“Sin stock” markets flourishing

Americans are still reaching for small pleasures despite shrinking pocketbooks, according to new research from Chicago-based Mintel. Sales for chocolate, cigarettes and alcohol are strong and steady, and historically, these "sin stocks" have performed well during times of economic recession. "Chocolate, cigarettes and alcohol again seem relatively recession-proof," says Marcia Mogelonsky, senior analyst. "People might be cutting back or switching to store-brands, but they definitely aren't giving up their small daily indulgences." Retail sales of chocolate rose 22 percent from 2002 to 2007 (to $16.3 billion), and innovative, dark and premium chocolates are extremely popular. Mintel expects Americans to continue indulging in this favorite treat, predicting 4 percent annual sales increases each year for the next six years. Many smokers aren't kicking the habit, even as prices continue to rise and health warnings abound. Cigarette and tobacco product sales increased 44 percent from 2003 to 2007 (to $103 billion), and Mintel projects that the cigarette and tobacco market will grow 28 percent through 2011 (to $132 billion). Motivated by high gas prices and expensive bar tabs, more Americans are opting to drink at home. But that doesn't mean they're drinking less. The market for at-home alcohol is expected to reach $77.8 billion in 2008, a 32 percent increase from 2003, and Mintel expects both in-home and out-of-home alcohol sales to rise steadily in coming years. Mintel