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WSJ: Premium Chocolate Holds Steady in Tough Economy

More-Selective Consumers Make Each Morsel Count With Emphasis on Ingredient Sourcing and Artisanal Production

By HOLLY HENSCHEN

Even in a recession, frugal consumers shell out cash for popular premium chocolate, but the variety they purchase depends on its value, quality and manufacturer. Analysts said trendy, pricier premium cocoa varieties promote chocolate consumption growth. Throngs of products from smaller specialty as well as major chocolate manufacturers line store shelves. But consumers are buying the sweets less often and more discriminatively as household incomes contract with the U.S. recession and world economic crisis.

The text of the full article is here.

I don't agree with everything the article says:

Large chocolate manufacturers Barry Callebaut and Hershey Co. delved into the premium chocolate realm previously occupied primarily by smaller-scale specialty manufacturers. In 2008, Mars Inc.'s Mars Snackfood US introduced M&Ms Premiums in flavors such as mint chocolate and raspberry almond, as well as dark chocolate varieties.

It's just too weird to seriously consider M&Ms - whatever flavor - a premium chocolate product.

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"It's just too weird to seriously consider M&Ms - whatever flavor - a premium chocolate product."

Perhaps that is more of a reflection on consumer perception than anything else :-) That being the case we have a long way to go with educating the public ...

Langdon
A great mixed metaphor as I like to wear those very same Emperor's clothes when I homebrew chocolate. (Here's the line. Here's me crossing it.)

I think that there is a perception that non-milk chocolate is premium -- that any dark chocolate will suffice for a premium label. However, the other flavors, ie "raspberry almond", may be a reflection of the impact of flavored chocolate makers (Vosges, Godiva, etc.)

As an anecdote that may or may not be related to the economy, I was recently shopping at my local Trader Joe's and my local Safeway on separate occasions and both were fairly bear in their organic produce department. I'm not sure if it's a sign of the economy but it sure looked like these higher priced items were not being restocked as readily as before.
There was an interesting article in the NYTimes or WSJ in the last week or so that indicates that while overall alcohol sales have not dropped what's happened is that instead of buying one $200 bottle people are buying six $35 bottles. An article on wine auctions in today's NYTimes corroborates that prices at the high end are well off their highs and it's time to go bargain hunting (comparatively speaking and if you (still) have the money for it).

The market research company Packaged Facts puts out a research report on the chocolate industry penned by ChocolateLife member Curtis Vreeland. That report is the source of the market segmentation I and many other people use:

Mass Market : up to $15/lb retail.

The Premium Market is everything over $15/lb and it is segmented in three distinct markets:

1) Mass Market Premium - $15-25/lb
2) Gourmet - $25- $40/lb
3) Prestige - > $40/lb

I think that this is not fine enough any more and there needs to be a $40-$70 range and a $70+ range (Luxury).

You might try what I did for a while which is to aggregate orders. Tell everyone you'll special order the Hannah for a minimum number of pieces but you won't place the order until you've got enough orders to meet the minimum. Contact them when you place the order and then again when it arrives. Sure it's high touch but that's one of the things that really generates customer loyalty.
Those New M&Ms,are totally different than the old M&M's, They did use a Premium Chocolate in them along with different nuts and Berries, There is a total different taste and texture.

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