Pick me, pick me, pick me!
You can almost hear the chocolate bars whispering from the shelf.
They all want to be chosen by chocolate aficionados. But it’s not 2007 anymore, where few brands had to compete for the attention of consumers. Now it’s 2017, and there are more than 300 craft chocolate makers on the market. All eager to get a piece of the cake.
In a saturated market, the biggest challenge is distinction.
Something has to be so unique that the company stands out from the savage competition. If consumers recognize a chocolate bar among hundreds, the company wins. To reach this goal, chocolate makers need to have a beautiful packaging.
It doesn’t matter how good the chocolate inside is. The bar has to be “pretty” first.
Once it catches attention, then consumers are intrigued to pick it up from the shelf and read the details. The packaging acts like the salesperson of the company. It talks directly to the end-consumer. Like every salesperson, it must be convincing with both the look and the info presented.
“I wanted the design and feel to reflect the same handcrafted care I put into the bars, and to be part of the experience of enjoying the bar.”
Mackenzie from Map Chocolate makes bean-to-bar chocolate in Oregon. She is a solopreneur. From making the chocolate to selling it to consumers, she is the super woman behind the entire process. But to her, this was never an excuse to be lazy with packaging:
“The quality of the paper inside and out was hugely important, and not easy to source (it had to have a good feel but be easy to fold and yet not tear). I also wanted to create a cohesive look that said “Map” yet had each wrapper be unique to its bar. And because I do 4-5 seasonal bar releases, it means new packaging for each new bar.
It is important for me to have the wrapper convey the uniqueness of each bar. So, when I test a bar and decide to make it, I then find the wrapper design, create a new band, and write the note that gets tucked inside”.
This accuracy for details pays off. The packaging of Map Chocolate is recognized as one of the most beautiful on the craft chocolate market. Chocolate aficionados on Instagram go crazy for her world maps and her breath-taking mold.
However, many don’t know that everything is made in-house:
“Because I built Map with a tight budget, I looked at the cost of hiring a designer, having custom packaging die-cut and printed, etc. and decided I would do that myself in old-fashioned sweat equity style.
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From the start I’ve designed the packaging myself, sourced the paper, cut the paper, printed the bands and cut them. I’m still creating my packaging in-house (except for the inner parchment wrapper). Being the designer and doing the layout has helped. If I want to create a new bar or a limited release, I have this built-in flexibility.
The flip side of this is that making it all takes almost as much time as making the chocolate, so the changes I’m working on will help with this. I think by doing the work myself I’ve been able to balance the higher cost of my materials”.
This comes as no surprise. Craft chocolate makers often complain about the high expenses for packaging. This process always ends up being more expensive than expected.
Mirzam Chocolate has opened its bean-to-bar making activity in Dubai only a few months ago. However, the company is already well-known to online chocolate communities thanks to its catchy packaging.
Kathy Lee is Chief Chocolate Officer and admits:
“Packaging has been more expensive than we expected, as our production volumes, like most craft chocolate makers, is quite small. However, we will always source environmentally friendly paper stocks.
Even as things evolve and we explore better ways to package and wrap our chocolate, I don’t think it will ever be an inexpensive element of production.”
Kathy reveals that money is not the only challenge in creating a competitive packaging:
“The most challenging part is the logistics of coordinating different suppliers separately who are each making one part of the puzzle – and ensuring that the final product clicks together where it should! I could not have predicted the time it would take to produce samples and test everything properly. Mirzam packaging took nearly a year all together – with maybe 2 weeks of that being actual production.”
Packaging is a key factor in the success of a craft chocolate brand. This is why companies decide to upgrade their “look” until they are completely satisfied.
French Broad Chocolates is a successful business based in North Carolina. Its chocolate lounge sees many chocolate lovers standing in line all day trying to buy chocolate bars, truffles, desserts, confectionery treats and much more.
Their bean-to-bar chocolate is wrapped in a fascinating packaging and co-founder Jael reveals:
“We have gone through one major design transition.
When our chocolate bars were introduced, they were wrapped in foil and a brown paper wrapper, and adorned with colored grosgrain ribbon. They were pretty, but did not really stand out on the shelves.
Our current design has been in place for a year, and involved a ton of thoughtful design, soul searching, and storytelling. We use the packages as a mechanism for sharing stories – about chocolate, about our business, and about the partners whose work we are honored to feature in our chocolate. And so, we designed it to look like an antique book”.
She also agrees about the substantial investment that packaging requires:
“The packaging is super expensive for us. As a percentage of the wholesale price of our bars, packaging is 30.6% of the price. It’s about 17% of the retail price”.
From the experiences of these successful companies we can understand that:
- packaging is expensive, but it’s worth every penny and will pay back the effort.
- it takes time to put everything together.
- between doing everything in-house and outsourcing completely, there are many middle-ways.
- companies should always strive for a better packaging.
What is YOUR favorite packaging on the craft chocolate market?
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.