helps the brand connect with consumers who prioritise ethical and sustainable practices in their purchasing decisions. The Divine Chocolate marketing campaign resulted in a 32% increase in sales in the U.K. and a 60% increase in sales in the U.S. (Devine Chocolate)

A Nielsen survey found that 66% of consumers are prepared to pay more for goods and services from businesses dedicated to having a positive social and environmental effect. Today conscious customers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly and ethical products. A survey of over 1,000 by the Business of Sustainability Index found that 66% of people in the U.S. are happy paying more for sustainable products.

Examples of Successful Chocolate Marketing Campaigns

Several chocolate brands have launched successful marketing campaigns resonating with their target audiences.

This one might ring a bell? Cadbury's famous "Gorilla" commercial, which featured a gorilla playing the drums to Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight," which became a viral sensation and helped the brand connect with a younger audience. Also, Hotel Chocolat's "The Chocolatier's Table" campaign, showcasing the brand's premium chocolate products and expertise, helped position the brand as a luxury chocolate destination.

By understanding your key selling points, choosing the proper marketing channels, creating a budget, and telling your brand story, You can develop a chocolate marketing plan for your business that connects with your target market and increases sales.

Implementing a Distribution Strategy for Your Chocolate Business

A distribution strategy for your chocolate business is essential to ensure your products reach your target audience. Consider the following when developing your distribution strategy:

Understanding Different Distribution Channels

There are several distribution channels available for your chocolate business:

Online sales: selling your chocolate products through your website or e-commerce platforms such as Amazon or Etsy

Brick-and-mortar stores: selling your products through physical retail stores

Wholesale: selling your products to other businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, or gift shops

Determining the Best Distribution Channels

The best distribution channels for your chocolate business depend on your target audience, product offering, and brand identity. For example, if your target audience is primarily online shoppers, you should focus on developing an e-commerce website or partnering with established online marketplaces. If your brand values sustainability, partnering with eco-friendly retail stores may align better with your values.

Benefits and Challenges of Each Distribution Channel

Each distribution channel comes with its own set of benefits and challenges:

Online sales:

· Lower overhead costs.

· Wider reach.

· More control over your brand image.

However, massive competition and challenges with shipping and storage.

Brick-and-mortar stores:

· Immediate customer feedback.

· The potential for impulse purchases.

· Ability to build brand awareness.

Drawbacks are higher overhead costs and limited reach.


· Large sales volume.

· Consistent revenue.

· Potential for long-term partnerships.

But you could suffer with lower profit margins and reduced control over brand image.

Creating a Distribution Plan

To develop a distribution plan that's going to maximise efficiency and cost-effectiveness, the following factors must be considered:

· Logistics, i.e. shipping, and storage

· Product packaging and labelling

· Pricing points

· Sales forecasting and inventory management

· Marketing and promotion efforts

By developing a distribution plan that aligns with your business goals and values, you can ensure that your chocolate products reach your target audience most efficiently and effectively.

Tips for Success

As a small business owner, effectively marketing and distributing your chocolate products can be crucial to your success.

Here are some tips that will help you hit the ground running!

Tell your story: Develop a unique brand and tell your story. Differentiate yourself from competitors by highlighting what makes your chocolate special.

Quality matters: Focus on quality and customer service. Word of mouth can be a powerful marketing tool, so ensure your products and service are top-notch.

Explore: try out multiple distribution channels, including online, brick-and-mortar stores, and wholesale. Choose the channels that make the most sense for your business and target market. You do not have to go all out with an upmarket shop front. Instead, you could test out a popup store in various shopping malls.

Stay relevant: Innovate and stay up-to-date with industry trends. Consider offering new flavours.

Eco-Friendly Appeal: To cater to today's "conscious consumers" or "ethical consumers", try to incorporate sustainable and ethical sourcing practices to appeal to a broader audience.

· Source cocoa sustainably and ethically through fair trade and organic certifications.

· Use eco-friendly packaging and minimise waste to reduce environmental impact.

· Partner with local organisations or charities to support causes aligned with your values.

Learn from successful chocolate businesses that are great examples of effective marketing and distribution strategies, such as Lindt, with its premium quality and strong e-commerce presence, and Tony's Chocolonely, dedicated to ethical sourcing and combating child labour in the cocoa industry. But remember, taking inspiration while staying true to your vision and values is the way forward!

To conclude

A well-thought-out marketing and distribution plan is essential for success in the chocolate sector. Small businesses may position themselves for success in the cutthroat chocolate industry by understanding their target audience, utilizing a variety of channels, and implementing sustainable and ethical practices.

Don't forget the chocolate must be yummy too!