2023 April-May Analysis

Georgia’s got a sweet tooth for artisanal chocolates

Around the world, at least a billion people eat chocolate every day, and Georgians are starting to consume more, on average, too. From imported international brands to specialty chocolatiers popping up around Tbilisi with their Instagram-worthy offers of artisanal sweets, local consumption and the value of the chocolate market in Georgia both seem to be on the up.

Georgians have some eating to do to catch up in this $206 billion global market, consuming only 4.1 kilos a head annually, according to market data published by Euromonitor Research, against 6.8 kilos a head in Europe and 5.4 kilos in the U.S. But Georgia was eating only 3.8 kilos a head in 2016, so the growing availability of choice seems to be having an impact.

Helping increase Georgian sales are the expanding displays and product ranges of chocolate in supermarkets and online as well as boutiques. “Sustained investment in new product development and promotional activities should strengthen consumer interest in this category, which is still some way off maturity,” according to Lina Sidorenke of Euromonitor International in an interview with BMG on World Chocolate day last year. Packaged chocolate as a present is the fastest moving sector.

This market opportunity has been seized by several of Georgia’s highly entrepreneurial women who are catering to it from pretty little shops. They are targeting several growth sectors, not just plain packaged chocolates in elegant boxes, but also craft and artisanal chocolate, a market which is forecast to grow by 3% a year to reach $800 million globally by 2028. And many of their products are made with dark chocolate, which is increasing in popularity because, antioxidant-rich, it has been linked to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Georgia is already exporting chocolates, according to research from selinawamucii.com. Pre-Covid, the main markets were Iran, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Turkey, and Iraq, and export revenues totaled $1.5 million. Imports, meanwhile, come from all the major international brands.

While scope for growth in Georgia and the Caucasus may be limited, there are some good international growth role models, and lots of scope for exporting. One great chocolatier success story is the UK chain Hotel Chocolate, which started in 1993 by selling online. Today it has 126 outlets, as well as cafés, restaurants, outlets, and factory stores. International operations include over 40 stores in Japan, a store in New York, and a luxury eco-hotel on its working cacao farm in the Caribbean. Quoted on the London stock market, it is valued at just under £300 million.

Hotel Chocolate is pushing the bar out beyond chocolates and has established a Tasting Club. This does not leave consumer purchases to impulses – subscription to the club ensures a monthly delivery of a curated selection.

These local and western brands are becoming popular in a market where Russian chocolate was regarded as the premier product and Russia is still the main source. Georgian imports from Russia of chocolate and other food products containing cocoa was $32.5 million in 2022, up $23 million in the previous year. So far this year, total chocolate imports have reached $53.8 million in value and 14,800 tons in volume of chocolate and other ready-made food products containing cocoa. While volume is up 3.6%, value is 36.4% higher. These figures, and the queues at Georgian chocolatiers, indicate that no added impetus is needed to persuade consumers to buy!