May. Rebirth. Spring. Bloom. Growth. Honoring the mother's in our lives.
-Original Post Date: 8/24/2008
Here is part of an article I found on the future market trends for gourmet chocolate-good news for all the chocolate lovers out there (and chocolate makers!). Enjoy!
Specialty foods, whether gourmet, organic or all natural are the rage these days. Formerly available only through farmers’ markets or specialty foods stores, premium fares have gained far-reaching acceptance. Consumers only have to go to the local chain grocery and drug store to find their daily fix. The market for gourmet foods and beverages is currently valued at over $42 billion and is expected to exceed $62 billion by 2009. Americans might not need premium treats, but we surely want them and want them daily.
Concerned with the high saturated fat and sugar content for decades, consumers have set aside premium chocolates for the most special occasions. Recent research has revealed the potential health benefits of chocolate to the public. More and more people are embracing chocolates, some are even incorporating higher-quality treats into their daily routines. As a result, the premium chocolate market grew at an annual rate of 10.5% during the period between 2001 and 2005 compared to a paltry 1.8% of the overall chocolate candy sales. Premium chocolate is far and away the most exciting category in the confectionery segment.
Premium chocolate is an acquired taste. This is especially true in the case of the dark chocolate sub-segment that differentiates itself with less sugary, more bitter flavors than conventional confectionary fares. As such, children or teens do not represent the primary market for this category. A blessing in disguise is the fact that the gourmet chocolate market stays strong despite the dwindling percentage of U.S. households with children, which threatens the sales prospects of the sugar confections industry as a whole.
Among the adult population, surveys show some overlapping with the general gourmet food industry. A few consumer groups stand out: young adults (18-34 years old), the affluent (with household earnings of at least $100,000), women, and Asians. However, differences between segments are often small. Indulgences have become dear to the old and the young, low-and-high-income earners alike. Like most things that were once limited to only the wealthiest customers, premium chocolates have gone mainstream.
With margins tightening elsewhere in the confectionery segment, top-flight chocolates have become an increasingly important part of manufacturers’ portfolios. As such, more and more mainstream marketers seek to move up-market, either through launching their own premium lines or by acquiring small, yet established producers. Their presence, albeit still in the minority, can only lead to an even more dynamic and exciting industry.
The market as a whole has seen great strides in distribution reach. Once exclusively available at specialty & boutique shops, premium chocolate now generates 40% of total sales through food, drug, and mass channels. A large part of the expansion is due to the mainstream player’s existing retail network and advertising muscle. One cannot ignore the exceptional branding and marketing done by others to make gourmet chocolate the ever-emerging phenomenon it is today.
As newly-released data indicates the level of concerns about serving foods that contain sugar to be the highest since 1994. The once-labeled “health fad” is not going away anytime soon. Hence consumption of chocolate, a product high in both fat and sugar, can hardly be considered guilt-free. Manufacturers have reacted by creating added value in the form of vitamins and healthy ingredients. The Hershey Company unveiled Whole Bean Chocolate which contains 7 grams of fiber in each serving. This product is a part of the company’s antioxidants-rich Goodness Chocolate portfolio, meant to be enjoyed in moderation as part of an active and healthy lifestyle.
Rising health concerns have led to the emergence of another gourmet segment, quipped by insiders as “the dark side of chocolate”. Dark chocolate, which has high flavanoids content, saw its 2006 sales volume jump 43%. Also, as their palates evolve and deem sugary taste less desirable, consumers actively seek to “trade up” toward even darker chocolate. Indeed, the percent of cocoa content has become increasingly important to customers both as a measure of taste and of health benefits. Companies listened and started rolling out products with more than 70% cocoa. In 2005, Lindt introduced a 99% cocoa bar to the delight of chocolate connoisseurs around the world.
In comparison, milk chocolate features as little as 10 percent cocoa, and its milk content has been shown to dilute potential health benefits of antioxidants.Yet, consumers have not turned their backs on milk chocolate. Recent consumer research by a leading specialty food market research firm uncovered an indifference between milk and dark among premium chocolate lovers. For all the positive press heaved upon dark chocolate, there might be a big untapped market where companies would gain from positioning their milk chocolates as premium.
