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Sweet trends – the chocolate market in Saudi Arabia and UAE

Middle East: Tuesday, December 04 - 2007 @ 00:19

Yet according to a TNS study, chocolate holds strong in UAE and KSA: 99 per cent of Saudi respondents in the study claim to have consumed chocolates in the last seven days, an increase from 95 per cent in 2004, while consumption of chocolates in the last seven days as claimed by respondents in the UAE has remained constant at 98 per cent in both the corresponding periods.

Another most interesting fact the data reveals is that though there are certain intrinsic differences between the chocolate markets of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the profile of consumers by the various chocolate forms are very similar.

This could be an opportunity to chocolate marketers since there could be a synergy in the marketing efforts for these two counties.

Choice segmentation

To understand the market for chocolates, we have to first look at its stratification. Consumers exercise their choice within this category on three levels:
1. Brands
2. Flavours, such as almond/nuts, fruit & nuts, bitter, orange twist, coconut, mint, etc.
3. Forms: Chocolates come in four forms:

The 2004 report showed that on average, consumers (at total level) in KSA were likely to enjoy a wider repertoire of brands, while sticking to the same flavours and forms. The data indicates that in KSA, the preference has shifted from consuming a wider (different) choice of flavours to consuming a wider (different) choice of brands.

In the UAE, consumers still prefer a wider choice of brands, as before. In other words, loyalty by forms is stronger in KSA and loyalty by flavours is stronger in UAE. Consumer choice in either country is uninfluenced by brands, which leads us to the question: can brand loyalty remain the central pivot of a chocolate marketer’s strategy?

Impact of ‘form’ on consumer choice

Expanding on the theme that ‘form’ plays an important role in consumer choice, the report underlines the following findings:
1. ‘Countlines’ are the most popular, with 76 per cent of respondents in KSA and 60 per cent in UAE claiming to have consumed chocolates in this form in the last seven days
2. This is followed by ‘tablets’, consumed by 56 per cent respondents in KSA and 40 per cent in UAE.
3. The data also suggests that there are certain overlaps between the various chocolate forms, with the maximum interaction (dual usage) between ‘Countlines’ and ‘Tablets’ at 31 per cent in KSA and 16 per cent in the UAE.

Gifting chocolates is more prevalent in UAE (10 per cent) than in KSA (four per cent). Assuming that ‘Mixes’ are the predominant ‘Form’ in gift packs, can these be banded with ‘Countlines’ in a promotion pack? Will this kind of promotion lift sales of ‘Mixes’? Further research is required to answers these questions, which can be generated using TNS Tracker Plus.

Though it is difficult to isolate the true reasons for the popularity of ‘Countlines’ over other chocolate forms from this tracking study, TNS Tracker Plus data indicates that ‘delicious taste’, ‘does not stick to teeth’, ‘wafers in the chocolate’ and ‘love the advertising’ are some of the probable reasons for the popularity of this ‘Form’. ‘Tablets’ on the other hand are popular due to higher associations with ‘delicious taste’, ‘excellent lingering taste’, ‘like the way it melts in the mouth’, etc.


The chocolate market in these two countries is as fragmented as any other FMCG category, such as ice creams or shampoos, and dominated by brands that have a larger presence in ‘Countlines’ and ‘Tablets’. Growth in these markets would require a combination of growing the ‘Countlines’ and ‘Tablets’ ranges, in addition to adopting appropriate promotional strategies.

Another interesting fact the study reveals is that even though there are certain intrinsic differences between the chocolate markets of KSA and UAE, the profile of consumers who choose certain ‘Forms’ is very similar. This may represents an opportunity to chocolate marketers as marketing campaigns can therefore be integrated across the two countries.

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Tuesday, December 4- 2007 @ 0:19 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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