January 30/Washington/Business Wire -- Americans overwhelmingly prefer chocolate instead of flowers (69 vs. 31%) on Valentine’s Day, according to a nationwide survey by the National Confectioners Association (NCA). Women are a little divided on the matter, however, with 59% preferring chocolate compared to 83% of men.

The survey of more than 1,300 adult consumers also suggests that Cupid struck Americans with a love for caramel: it is the most popular flavor in a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates, with 34% of the responses. Chocolate-covered nuts also scored high (24%), with cream-filled (13%) and chocolate-filled (13%) rounding out the pack of top choices.

Total U.S. confectionery sales for Valentine’s Day 2014 are projected to be $1.057 billion, a 1.9% increase over 2013. Chocolate makes up around 75% of candy sales at Valentine’s Day.

“Americans have a longstanding tradition of sharing candy with family, friends and colleagues during the holidays,” said NCA vice president of Communications Susan Whiteside. “Valentine’s Day is no exception, with 83% of respondents citing the February holiday as a top candy-sharing occasion. There’s no question that sweet treats have a special place in everyone’s heart this holiday season.”

Valentine’s Day Purchasing Trends
NCA’s survey found purchasing habits have changed slightly compared to five years ago, particularly regarding health-related decisions.Some 28% of respondents said they are buying more healthy options, such as dark chocolate or chocolate with added nuts and fruit. Roughly 20% are buying more portion-sized seasonal chocolate and candy. Other results include:

  • Price check. 22% of Americans are buying more of what is on sale.
  • Upping the ante for loved ones. About 16% are buying more high-end or specialty seasonal products and packages.

Additional purchasing trends for 2014 point to the critical role that personal preferences, packaging and presentation play in consumer choices:

  • Like dating, first impressions count. Nearly 65% believe holiday candy should feature seasonal packaging and colors, such as red and pink for Valentine’s Day. The other roughly 35% feels it is unnecessary to create special holiday packaging.
  • To thine own self be true. Personal preferences carry the most influence when purchasing a particular kind of seasonal candy -- with price and family preferences following behind.
  • Kids: try asking Dad. While almost 76% of female respondents say children have no influence on their seasonal candy purchases, only about 46% of males feel the same.

Keeping Health & Wellness Top of Mind
Respondents also shared how they enjoy the mental benefits of Cupid’s favorite holiday and practice moderation.

  • Spread happiness. Nearly 62% agree that celebrating holidays like Valentine’s Day brings happiness in tough economic times.
  • Indulge! About 74% of those surveyed agree eating healthfully can include the enjoyment of seasonal candy.
  • Trying to teach kids a lesson in moderation this Valentine’s Day? A large share of American parents will do it by giving a certain number of pieces per day until it runs out (41%).