Manufacturers are also going beyond the basic flavor notes to satisfy customers who seek exotic fares. Vosges Haut-Chocolat’s Barcelona Bar, for example, lists hickory-smoked almonds and fleur-de-sel gray sea salt among its ingredients. Products touting honey, chai tea, goji berries and pumpkin seed flavors are already on the market. Ice wine, goat cheese, olive oil, and malt are soon to come.
The world of chocolate has witnessed many other exciting trends. Thanks to the ever growing organic foods craze, consumers’ awareness has increased. Chocolatiers are becoming more ethically concerned about how and where certain goods are made. Single bean, or origin chocolate, and Fair Trade-certified bars have developed quite a following. Artisan chocolates, with their exclusive hand-crafted products, limited versions and endless flavor experiments have their own appeal.
Despite being in the world’s largest confectionery market, U.S. consumers possess a somewhat less refined taste. As such, it is vital for companies to actively engage in “recruiting” chocolate lovers. Guerrilla-type sampling programs and tasting classes work wonders in unveiling chocolate’s positive attributes to the public.Commercially produced chocolate has its root in Western Europe countries: Belgium, Switzerland, France, etc. In fact, many high-end chocolate gift boxes now come with instructional leaflets containing tasting notes and tips such as "Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and swirl the melting chocolate all over." Readily available recipes and chocolate-related information, such as those on Lindt’s website, are also effective educating tools. Mars launched a series of Ethel’s Chocolate Lounges where customers can learn firsthand about the finer points of chocolate indulgence while getting their daily fixes.
Positioning itself in the premium category, gourmet chocolate would benefit from constant product differentiation. Labeling that plays up cocoa content, country of origin and health-related hints would go a long way toward achieving this goal. Chocolate is often an impulse purchase; hence displays, product placements and feature tie-ins can be a key sales driving factor. Also, for a premium market, gourmet chocolate lovers are a rather price-conscious crowd. Hershey’s Cacao Reserve’s disappointing launch is believed to have stemmed from the company’s refusal to compete on prices and hold temporary discounts.
Original Post Date: 0/2/2008
Well, it has been a while since my last post…hmm, why do I feel like am a church confession? I do have a good reason-we have been doing lots of special events-
City Harvest, a non-profit that delivers food to hungry New Yorkers, raised enormous awareness last night during an extremely chic event called Focus: An auction of the finest photography, with special food tastings prepared by many well known chefs from restaurants like Le Bernardin, Victor’s Cafe, and South Gate to name a few. The lobster from Eric Ripert Le Bernardin was out of this world!
There were also special musical performances by the Kevin Bacon’s band, the Bacon Brothers, and the Cringe Band, led by John Cusimano, Rachael Ray’s husband. Both groups put on spectacular performances that had the room rocking.
The event had a silent auction of some of the finest photography donated by some of the world’s most famous photographers;along with jewelry from Judith Ripka which raised much needed funds to help feed the city’s needy. Other sponsors of the evening were FUJIFILM, Interview Magazine, Gotham Magazine,Diageo, and super sweet chocolates from Coco Delice and Marti Chocolatt.
Rachael Ray, one of the bidders of the live auction, bought a Rolling Stones picture of Mick Jagger singing Jumping Jack Flash which sold for $10K. Rachael, who also sits on City Harvest’s board of directors, reminded the nearly 800 guests how we need to help support this important, 25 year old organization and make sure the region’s needy are not forgotten.
On an eco-friendly point, by the end of 2009 City Harvest will convert their trucks to be hybrid — which should help reduce emissions by 40 percent. City Harvest also uses pedi-cabs to transport food around
In my last post, I mentioned that we have been busy with lots of events. One of the more local events, where we did not have to get on a plane, was the night at
The event was put on by TasteTV, producer of Chocolate Television and the International and Luxury Chocolate Salons. They teamed with Crushpad to create the very first wine specifically designed to pair well with chocolate. The event was: CHOCOLATE SEIZURE 2008.
