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Luxury Chocolate At Three Calories A Piece

April 13, 2008
Godiva Chocoiste gives chocoholics not just a fix but an experience.

Chocolate is one the few foods thought to be both stimulating and soothing at the same time. There are theme parks and museums devoted entirely to chocolate, and spas where you can be soaked, scrubbed and massaged with chocolate.

Despite the recent association of flavanols in chocolate with heart health, this is not health food. For many people, chocolate occupies the bottom section of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – the space occupied by physiological need. At the very least, research from Tuft’s University in 2007 indicates chocolate is an indulgence with strong emotional benefits.

Chocolate is and always will be hot. It has an uncanny ability to withstand any diet trend without decreasing in popularity. In fact, sales for sugar-free chocolate decreased 71.5 percent over a 52-week period between 2006 and 2007, according to Information Resources Inc. People simply seem to want the “real thing.” Chocolate sales reached $16 billion in 2006 and are projected by Packaged Facts to grow by 2 percent each year through 2011.

A Swiss survey of U.S. chocolate eating behavior found 46 percent of Americans eat chocolate at least a few times per week. And while dark chocolates, single origin varieties and other specialty chocolates are on the rise, the majority of Americans (80 percent) still prefer milk chocolate. IRI data indicate M&M’s, Hershey’s and Reese’s were top brands sold through supermarkets in 2006, but premium milk chocolates are expected to outpace conventional chocolate in all channels.

Meanwhile, the trend toward 100-calorie, portion-controlled packages continues to grow. Many chocolate varieties are popping up in this format. Some of these items are situated near the snacks, others are near the candy, but most of them highlight their caloric status in bold graphics and bright colors.

This can be a welcome signal to the calorie-conscious. But what message does it convey to those looking for a premium experience? Where can these people find a sensible serving of an indulgent treat?

Godiva has taken the idea of pleasure to another place in Chocoiste by putting its milk or dark chocolate into packaging that is more familiar for mints and gum: a flip-top tin. Combine that with an orb form and the whole eating experience is changed.

For this review, we had our taste-testers sample the Milk Chocolate Pearls variety of Godiva Chocoiste – and they loved it.

Calories have not been left unconsidered. While the pieces are tiny, being able to consume eight of them for just 25 calories seems guiltily satisfying. The whole experience of Chocoiste causes you to stop and take a look at it. With so many chocolate offerings today, that takes something!

Our CraveIt!, Deal with it!, It’s Convenient and Healthy You! insight databases find chocolate is both a craveable and comforting food. Cravings for chocolate candy are driven first by taste, followed by aroma and then mood. Since taste is the most important driver in this category, it doesn’t really matter what the benefits are (lower calories, sugar-free, added antioxidants). In the end, it must taste good to succeed.

Aroma comes next. The initial purchase “hook” is to play into the mood of the consumer. Are you a fun product or a decadent product? Can you be both convenient and indulgent?

The key trends are convenience, indulgence with health, and premiumness.

Convenience: Poppable formats like M&M’s and Poppables allow the consumer to eat while doing something else, typically with both hands. So Chocoiste’s tiny round form allows consumers to pick up individual pieces or to pour several into their mouth while working at the computer or driving kids to soccer practice. The recloseable (somewhat melt-preventing) packaging also is a plus.

Indulgence plus health: Pleasure is important as one form of stress relief. Certain nutrients and other ingredients might supply health benefits. If you can get both in one product, this is not only indulgence and health but convenience, too!

The type of chocolate in this product is the indulgent form we recognize from Godiva. The creative use of small spheres allows one to eat the product in a way that indulges. You can’t really eat these like a bar of chocolate – you are forced to suck and lick and savor the experience. Before you know it, it’s taken you several minutes to enjoy your suggested serving of eight pieces.

Premiumness: Small portions are integral to premiumness in order to remind us to savor the food. The shape says take a moment. And the idea of a sophisticated brown tin which is rounded and fits easily in your pocket, purse, or hand allows you to take this product with you, drop one round pearl in your mouth (just 3 calories!) and get the rich, premium taste of chocolate in your mouth with limited sin.

