How about a slow clap for the premium chocolate category, which according to the research firm Packaged Facts actually increased sales during the recession, to $17 billion last year.
So what is this a testament to — good or our inherent lust for chocolate? Probably both. We do have an insatiable sweet tooth, with 75% of Americans reporting they’ve purchased chocolate products since 2008. And as the official indulgence of breakups, bad days, tight deadlines and other mishaps, chocolate had a sweet advantage coming into the recession. It’s a window of indulgence in a world that seems, at times, to be spiraling out of control.
But remember, these are $4, even $5 bars we’re talking about here. People could pay a fourth as much and still get a Wonka-worthy treat.
A dollar, however, wouldn’t get them 75% cacao Rainforest Alliance-certified organic dark chocolate. Indeed, the chocolate category lends itself to a higher calling, and companies have crafted that potential into a highly effective sales model. They’re playing up their positive involvement in the developing countries that harvest their cocoa. Some are getting really clever, offering to offset carbon or help preserve indigenous tribes with every purchase.
Chocolate is also gaining momentum as a health food of sorts. Studies have shown dark chocolate to be a good source of antioxidants, those magical free-radical nutrients reputed to do everything from extend one’s life span to bestow superhero powers. A study published last week suggests that eating chocolate in moderation may improve heart health over time.
As with any category that’s riding high, though, there’s the potential to overextend the health and wellness halo. Coffeemakers are coming under fire for their single-serve k-cups, which go against any messages about sustainable farming or fair trade. The other day I got an email about a new line of probiotic dark chocolate. Which could be a hit, but if you ask me, just the idea of tricking out chocolate leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
(Creative Commons photo courtesy of GenBug)