In North Carolina I've noticed a shift in chocolate prices from full retail to a more value oriented approach. This is not encouraging news for the small artisinal chocolatier. Obviously raw material costs are steeper when purchasing volumes are low. This makes it hard to lower prices enough to compete with larger companies. I'm interested in knowing if artisans in other areas are experiencing the same decrease in prices. Hopefully this is unique to this geographic area.
How many chocolate (bean) vendors do we have in NC? Glad to know you're a regional player, someday we'd like to get into our own line but not for the foreseeable future.
Though we buy artisan bars from american producers solely and I've not seen a retraction in prices yet. It'd be nice if there was a way for artisans to handle a better pricing since it's really hard to sell a $8-11 bar to someone who hasn't been hooked or palate trained.
I live in Bergen County, NJ, right over the George Washington Bridge. I find the chocolatiers in the area sell at around $20 a lb. for truffles and barks. It is not very good. The pharmacies sell the $3.50-$4 a bar, but that is hard to enjoy. I can get a few nice bars at the Whole Foods, Valrhona has a $4 bar at Trader Joe's. Caratos's near Paterson has a TCHO bar but that is about all I have found around here. You have to go to Marisela's in Hobeken. There is a new Turkish chocolate shop in Cliffside Park, sells for $30 a lb. but tastes like $20 a lb. chocolate.
I give a lot of my chocolate away and am asking business owners, friends, and others to taste my drinking chocolate, bars and chocolate cookies. Most have not really tasted fine chocolate before and those that have are very pleased with what I have. I think you must price your product for you to make money and stay in business. I just comparison test with what is on the shelves and the chocolate speaks for itself.
I am getting ready to sell a drinking chocolate to Dominican distributors in the NYC area and they are pressuring us to lower the price. Not sure if I will forward price, knowing we can reduce costs as we purchase larger qualities and streamline the production a bit. It is simple so it is more about efficiency. The professional consultant types tell me to price high and offer discounts and the other side is look toward larger volumes as we grow the business.
Be very careful comparing yourself to sub-par concepts. Trader Joes, industrial. General chocolate shops mostly use old industrial makers, callebaut--small costs, cheap products. TCHO is one of the first larger scale chocolate makers in the US and have the current lowest price for higher quality in that field. Otherwise look at TAZA, Dandelion, Askinosie, Amano, Potomac, Olive & Sinclair, Videri, Mast Bros, etc etc. I think there are something like 60+ established American chocolate makers now. When we started there were <10. Love how fast the industry is growing. TCHO afaik has the cheapest bar at $5. Everyone else goes above that--sometimes far above that. Madre's Triple Cacao is retailing at $11+. It's all about value, and perceived value.
We use TCHO in 90% of our products and our base bark price is $6.50 for 4oz for something rather simple, classic. Growing to $8.50 with more inclusions and labor.
Find and hold the margin you want then find the demographic that will accept it. If you chase a dollar for a demographic early on you'll be on a treadmill that will never end and burnout will get you long before the bottom line does. There are a lot of good forefathers of chocolate out there, do your research beyond your borders and even sample some product to see how you fair against them. Then come up with a pricing strategy that is well understood and you can hold the line on. :)