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Why Chocolate is Having A Particularly Sweet Moment

During the darkest moments of COVID-19, if you weren’t indulging in at least a glass of wine per night and dessert, what were you doing? Please, don’t answer that. It was rhetorical. But now that we can see light at the end of the tunnel and the days of hiding your “COVID-15” in Zoom meetings may be dwindling, it’s time to revisit your pantry, toss out your junk sugary shit, and swap in healthy sweets that don’t taste like you’re chewing on bland, wet cardboard sprinkled with Splenda.

Now that we just eliminated half of the “DTC” “good-for-you” healthy sweets on the market, we’re left with a $30 billion-dollar category: Chocolate.

Breaking Down The Chocolate Market

In 2021, chocolate is no longer synonymous with The Hershey Co. There’s an entirely new chocolate market popping up and a surge in demand for healthy, snacking chocolate made with high-quality, premium ingredients, and legacy brands are catching on.

Mondelēz International, Inc, the publicly traded snacking company that owns brands like Cadbury, Oreo, and Honey Maid, recently acquired vegan, paleo-friendly Hu Chocolate for a reported $340 million per the Wall Street Journal.

This begs the question: What are the “must have” characteristics for emerging chocolate brands that want to be the next big acquisition?

Simplicity

We live in a hectic world. Consumers shouldn’t have to whip out a magnifying glass and dictionary to see & understand all the ingredients that are listed. The most popular CPG chocolate brands recognize this and use it as a selling point in their packaging and branding.

  • Pascha “100% Cocoa Organic Dark Chocolate Bar with Cocoa Nibs has two ingredients
  • Hu Chocolate’s “Snacking Dark Chocolate Gems” has three ingredients
  • Barnana’s “Dark Chocolate Banana Bites” has five ingredients

Transparent Supply Chain

Having a clean product that is good for you, non-GMO, vegan, etc is no longer enough. If your branding boasts about the simplicity and transparency of the ingredients then your supply chain better follow that same logic…or meet the wrath of social media!

Although creating a sustainable supply chain is tricky and requires brands to dedicate time and research, if properly executed, these are major points toward acquisition.

Packaging

Remember that phrase, ‘It’s what’s on the inside that counts’ or ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.’

Those sayings mean sh!t when we’re talking about CPG.

The outside, better known as your packaging, is just as important as the actual product, and if done correctly, packaging can be a unique way to show off some brand values like sustainability by using recyclable or compostable materials.

Snacking chocolate like Barkthins is sold in a single-use plastic pouch. Candid made a small, yet significant change to the packaging by selling its product in a recyclable box and compostable inner bag, which drastically reduces consumer waste.

Sourcing

“Responsible sourcing” is not just a superficial buzzword adopted by the CPG industry.

It’s a practice that ensures the integrity of your brand, and if done correctly, it means that your brand has a nuanced understanding of how it affects the economic, social, and environmental impact of the country of origin/community.

Consumers value brands that have personal relationships with their suppliers, but many times brands gloss over this part using the trite phrase “we work with small, independent suppliers.” What the hell does that actually mean?

It’s time that brands got real. Consumers want to read and hear about the people who work at the small, independent factories or farms. Consumers want to know that the people along the supply chain are being treated fairly and paid correctly.

Creating Goodwill

In today’s world, creating goodwill for your brand (AKA bringing in sales), often means partnering with the right influencers or markets to build brand excitement & awareness.

New-wave “convenience stores” that have a strong online presence and experiential showrooms (often those highly-curated pop-up spaces that millennials & Gen-Z love) allow consumers to discover the next big thing. These stores include New Stand, The Goods Mart, Pop Up Grocer, Neighborhood Goods, Showfields and feature some of the most exciting names in CPG like Candid, Ghia, Sakara Life, and Magic Spoon.

Wrap Up

With people becoming more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies, legacy brands are re-evaluating their operations and discovering new ways to stand out among the competition — which means acquiring smaller, forward-thinking chocolate startups.

Are there any other trends in the chocolate market that we missed? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

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