In 2017, the global chocolate market was valued at around $103.28 billion and is expected to increase to $161.56 billion by 2024. We may be eating more healthily, but we still like a treat! With large markets however come high levels of competition, meaning that being able to stand out from the crowd and hold consumers’ attention is vital if you want your brand to succeed.
Here I’ve collated a few chocolate brands that caught my eye for a variety of reasons, be it because of their product, pack, brand or all three. My observations suggest that brands operate in a range of distinct sections, and they make themselves unique by pushing small but effective differences.
Sustainable: Loving Earth
Sustainability is a hot topic at the moment, and Loving Earth are an Australian brand that have built a huge following out of it. All their products are raw, organic and vegan, which attracts the ever-increasing number of consumers following plant-based diets – a way of eating that goes hand-in-hand with sustainability. Their chocolate bars come packaged in biodegradable wrapping and a compostable cardboard box. The ingredients for the product itself are sourced from the Ashaninka community in Peru and are turned into chocolate in Loving Earth’s solar powered factory; this is a brand that truly goes the extra mile for sustainability.
Ethical: Divine Chocolate
Divine Chocolate is a brand you’re likely to have heard of and seen in supermarkets, well known for their core values of fair trade and ethics within the cocoa farming industry. They are the only chocolate brand that is co-owned by cocoa farmers, which means that the farmers have greater economic sustainability and benefit from the premium that comes with Fairtrade. This is a brand that consumers can buy from, confident with the knowledge that the cocoa farmers are being paid a fair wage for what they do and that they work in safe, anti-discriminative environments.
Visually Creative: Compartés
It’s one thing to grab people’s attention with well-designed packaging, but Compartés take this one step further by making their chocolate visually creative, too! Each individual chocolate comes decorated with colourful designs, filled with a deliciously-vibrant colour-corresponding center. This almost personalised chocolate is also handmade in LA, as it has been since 1950. The boxes are a little on the expensive side and are popular with celebrities, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from such a unique brand.
Wierd Flavours: The Chocolate Smiths
The Chocolate Smiths create weird and wonderful flavour combinations, including some rather bizarre concoctions that you wouldn't traditionally associate with chocolate... or anything sweet for that matter! Take the ‘Chip Shop’ bar for example, which is labelled as being ‘curry and chips in milk chocolate’. I don’t know about you but my first thoughts when discovering this bar were a real mixture of confusion and curiosity! They say it’s surprisingly nice, so I suppose I should give it a try sometime and put that claim to the test. If, however, the unlikely flavours aren’t your kind of thing then maybe they’d be able to tempt you with their ‘Salted Caramel Brownie’ or ‘Banoffee Bread’ bars instead, which sound a little closer to my taste preferences, as well as being sensorially familiar too.
Cacao Origin: Willie's Cacao
The jet-black packaging with a gold foil logo and block colour lettering is the first thing that drew my eye to Willie’s Cacao, but after a quick Google and website click I was fifteen minutes into learning all about cacao and the history of chocolate. Willie shares on the website that most brands use a mixture of cacao beans to get the same ‘house taste’ every time, blurring the differences in flavour by adding sugar and vanilla. With Willie’s chocolate however, each bar is made using a single variety of bean and the flavour differences between each bar is something the brand celebrates. The ‘Las Trincheras Gold’ bar from Venezuela, for example, naturally has a nutty taste to it, whereas the ‘Sambirano Gold’ bar from Madagascar offers a combination of summer fruits and tropical flavours. Willie’s Cacao truly focus on the unique taste of cacao beans from all over the world.
A Personal Backstory: LAND Chocolate
This is one of my favourite brands that I came across during my chocolate hunt. The pack design is simple but effective, and the story behind the brand is engaging from start to finish. LAND was founded by Phil Landers who used to work for the BBC, but later left and went travelling in Central America where he learnt about cacao in Guatemala. He decided there and then that chocolate would be his new career path. In 2013 he made his first bars by lamplight with an Indian spice grinder and a hairdryer (innovative or what?!) and began teaching himself more about the glorious world of chocolate. He worked with The Mast Brothers for a while where he picked up more skills in crafting chocolate bars, before going solo in an old furniture maker’s workshop and bringing his first brand to life: LAND.
Functional Ingredients: Cox & Co.
Have you ever tried bee pollen in chocolate? How about chia seeds, or cacao nibs? These functional superfoods are what Cox & Co. decided to make the stars of the show in their bars, including the cacao itself in their 100% cacao bar. The brand places equal importance on being both ethical and indulgent and are so focused on getting their bars exactly right that they currently have just four options: Bee Pollen & Honey, Coconut & Chia, Raw Cacao Nibs and Single Origin Pure Cacao (100% cacao), all of which sound delicious and very interesting to me!
What is it about your favourite chocolate brand that holds your attention and loyalty?
Or if you own a chocolate brand and want to stretch your products and brand experience further, which of these sections could you expand into, or where do you see an opportunity to create something new?