Romancing the Bar
OPERA IS EXPLAINED by the irrepressible Richard Gere in the equally irrepressible romantic comedy “Pretty Woman” as something that engenders an extreme reaction. “If they love it,” his character said, “they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.”
One could say America’s love affair with chocolate is born out of a similar level of passion. On the one hand are the ’holics—no explanation needed—and on the other, those who can hold their indulgence to once in a great while. But level of fancy aside, and discounting the universally pitied bunch that cites “allergies” as the reason they don’t partake, it’s quite the venture to find someone without at least one memory that includes sweet, sweet chocolate.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
It’s this precise binding thread that caused Alex Jovetic, vice president of sales and marketing at Cheektowaga, New York-based Taylor & Grant Specialties, to dub chocolate such a powerful promotional product. “If you think back on some of the best times of your life, I would bet that food is a significant part of that,” he explained. Since eating chocolate is such a sensory experience, Jovetic said, “It’s something that tends to hit home and have people remember it longer.” Mary Mikus, corporate sales administrator at Wyomissing, Pennsylvania–based Godiva Chocolatier, echoed that sentiment, especially considering the fact her company straddles both the ad specialty world and the retail sector as a recognizable luxury brand. “The gift of chocolate is all about sharing a world of indulgence with the recipient,” she said.
The idea of “staying power” is an interesting one when taking into account the promotional products industry makes its livelihood by creating, distributing and utilizing items meant to remain static—and thus, keeping an end-buyer’s brand in front of potential consumers at all times. While chocolate’s here-today-gone-tomorrow nature may seem counterproductive, the lasting benefits go beyond the tangible. Reports abound that the intake of chocolate can contribute to the release of positive neurotransmitters and factor into feelings of happiness and satiation, however ephemeral. In fact, a 2007 study conducted by the University of Cologne in Germany and published in The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 30 calories of dark chocolate a day can lower blood pressure in healthy individuals. Don’t get too excited; 30 calories is only slightly more than one Hershey’s Kiss—but every little bit helps.
Because chocolate is an area of opportunity for Taylor & Grant Specialties—among all the company’s product lines, it comprises 10 to 15 percent of sales—Jovetic reported the company still is looking to fulfill a niche in the fairly competitive market. “There are plenty of people that do a great job in this industry for chocolate and we try to do the things that they don’t do,” he affirmed. Its new merchandise for the holiday season will utilize a fairly cost-effective maneuver in which existing hard candy from one of the company’s other lines is crushed into the chocolate mix. “It gives a wonderful texture and a great mouth feel that at the same time imparts great flavor,” Jovetic added.
Taste customization, such as what Taylor & Grant Specialties currently is undertaking, is a direction Jovetic believes will continue to define the growth strategy of promotional chocolate on the whole. “We can offer products that have far less limitation than anything else in the industry because of what we can do … to the product. We can make it taste any way that anybody wants, we can make it look any way that anybody wants,” he said. But as the recipe index keeps on growing for chocolate, it’s also important to recognize a piece is only as good as its packaging. Jovetic maintained Taylor & Grant Specialties is moving away from wrappers and toward tins as a means of presentation. “What we’re trying to do is find more product that fit the packaging and being able to deliver that,” he explained.
Ingenuity is plentyful in the chocolate world:
• Chicago–based A La Carte recently introduced colored chocolates to go the extra mile when it comes to staying true to a brand message.
• In response to the aforementioned study on dark chocolate and others like it, Godiva Chocolatier will be offering a wider range of such items to appeal to the (slightly) more health-conscious consumer, Mikus reported.
• Maple Ridge Farms of Mosinee, Wis. currently is offering wooden collectors’ boxes with logo imprints on the top.
• Blaine, Washington–based Chocolate Chocolate is using a Russian-nesting-dolls approach with a chocolate-filled box made out of chocolate. The whole item then is placed in a nonedible box, so it will—to borrow from another famous chocolatier, M&Ms—“melt in your mouth, not in your hands.”
THE SWEET HEREAFTER
Since chocolate has been evolving in various forms for at least the past 4,000 years, it’s pretty safe to assume its existence will continue to tantalize taste buds for plenty more to come. And there’s no better occasion to look ahead to than the upcoming season of good food, good times and good friends. “Fourth quarter is the best time to be able to take advantage of food-product sales,” said Jovetic. “Sixty-two percent of businesses give food gifts.” With all the mouthwatering options and findings that render the sweet borderline nutritious, there’s never been a better time to enable chocolate addicts everywhere.