Dark Chocolate Sightings
By Renee M. Covino
The richest confectionery hue is showing up just about everywhere in mass retail.
With so many on the prowl for dark chocolate these days, “I would be hard-pressed to think of a store where consumers can’t find it,” says Marcia Mogelonsky, senior research analyst for Mintel International, Chicago, who observes that premium, dark, and even organic chocolate often overlap as category segments, and are therefore, hard to clearly define. Nevertheless, “it is all moving to the mass checkout lanes with bars and individual pieces vying for space alongside of mainstream products,” she adds. Mogelonsky offers up her local PetSmart in upstate New York as one recent example of a mass retailer merchandising premium dark chocolate at the checkout (Lindt bars with 70 percent cocoa) — for its human shoppers. “They even had a sign saying, ‘do not feed this to your dog.’ It was clearly positioned for owners to think, ‘I deserve a treat, too,’ ” she says.
Within larger mass stores, such as supermarkets, Mogelonsky has observed multiple dark sightings beyond just the checkout lane and the regular candy aisle. The baking aisle, the natural food department, the bakery, the deli, other special/seasonal display areas and endcaps all now feature dark chocolate, according to her.
Recently, Confectioner magazine scoped out varying mass stores in three major metropolitan areas — Denver, San Diego, and Columbus, Ohio — and came up with a roster (in no particular order) of dark chocolates at large.
Rite Aid. There are plenty of dark options within the mainstream candy aisle, including Hershey’s Extra Dark Bars (60% cocoa), $1.99 for 3.52 oz., and Cadbury Royal Dark and Indulgent Dark Chocolate Bars, $1.59 for 4.5 oz.
7-Eleven. Dark chocolate is now an official convenience item, thanks to mega chains like this one putting it out in ample supply. One of the dark delicacies spotted on this trip was Lindt’s Excellence Dark Chocolate Bars (70 percent cocoa), 1.2 oz. for $1.29. Hershey’s Extra Dark Bars and Hershey’s Sticks in Rich Dark Chocolate were also offered for $1.99 and $2.49, respectively. A box of Nestlé Dark Stix was found for $2.49. Then, within the shelf special (89 cents for one regular-sized bar/65 cents each when you buy two), there were several options: Hershey’s Special Dark Bar, Dove Pure Dark Chocolate Bar, and Nestlé’s Dark Crunch Bar, Limited Edition, to name three.
Michaels. The candy racks at the front end were filled with kid-oriented selections and milk chocolate options, but right before giving up hope, we spotted them — Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Squares — and just the dark ones — nested comfortably in their box beside each cash register.
Trader Joe’s. Oh the joys of Joe’s, where dark chocolate is sprinkled throughout the store (definitely at the expense of milk chocolate), including its own tub of Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans (with no artificial colors or flavors, and no preservatives, of course) 14 ounces, at an unbeatable price: $3.99. It was merchandised in the center aisle, right atop refrigerated coffin-style cases.
Linens ‘n Things. The consumables/gift section at the front of this store could fill a gift basket the size of a car. Two four-sided islands are just brimming with dark possibilities, including those of the most deluxe varieties — Isis Luxury Belgian Extra Dark Chocolate Bar (a whopping 85% cocoa), 3 oz. for $2.99, and Santandar Colombian Single Origin Bar (70% cacao), 2.47 oz. for $1.99. Other premium brands include Perugina, Guylian, Ghirardelli and Lindt.
REI. Suggesting that those in the outdoor sports/fitness arena view dark chocolate as a health/energy item, this chain reports having good sales success with several imported confectionery items, including Toblerone Dark, 3.5 oz. for $1.95, and Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Marzipan, 3.5 oz. for $2.25. These dark chocolate items are being successfully merchandised right in line with the more dominant and plentiful energy bars. But guess which ones seemed to need stocking replenishment at the time of our visit?
Borders. You could say this book chain is definitely reading between the lines of the dark/premium chocolate trends. Lindor Truffles are offered as fancy changemakers beside every register in custom-made wooden built-ins. At the time of observation, the “regular” price of 40 cents each or three for $1 was being reduced “for a limited time only” to four for $1.
Big Lots. Would it be a good or bad thing for dark chocolate to wind up in this closeout chain? As a regular item, tailored to the channel on price and packaging from certain manufacturers — it could be good. But those dark items that wind up on the shelves because they didn’t fly with consumers on the first run — this could indicate poor execution of a non-dark chocolate favorite. At the time of our check, Limited Edition Kit Kat Minis (in dark chocolate) were on the candy shelves — 10.5-ounce bags closing out at $2.
Ross Dress for Less. For those customers who shop ‘til they drop, Ross is known to extend beyond its consumable/gift aisles with quick-grab “specialty” candy — and feature some on speed tables alongside checkout lines to entice the tired and the hungry. This trip was no exception; dark chocolate bars appeared in the form of Harry & David (66% cocoa), 3.5 ounces for $1.99.
Kroger. This supermarket chain has made no secret of its deep, dark chocolate. The stuff is nearly everywhere, from the Hershey’s Snack Centers, featuring limited edition candies (some dark) out-posted near freezer door cases, to the natural food aisles, deli aisles, and main candy aisles.