We can’t even see the design anymore!
Nowadays chocolate bars are covered in labels. From health claims to certifications, anything goes to grab the attention of consumers. Shelves are overloaded, while competition is fierce and sometimes ready to cheat and cut corners.
Fortunately, chocolate lovers are more attentive than ever. They read every info on the packaging to the teeth.
Chocolate has long stopped being just a guilty pleasure.
It’s now a status symbol and an expression of core values and beliefs. Something like: “Tell me what chocolate bar you eat and I will tell you who you are.” This sweet treat now reflects someone’s personality. No surprise that consumers want to choose what fits them best.
In the battle to gain consumers’ trust and loyalty, companies invest a lot of money and time on their packaging. Acting as a sales person, this pretty shell speaks volumes about a brand’s values and intentions. But if extra-info are always appreciated by consumers, not everything written on a packaging can be trusted or even makes sense.
Consumers can find a vast range of labels attached on chocolate bars. For example, claims like “artisan”, “handcrafted” or “bean-to-bar” are everywhere now. Even though a little digging is required to prove them true, these labels want to send a specific message to consumers. They have a meaning and make sense.
When it comes to certifications like Fairtrade, Organic and the like, also these labels are open for debate, but they have a meaning and make sense too. Other claims are instead just empty words, used to appeal to very naive consumers.
Here are 4 chocolate labels that mean absolutely nothing, and that consumers should completely ignore when shopping for chocolate:
- ALL NATURAL
When we hear the word “natural” what comes to mind are probably foods like apples, tomatoes, mangoes and kale. Something that is found in nature and hasn’t been processed by human hands. Let’s admit it: this is not the exact definition of chocolate. What can be “natural” about a food processed for hours through many machines and with added ingredients?
Nonetheless, we often find this claim on many chocolate bars. Why?
The problem is that the word “natural” is not regulated by law. At least in the U.S., the FDA (Food And Drug Administration) has yet to develop a definition for the use of the term natural. Chocolate companies can freely use this word to evoke feelings of “purity” and “health” inside the mind of consumers, and stimulate a purchase. Unfortunately, for how healthy chocolate could be, surely it isn’t all-natural.
If chocolate is made without the addition of colors, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances, a more honest claim could be “All Natural Ingredients”.
- FINE CHOCOLATE
To make a food more appealing (and charge more for it) just put the word “fine” before its name. Fine oil, fine wine, fine cheese. Ordinary foods become delicacies thanks to this magic word that evokes “quality” and “luxury” sensations. But on a second thought, fine is another empty word used for marketing purposes. Especially in the chocolate industry, this label doesn’t really add any value.
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If used as a theoretical definition, “fine” is a good word to distinguish mass-produced chocolate from one of higher quality. But when it’s found on a chocolate bar, it is totally meaningless.
Fine doesn’t say if the chocolate is bean-to-bar, handcrafted, where the cacao comes from or the processing method. Who makes chocolate from the beans or uses fine chocolate and artisan processes is happy to use more specific definitions. This word seems to be used when there isn’t much to say about the chocolate itself, which means that the product is probably mediocre.
- GLUTEN FREE
The popularity of gluten-free diets has brought companies to stick Gluten-Free labels on their products as a badge of honor. This indication can be very useful on other types of foods, but is utterly insignificant for chocolate.
Chocolate consumers have been brainwashed into asking for gluten free chocolate, but there was never gluten in chocolate to begin with.
Gluten is the name for the proteins found in wheat, rye and barley. Any product that doesn’t include wheat in its recipe is free of gluten by default, and chocolate is one of them.
Either it be dark, milk or white, there shouldn’t be any gluten in chocolate unless products with gluten like bread or biscuits are added (or unless big manufacturers decide to add strange ingredients). The presence of a gluten-free label doesn’t mean that a company creates a different product or is more diligent than another company. It just states the obvious.
Companies decide to get certified Gluten Free, to state it on their packaging or to add a “May contain gluten” indication just to avoid legal repercussions.
- CHOCOLATE MAKERS SINCE 1920
The market is full of chocolate companies who take pride in their long time expertise. Does it mean that the chocolate is worth the money? Definitely not.
If a company made exceptional chocolate 100 years ago, that might not still hold true today. What once was artisan might have become industrial. Owners and management might have changed too. Quality could have succumbed to quantity. A lot can happen in such a long span of time. Such claim is not even proof of the quality of the ingredients. The company might have made mediocre chocolate for the entire time!
The “long time expertise” hopes to evoke feelings of “trust” and “reliability” in potential consumers, but what matters is only how the product and the company are today.
Consumers shouldn’t give any importance to these meaningless claims when shopping for chocolate. The best strategy is to look past pretty packaging and appealing marketing claims, and focus on the experience with the actual product instead.
What do YOU think of these chocolate labels?
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.