WELCOME TO THE big show. That's right. You might want a front-row seat for this.
Like the rest of the population, we here at Promo Marketing love our chocolate. Sure, some of our consumption is "research," but really, when that three o'clock slump hits—nothing pacifies the staff quite like a little bit of the sweet stuff.
The sugar must do wonders for our rhetoric, because once we get our fix, what invariably follows is our classic, oft-argued milk versus dark debate. While this writer is firmly entrenched in the milk-chocolate camp, I'm up against quite a few dark chocolate-devotee coworkers who beg to differ.
We know we're not the only ones who duke this out—and if it's not just us, what about your end-users? We thought it was a worthy exploration into the two schools of thought, so we took it to the experts: What will please everyone's palette?
Milk Chocolate: How Sweet It Is
With an unmatched creaminess and a healthy dash of nostalgia thrown in, milk chocolate is, for many, the quintessential taste when a chocolate craving hits. "If I'm really hungry or having a stressful day, then milk is my choice as I can eat more of it and find it really soothing on the nerves," affirmed Mia Sieben, sales manager for Blaine, Washington-based Chocolate Chocolate.
And it's no wonder. Milk chocolate recalls childhood—when Hershey's ruled and Halloween was the epicenter of our lives. In fact, at Chocolate Chocolate, milk chocolate is the most popular with customers and the "safer" choice for nearly every promotion, she explained. To be exact, Sieben noted, it's "about 70/30 in favor of milk."
But what is it about the taste that makes it such a crowd pleaser? The key is cocoa content, which is the combination of cocoa beans and cocoa butter, she said. Like adding a bit of cream to black coffee, milk tempers cocoa's pronounced flavor. "Milk adds a sense of creamy richness, but not as strong a chocolate flavor," Sieben added. At Chocolate Chocolate, the milk chocolate has 36 percent cocoa content, which leads to a smoother, more mild taste.
Survey says: Milk chocolate gets major points for popularity, that much is sure. When you're trying to appeal to a broad range of people, it's the only way to go, particularly when a promotion is going to kids.
Dark Chocolate: Bitter is Better
When you're looking to make just the right statement, sometime you have to go bold or go home. "Dark chocolate is available with different levels of cocoa content. The higher the cocoa content, the more bitter the taste," said Yngrid Bravo, corporate sales marketing manager at Astor Chocolate, Lakewood, N.J. "Selecting a dark chocolate with a cocoa content that will appeal to everyone is extremely important," she added.
Though "bitter" isn't often the word most people want to describe any dish, particularly a promotional one, sharply flavored dark chocolate has been steadily growing in popularity over the past few years. One possible reason for this, Bravo noted, is a movement toward healthier living. Dark chocolate has been starring in recent research that touts its whole-body benefits. "Medical studies have found that … antioxidants can help lower high blood pressure [and] lower the risk of heart disease, among other benefits," she explained.
And the feeling goes beyond biology. Some experts say dark chocolate carries with it a sophisticated image that lets it hold its own with even the most luxurious of goods. A recent article in the April 5, 2009 edition of the Chicago Tribune confirmed this theory: "Chocolatiers and chocoholics contend chocolate is entering into the same realm as fine wines and cheeses, indulgences connoisseurs treasure for their subtleties," it read.
So, what is the magic number? Suggested Bravo, "I recommend a cocoa content of approximately 54 percent, which has a rich flavor, the right amount of bitterness and the benefits of antioxidants."
Survey says: When it comes to a promotion that has health and wellness as its theme, dark chocolate is a welcome treat for recipients. It also is a great complement for wine and fruit gift sets.