The design team for this one of a kind boutique wine consisted of TasteTV, Crushpad winemakers, a panel of top artisan chocolatiers (including yours truly) food & wine journalists from the bay area and the lucky people who purchased tickets.
The evening consisted of attendees collecting chocolate samples from all of the chocolate makers and then tasted them with each of the three different wines. Personally, I thought the Merlot was really good and the most drinkable at the time. The zinfandel and the cabernet were also good but needed a bit of aging to really make it really stand up to the chocolate. In the end, the Cabernet won, which was a tribute to the people who attended the event. They were able to recognize certain elements in the wine, which after a bit of aging would be the perfect match. Very impressive!
With only 300 bottles available, this will be very special wine to savor with the best dark chocolate. Because we were part of the event, Coco Delice Fine Chocolates will be on the label with the rest of the other chocolate makers who were there for the pairing.
Well one of the many challenges of running your own business is finding time to do some of the little things…like writing a blog! Even though the summer months tend to be the slower months for chocolate sales, there is tons of planning to do for the fall and spring seasons-kind of like working at the Gap! Even though the store is brimming with all of the summer items, you are already thinking about winter and the following spring-it is enough to make one’s head spin. But, like any good Scorpio, I keep pushing on!
I have also had lots of encouragement from a friend who owns The Flirty Bride (www.theflirtybride.com) who is a blogging queen as far as I am concerned…not to mention very talented at everything she does! I just love her website.
One of the great things about writing a blog, it that I am able to be more informal than if I were drafting a marketing email to send out to my customers. I also get to share ideas and tidbits about myself that might not fit into an email newsletter. One of the interesting things I have noticed is that I will be doing something or talking with someone and will think-“that would be a great topic for my blog”…then I forget to write it down. I think I need to carry around one of those digital voice recorders that I am always seeing advertised on TV-you know, the ones where you remind yourself that you need milk, eggs, dog food, or where you parked the car.
As you will come to learn, I have a varied work background-I have worked in the banking industry (Bank of America-no, this is not a plug), telecom, retail, restaurants, coffee salesman, natural foods (Buffalo Whole Foods in SF)-yes, this is a plug! (http://buffalowholefoods.com)
I remember thinking when I worked at “Buffalo”- “geez, I would never want to run my own business”. This thought was prompted by the fact that I would see my boss, who was (and still is) the owner of the store (Rob Mitchell) working long hours, 5, 6, and 7 days a week and would think that what a horrible life!
Don’t get me wrong, working at Buffalo was one of my favorite places to work and I made many friends, some of whom I still keep in touch with. I have found myself thinking about Rob lately and comparing my management style to his and pondering the things I learned while working there. Rob always said “Thank you” when his employees left for the day or when he left for the day. I also say “Thank you” to my employees and it is nothing I thought consciously about, but something that I think was instilled to me by working for Rob.
Wow, if all business owners did this one simple thing every day, I think it would change their business. I know it sounds like a little thing, but those little things add up to a lot. Hmm-Thank You Rob!
Original Post Date: 8/17/2010
Yes, it’s been awhile since we’ve blogged, but so many good things have been happening it’s hard to keep up!
First, welcome to the new factory in Emeryville! We are just down the street from our friends a Pixar and the HQ of Peet’s Coffee.
We moved into a bigger factory last fall (which also happened to be in the middle of a major construction zone-see pic at right) which made the crazy holiday season a bit more manageable. The picture below shows the completed version of the project-much better!
We now have a separate room (aka the chocolate cave) dedicated to the molded chocolate production featuring the ever temperamental tempering machine nicknamed “Johnny Drama.” Lots of room for the machines and racks and shelves and a very large work table.
Plus a viewing window where we kept up to date on the construction that went on right outside the front door all winter and spring. Whew-are we glad that is done!!
Chef Dennis made the decision to go with induction burners so no stove giving off heat in the main work room. A very cool improvement, indeed. And plenty of room for boxing and packaging and moving around. We even took time to brighten the place up by painting a few of the walls in “Refreshing Mimosa” which looks great!