The most expensive and Premium Chocolates

Chocolate has been around since the ancient Maya and Aztec cultures started mixing ground cacao seeds with various seasonings to make a spicy drink.

The world of chocolate has its highs and lows, to be sure. And the solid milk-chocolate bunnies we all enjoyed as kids are fine for 7-year-olds, but your palate has evolved beyond swapping quality for quantity. While Ferrero Rocher and Godiva are fine for some, the true chocolate connoisseur knows that the best there is to offer cannot be found in any drugstore.

Thankfully, gourmet chocolate is more abundant and have started to appear with greater frequency on mass merchandiser shelves, in discounters’ sets and even in supermarkets. After all, if Americans spend about $13 billion a year on chocolate, why shouldn’t we spend it on the good stuff? Suddenly, luxury items have become household staples.
Most of the growth is in dark chocolate. Hershey reports that dark-chocolate sales have grown by 11.2% in the last four years. As a result, the company is concentrating almost half of its business on dark-chocolate production by expanding already popular products, such as Hershey’s Special Dark, the best-selling dark-chocolate bar in the U.S., and by making limited-edition flavors of products like Hershey’s kisses in dark chocolate.
Why is dark chocolate so popular? Not only does it taste good, but, like all chocolate, it contains substances called phenylethylamine and seratonin, both of which are the mood elevators found naturally in the human brain. Moreover, according to Arthur Agatston, a Miami-based cardiologist and author of The South Beach Diet, dark chocolate is also healthier, because it has a higher percentage of cocoa than milk chocolate does.
Agatston says cocoa contains flavanols, which may help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system by relaxing blood vessels and keeping cholesterol from building up in them–thus reducing the risk of blood clots–and by slowing down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries. It is also an antioxidant. “Flavanols seem to have an aspirin-like affect, helping improve vascular endothelial function and moderate inflammation,” says Agatston.
But, of course, most people don’t buy chocolate because of its flavanols or its antioxidants. They buy it because it tastes good. And while true chocolate lovers are happy to have chocolate in just about any shape or form, the market is clearly growing at the top end.

Premium Chocolate Business

In order to maintain their share of the market and to appeal to more-affluent consumers, the chocolate giants are busy rolling out their own premium brands and making acquisitions. Hershey, the number-one selling chocolate in the nation, recently acquired two medium-sized Bay-area gourmet chocolate companies, Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt, for between $46.6 million and $61.1 million, in August of last year. The two companies’ combined sales are estimated at $25 million. In 2005, Hershey, which is based in Hershey, Pa., did more than $4.8 billion in sales.

Godiva, the popular luxury chocolate brand, hich brings in $500 million in annual sales, is expected to sell for more than $1 billion, according to analyst estimates. Campbell’s (CPB) acquired Godiva in 1966 and expanded the company to more than 450 boutiques in over 80 countries. “Godiva has been doing a great job in the last five years in reinvigorating the brand,” claims Clay Gordon, chocolate critic and author of the forthcoming book Discover Chocolate.
Godiva’s strong global brand image and established presence in the luxury market makes it a hot target for acquisition. Major chocolate players such as Hershey (HSY), Cadbury Schweppes (CSG) and Lindt & Sprüngli (LISN) have been discussed by analysts as potential suitors, with possibilities outside the industry including luxury brand group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton´
Lindt & Sprüngli is the only chocolate company that has expressed public interest in the acquisition of Godiva. Such a move would make sense to industry observers, given the two companies’ complementary business models and branding. The Swiss chocolate maker, which is “head and shoulders above everyone else” in the premium segment according to Mogelonsky, also acquired the San Leandro (Calif.)-based Ghirardelli Chocolate in 1998.
Today more consumers are indicating that if they are going to indulge, they want to do it in style. In much the same way that Americans have acquired a taste for single-malt whiskey, craft beers, and gourmet coffees, they are now also choosing premium chocolates over Snickers bars.
Marcia Mogelonsky, a senior research analyst at Mintel International, says the increased accessibility of premium chocolates coupled with increasingly sophisticated consumer tastes has led to the strong growth of this sector. “I think it changed when three or four years ago Lindt came out with those Lindor truffle balls that are now ubiquitous,” she says. “They’re not super-expensive, they’re enough to satisfy whatever craving you might have, and it’s really fine-quality chocolate.”
To hold on to their market share, mainstream chocolate makers have introduced branded organic and premium chocolates, a segment that has been pegged by Hershey’s and others as an essential sector for future growth. ershey’s has bought premium chocolate makers Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, Joseph Schmidt Confections, and Dagoba Organic Chocolate, which offer products that range from pricier high-quality bars that can be found in your local supermarket to luxury gift-box items like truffles. Recenly the company also signed an agreement with coffee giant Starbucks (SBUX) to produce, distribute, and market a range of Starbucks-branded chocolate. The new products are set to hit the shelves by early 2008.
The premium segment is growing, and that means fat profits for the chocolate industry. “Overall, I think the Hershey’s acquisitions and pending sale of Godiva say a lot of good things about the chocolate industry,” the specialist Nicolas Melillo says. “Before it was about people wanting to start a family business; now there’s a potential exit strategy for doing a really good job. This pending sale points to the overall potential of the industry rather than the other way around.”

