It’s like a beauty pageant.
They come from all over the world, in different shapes, sizes and flavors. When you step into a chocolate store, they are all lined up on the shelves showing off their best features. Some heavily rely on their beautiful design without saying much. Some others have a lot to tell about their story and ingredients. From young amateurs to expert professionals, there is enough space to welcome a wide array of choices.
Who will win the competition?
Packaging has always been a hot topic in the fine chocolate industry. After all, it’s a fundamental part in the making of a chocolate bar. It’s the first face of the company that potential customers get to see. Before tasting flavor, consumers taste packaging. Many craft chocolate companies have reported an increase in sales up to 80% since they improved their packaging. It’s clear: we eat with our eyes first. But if packaging is a crucial step for the success of a chocolate company, it is also one of the biggest struggles.
Balancing price and beauty is not an easy task. Chocolate makers have to find a package that looks pretty, but doesn’t eat up too much of their profit margins. Professional designs, solid materials, expensive textures. Costs can add up quickly. And once you have finally put all the pieces together, how do you know your packaging looks “good enough” to be competitive on the market?
Here are 4 steps you can take to know the truth.
1. PLACE YOUR CHOCOLATE BARS NEXT TO THEIR COMPETITORS
Your chocolate bars might look good all alone in your website. But how would they perform next to their competitors?
Once your packaging prototype is ready, step into your local chocolate store and physically place your bar next to all the other brands. If you don’t have access to a fine chocolate store, gather all the empty chocolate wrappers in your house from other brands and line them up on a shelf. Then ask yourself:
- how does my chocolate bar look among its competitors?
- does it stand out or does it pass unnoticed?
- does it look cheap or expensive compared to the others?
- is it similar to other designs or does it have an original look?
If your chocolate bar blends with the background, that’s not a good sign. You might want to opt for brighter colors or bolder letters. There are many themes available: minimalist, monochromatic, colorful, with cacao-related images (farmers, pods, cacao trees), inspired by Pop culture, or with personalized designs that represent the story of the company. Many chocolate makers also choose unusual sizes to stand out. From mini bars to extra large, these are sure to get attention.
2. TAKE A PICTURE OF YOUR CHOCOLATE BARS
Social Media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can bring chocolate brands to popularity relatively quickly. The only requirement is that the chocolate bars, on top of tasting good, look good too. If online users feel thrilled to take a picture of your chocolate bars, you can reach great success online.
How to know if your chocolate bars are Instagrammable? Easy, take a picture of them and see how they look! Don’t use professional cameras, fancy equipment or professional lighting. That’s not how Social Media users take pictures. Simply grab your phone and snap a picture without putting too much effort. Then look at the results and ask yourself:
- how does my chocolate bar look in the picture?
- would I feel like buying this product if I saw it on Social Media?
- does my chocolate bar make it for a fun, colorful and attractive picture? Or is it totally ignorable?
Here is what usually makes a chocolate bar worth a photo:
- Bright Colors. Social Media is a place where to have fun and take inspiration. Nothing better than packaging that catches the attention and brings vitality to a picture. Avoid dull, low-chroma, bland and dark colors. Go bright, bold and intense instead.
- Professional Design. An amateurish design that didn’t cost much can be seen from a distance, and it doesn’t usually bring much success. Hire a designer that knows exactly how to create something aesthetically pleasing based on your desires. This is not the right time to be cheap with something as important as the face of your company.
- No Glossy Elements. Any element that reflects the light is a big headache for any photographer. It’s a struggle to catch the right angle, and the picture seldom comes out right. Just don’t include them in your packaging, period.
- No Words At The Front Of The Package. Too many written words take the beauty out of even the prettiest design. Include as little info as possible at the front (your brand, cacao%, origin/flavor, weight) and put any extra info (nutritional facts, ingredients list, certifications, storytelling) on the back. Let the design speak for you.
- No Transparent Elements. Some say that it is a good thing to see the product before buying it. From a marketing perspective, transparent packaging is a very bad decision when it comes to fine chocolate. The tiniest scratch or crack is exposed and can prevent the purchase of even the most flavorful chocolate. Moreover, transparent packages have no appeal and don’t make you want to take a picture in the first place.
3. MIMIC THE CONSUMER EXPERIENCE
Take your own chocolate bar and act as if you have just bought it in a store. You don’t know anything about this brand. You are going to experience it for the very first time. Sit down and open your own chocolate bar like you would with any other bar on the market. While you do it, ask yourself:
- am I finding any obstacle or is it a smooth experience?
- do I have to tear the entire package apart to get to the chocolate?
- am I breaking the packaging in points where there are precious info that I will not be able to read afterward?
- do I feel like I am opening an expensive packaging worth the money I paid for it?
Opening a craft chocolate bar should be a wonderful experience. It should make consumers feel a sense of exclusiveness, anticipation and fanciness. You can also give the chocolate bar to a friend and ask him/her to open it in front of you. Witness their reactions and take notes.
4. ASK THE OPINION OF RETAILERS
When you look for feedback on your packaging, the opinions of friends and family members are the first ones that you are most likely going to seek. Nothing wrong with asking the point of view of people dear to you. But let those opinions be your starting point, not your finish line. The majority of those opinions will either:
- not be sincere. Your friends and family care about you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. They will try to sugar-coat what they really think or, on the contrary, be way too harsh and judgmental.
- be sincere, but not useful. Chances are most of your friends and family members don’t work in the chocolate industry. They might have the best intentions to help you, but have no clue about the chocolate market, its rules and players.
The best point of view you can seek out is the one from fine chocolate retailers.
Retailers don’t assume what consumers like. They KNOW what consumers like. They interact directly with fine chocolate customers, listening to their requests and needs all day every day. They can tell you what packaging works, what brands sell easily, what kind of products fly off the shelves. Their job is to foresee what brands customers will like, and consequently select the best companies to keep in their assortment.
You can approach them directly in their stores (preferably during slow times) and ask their honest opinion on your packaging. You can also email them asking to send them your chocolate for free, specifying that you DO NOT want to convince them to start stocking your bars, but that you are seeking professional feedback and have great esteem for that specific retailer and his/her opinions. Treasure retailers’ pieces of advice. These same people might be selling your chocolate bars one day.
All these steps put you in the perspective of your potential client. This is the person you need to make happy with your chocolate bars. You want a product you can be proud of, but that will also meet consumers’ needs and desires.
So, have your chocolate bars pass these 4 tests? How did they perform?
What other steps would you suggest to test the beauty of fine chocolate bars?
I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.