Challenge 10: Chocolate Packaging

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Challenge 10: Packaging Chocolate

For #Challenge10, we decided to turn to Boston/Cambridge’s burgeoning chocolate industry for inspiration and look at the ways in which different companies—both local and (inter)national—package their chocolates. We researched the most appealing chocolate packaging designs, according to various bloggers and reporters, and met with Eric Parkes of Somerville Chocolates to talk about his packaging decisions.

Packaging Trends

Chocolate packaging is designed very much with the emotional response of the consumer in-mind, aiming to elicit feelings of appreciation of craftsmanship, travel and exoticism, and quality of material. To elicit craftsmanship, the use of high quality and heavier weight material packaging creates an implication that the chocolate product is also made to a higher quality, and research has found that packaging and price does matter even in turns of taste testing, with more expensive and quality looking products tasting better. Aesthetics imploring exoticism and travel are very common surrounding this product as well, using maps, foreign country names, compasses, ships, and other symbols that imply a foreign origin. There is a definite focus on glitter and gloss that imply luxury be it using gold materials or other metallic and iridescent accents. The company gâtés commes des filles even goes so far as to apply iridescent powders to the chocolates themselves.

Materials and Shape

Eric wraps his chocolate with gold foil and paper, and a general industry-wide study reveals that this simple packaging is predominant. The materials have to be easily tearable or disassembled while also representing the high quality and imported aesthetic that consumers look to when buying fine chocolate. Chocolate, as an inherently luxury item, cannot be really packaged in materials that don’t uphold those qualities. While some companies utilize creatively-shaped boxes or bags, the vast majority chose to wrap chocolate bars in the standard rectangular shape. Toblerone is the most famous example of chocolate that doesn’t fit the square shape.

Labeling

Depending on the scale of the operation, packaging might have to include nutritional information to follow USDA policy, but regardless of the factory size and output, all chocolate companies must include standard information on their labels, like whether or not the chocolate was made in a facility containing nuts. Including this information poses a challenge, since the chocolatiers must find a way to follow the regulations without impairing the design. Somerville Chocolates navigated through this problem by making the box containing his health labels transparent, so the design. Other companies choose to design their packaging in a way that the labels do not interfere with the design. Labeling is another opportunity for the companies to perpetuate the image of luxury: many companies include the year that the chocolate beans were harvested, usually handwritten, to emphasize the prestige and handmade quality of the product.

Our Design

Our survey of chocolate packaging has brought us to an overarching conclusion: Chocolate packaging emphasizes luxury and the sense that the product is hand-crafted. The packaging themes, materials, shapes, and even labeling all come together to create an artisan-type of product. The strength from this design decision include: a defined aesthetic for chocolate packaging that most chocolatiers, even independent ones, can easily find inspiration from and greater certainty of consumer approval of the design. The emphasis on luxury, however, comes with its issues. The most prevalent is that executing the designs often end up being time-consuming and labor-intensive (e.g.: the fact that year of the harvested beans is typically handwritten onto the labeling). This challenge becomes even more pronounced for independent chocolate makers, who are typically the ones who make and package the chocolate themselves. This can also result in making the chocolates more expensive—gâtés commes des filles charges $5 for one piece of chocolate—and such exorbitant pricing can deter potential consumers, even if the chocolate itself is intensely high quality and artisan.

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