Most expensive chocolates

Chocopologie by Knipschildt

Cost: $2,600 per pound
Knipschildt Chocolatier was founded in 1999 by Fritz Knipschildt, who got his culinary education as a chef in Denmark. The most-expensive chocolate he sells–a $250 dark chocolate truffle with a French black truffle inside–is available on a preorder-only basis. It’s made of 70% Valrhona cacao, which is blended into a creamy ganache with truffle oil. The truffle is then hand-rolled with a dark truffle on the inside and dusted with cocoa powder.

knipschildt chocolate

Noka Vintages Collection

Cost: $854 per pound
For those who enjoy a sparkle in their chocolate, there’s Delafee. The chocolate is prepared with fine cocoa beans and flakes of edible 24-karat gold applied by hand to each praline. Other ingredients include sugar, coconut oil, cocoa butter, milk powder and vanilla.

noka vintages chocolate

Delafee

Cost: $508 per pound
For those who enjoy a sparkle in their chocolate, there’s Delafee. The chocolate is prepared with fine cocoa beans and flakes of edible 24-karat gold applied by hand to each praline. Other ingredients include sugar, coconut oil, cocoa butter, milk powder and vanilla.

delafee chocolate

La Maison du Chocolat

Cost:Truffles are around $80 per pound and boxes are as much as $200.
As one of France’s finest manufacturers, there may be no other store that makes chocolate as luxurious as La Maison du Chocolat. The name says it all; it translates to The House of Chocolate.
La Maison packages its chocolates in leather boxes that are fine enough for the best jewelry. Each sweet contains no more than 65% cocoa, which provides the best balance between sweet and bitter. The shop proudly offers the finest in dark- and milk-chocolate truffles, marrons glaces, caramels and mendiants (chocolate slices that are sprinkled with dried fruits, assorted nuts or orange peel).

la maison du chocolat

Charbonnel et Walker

Cost: Truffles go for about $80 per pound, while an assortment will grab $70 per pound.

Charbonnel et Walker was founded in 1875 and is one of the earliest producers of chocolates in Britain. In the early days, the company was located in a small factory in southern England, where craftsmen made each chocolate by hand for delivery and sale in downtown London.
The production process is more refined these days, but the quality has remained intact. Charbonnel et Walker prides itself on using the best plain chocolate with the finest dark coverture to produce the silkiest, smoothest texture imaginable.
The company’s range includes its famous Ginger Sticks, Rose & Violet Creams, special assortments, and luxury truffles, such as Champagne, Port & Cranberry, Cappuccino, and Pink Champagne (strawberry and champagne).

charbonnel et walker chocolate

Source businessweek taunton forbes askmen

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8 Comments »

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