This is not a kids’ product – this is made for the adult or informed teen who wants to have some chocolate but wants the elegance of the package, taste and accessibility that Godiva Chocoiste has created.

The experience

Godiva Chocoiste Pearls are available in 1.5-oz. metal boxes for about $2.99. In addition to milk chocolate, they come in dark chocolate and dark chocolate with mint.

The metal tins, in Godiva’s signature rich copper color, are available individually and in multipacks of single or assorted flavors. Inside you find chocolate “pearls” slightly larger than a pea. The sheen on them is a clever way to keep the chocolate pearls from melting into each other.

Aroma is very faint. What you experience when placing one piece in your mouth is a layering of chocolate – the blend of sweet, very faint bitter, with vanilla and chocolate aromas coming from inside your mouth.

It is very easy to eat, since it does not need to be chewed but rather melts – and that helps transform the experience. Tasters found the chocolate to be “really creamy,” “rich” and “very indulgent-tasting.”

While some thought the small size was appropriate, others felt they were too small to be satisfying and “get the chocolate flavor I want.” One suggested if they were slightly bigger, that a single pearl would be sufficient to quell a craving (we suggested eating two of the current size, slowly). In fact, most did not consume the entire box in a single sitting. Most also loved the box and felt it helped make the product worth the price.

When we first discovered this product, the nutrition facts printed on the clear shrink wrap around the container indicated the serving size was the entire tin and contained about 220 calories. Subsequent purchases of the product revealed a change in this information. While the container size and calorie count hasn’t changed, the nutrition facts now indicate the box contains eight servings at 25 calories each. We feel as though we were given permission to eat the entire container, and then that permission was taken away by the change in packaging. Why?

If this is a nod to the current trend of 100-calorie packaging, then we’re glad Godiva chose not to highlight this anywhere on the package – we feel it would somehow cheapen the image.

Interestingly, no one commented on the caloric content of this product. When asked how many calories they thought the whole package might contain, tasters guessed as much as double the actual amount. When we told them the whole box was 220 calories, they felt the calorie count was a bargain. “That’s it for Godiva chocolate, seriously?” said one.

Does the product deliver?

Absolutely! Everyone who already loves Godiva and chocolate was impressed with everything about this product. Even our lone taster who does not care for chocolate raved about it.

Godiva promises that with this product “decadence goes mobile.” Chocolate lovers don’t have to wait to enjoy a premium experience. They can just pop one or two in their mouth while driving, working or whatever.

How to make the idea bigger: Offer larger packages so consumers can refill the container. Tasters were inclined to want to “save the pretty box for anything I might want to carry in my purse.” This would be a play on sustainability and would allow us to have our “own” tin.

Picking up on the shape and the texture and what it drove in our mouths, maybe Godiva could go beyond the chocolate pearls to other small candy-coated chocolates, mints or even medication. The shape so changed what many did with their mouth and tongue that it had us imagining.

Another opportunity might be to increase the availability of the product. Besides Godiva stores, we were only able to find them at the checkout and coffee stands in bookstores and at newsstands at the airport. While offering it in the current channels may be in keeping with the brand image, there may be advantages to making the product more accessible. Especially for those who view the product as “too fancy for me.”

Rating: Excellent. The absolute shock and awe expressed by our tasters at merely being asked to sample this product, even before tasting it, says volumes.

Market potential: Great! Indulgence can be both convenient and special at the same time. Putting this premium experience in a portion-controlled package that does not announce to the world you are watching your calories is a game-changer on multiple levels. Watch this one being adapted by others.

Hollis Ashman and Jacqueline Beckley are principals and Jennifer Vahalik a project manager of the Understanding & Insight Group, a strategy and product development firm that connects with consumers using qualitative and quantitative approaches. See www.theuandigroup.com.

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