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While the fine food sector has largely been a beneficiary of ‘the lipstick effect’ throughout 2020, as the outbreak of Covid-19 led many consumers to tighten their purse strings and opt for affordable luxuries over larger-scale indulgence, the chocolate industry has experienced a particularly clear period of growth.
In fact, the phenomenon, which Waitrose has described as “self-treating at home” has seen a tangible boom – according to Kantar, multipacks of chocolate have sold at five times their usual volume. With this period of small-scale indulgence set to continue for the foreseeable future, how can independent fine food retailers cash in?
Sustainable and health-conscious options offer Speciality Food readers a profitable new avenue to explore, which are sure to continue to have an impact when things return to the ‘new normal’.
One of the most exciting is the concept of whole fruit chocolate, an innovation from Barry Callebbaut which utilises 100% of the cacao fruit – in effect ‘upcycling’ the whole fruit with none going to waste.
“Up until now 70% of the cacao fruit is discarded as waste, since it was technologically impossible to craft chocolate from the whole fruit,” explains Pablo Perversi, chief innovation, sustainability and quality officer, and global head of gourmet at Barry Callebaut. This innovation has sustainability credentials to boot. Indeed, says Pablo, “The Upcycled Food Association (UFA) calculated that if all chocolate was made by upcycling the whole cacao fruit it would reduce the same amount of CO2 as planting 3.5 billion trees, which is an area as big as Germany and France combined.”
This feature could prove to be a valuable selling point when promoting to Millennials and Centennials, an increasingly important segment of the buying public, for whom the sustainability credentials of a product can be the difference between making a sale and not.
“Millennials and Centennials are increasingly focused on nutrition, the planet and its people,” says Pablo. “They want products that are considered to be healthy and that they can feel good about buying. Therefore, food and drinks need to not only be delicious and nutritious, but must also have a positive impact on the planet and its people. It uses all of Mother Nature’s gift: the whole fruit. And therefore farmers have more to sell too.”
Not only that, but WholeFruit chocolate offers a healthier alternative to conventional products, too. “It is a healthier proposition since it contains more than 40% less sugar than the most consumed chocolates,” says Pablo. Indeed, the tide is turning away from sugar-saturated and artificially sweetened chocolate products, with innovations rife within the free-from sector in particular.
The nation is learning that, contrary to conventional wisdom, chocolate can be a source of nutrition – so long as it is produced with health in mind, and steps are taken to avoid its usual pitfalls. “Chocolate bars and bonbons can be unwholesome and high in sugar and saturated fat. As a high-calorie food, one should enjoy it in moderation. Cacao itself, on the other hand – the purest form of chocolate – is a superfood powerhouse,” explains Stefanie Siraghi, founder and director of NOSHY.
“It has one of the highest sources of magnesium in nature. It is full of antioxidants – per gram even more than pomegranate – calcium, zinc, copper, selenium, and high in flavonoids that help your body ward off everyday toxins.”
However nutritionally-rich a confectionery product is, its purchase will ultimately always have been led by the desire for a pleasurable treat. “Naturally there is a well-being factor of pure joy, satisfaction, and the notion of a small treat [within chocolate products],” says Stefanie.
There are plenty of options available for health-minded shoppers. “For a healthy chocolate treat, one may wish to opt for dark over milk chocolate, and the higher the cacao percentage, the better.” Within the NOSHY range, single-origin 100% cacao is used within the award-winning GUSTAV chocolate hazelnut truffle. At NOSHY, we choose single-origin 100% cacao for our award-winning GUSTAV chocolate hazelnut truffle. “The origin plays a big part if you’re going for high-percentage chocolate; significantly better flavour notes over bulk beans,” Stefanie explains.
Chocolate’s thoroughly modern combination of great taste, health credentials and sustainability points is a key part of British brand PLAYinCHOC’s proposition, also. Its ToyChoc boxes, consisting of a sustainable gift alongside a portion of free-from and organic chocolate, “have been designed as far more than just a novelty,” says managing director Dominic Simler.
“Our ethical and sustainable collectable ToyChoc boxes aim to inspire the younger generation about the world around them, whilst exploring and asking questions on how best they can protect and conserve the planet.” It’s not just PLAYinCHOC’s chocolate – free from 14 of the main allergens – which has been produced with the planet in mind.
“We have purposely wrapped our chocolates in a plant-based home compostable film for portion control, freshness, hygiene and portability. We also pride ourselves on our packaging, which uses zero plastic and is 100% recyclable.”