How chocolate tells its story: A wrapper side-by-sideMy Mom was visiting me in L.A. on the long weekend, and we stopped by the Glendale Galleria’s Lolli and Pops candy shop so she could pick up all kinds of sweets for people back home.

While she was wading her way through the taffies and candied popcorns, I browsed the artisan chocolate bars and snapped a few shots of the back of the packaging.

Given the volume of artisan chocolate that’s out there now, how are these bars positioning themselves when they’re out there on the store shelf, sitting next to dozens of other options?

Let’s take a look at a few of the random bars I picked up.

Moonstruck

Bar: Dark Chocolate Chile Variado

Package copy:

Product description on the back of a Moonstruck chocolate bar

The first bite of Moonstruck Dark Chocolate Chile Variado entices your senses. Let each nibble melt on your tongue. Inhale the intoxicating aroma. The last bite comes far too quickly.

Get the last bite.

Focus: The eating experience

Analysis: This story walks the reader through the (rather intense sounding) experience they will have if they eat the chocolate bar. ‘Get the last bite’, is a fantastic, really enticing call to action.


The Grenada Chocolate Company

Bar: 60% Cocoa

Package copy:

The Tree-to-Bar Cooperative

We are the cocoa farmers. We’ve made this chocolate for you from tree to bar with our delicious Grenadian Trinitario cocoa beans. Nestled in the lush Caribbean rain-forest, our organic farms bear beans world famous for their rich, complex flavour. Our small-batch process preserves the true taste of Grenada’s cocoa. Solar energy powers our factory in the bright Caribbean sun. The wrapper is printed on 50% recycled/25% post-consumer-waste stock with vegetable-based inks.

Selling point: Ethical providence

Analysis: This copy is a little long, but paints a nice little picture of where the beans and bar came from—which makes perfect sense for the “Grenada Chocolate Company”.


Mast Brothers

Bar: Stumptown Coffee

Package copy:

Product description on the back of a Mast Brothers chocolate bar

Cacao, cane sugar, coffee beans

Freshly roasted, seasonal coffees are put under the stone with our dark chocolate. Butter texture with crisp notes of fruit and tobacco.

Selling point: Purity and simplicity

Analysis: So simple. Perfect for these guys, whose chocolates (and beautiful packaging designs) do all the talking.


Askinoise

Bar: Dark Milk Chocolate + Ancho Chile & Pistachio CollaBARation Bar

Package copy:

Salt Flakes & Pistachio Play Hopscotch on the Dark Goat’s Milk Chocolate Ancho Chile Altar

Selling point: Whimsical flavor

That’s quite the little image, the story paints. Clearly Askinoise thought so too, because that’s actually the copy that appears on the front of the bar package, in place of the product name. It’s all about playing up the unique, kind of quirky mix of flavors. It does an ace job.


Olive and Sinclair

Bar: 67% Cacao

Package copy:

So what is …

Southern Artisan Chocolate?

HAND CRAFTED by native Nashvillians in the heart of Music City. Olive and Sinclair is proud to be the original bean-to-bar chocolate maker of the South. Slow roasted and stone ground in small batches, select single origin beans are combined with pure brown sugar for a smooth and robust flavor that’s unique to Southern Artisan Chocolate. Our combination of traditional methods, modern European technique and classic southern flavors make Olive & Sinclair the new old fashioned chocolate.

Focus: Southern providence

Analysis: This copy seems to be trying hard to do everything—and in the process burying the details that are most interesting: Nashville; small batch, single origin beans; brown sugar. What if it was just:

HAND CRAFTED by native Nashvillians. Slow roasted and stone ground in small batches, select single origin beans are combined with pure brown sugar for a smooth and robust flavor that’s unique to Southern Artisan Chocolate.


Madécasse

Bar: Cinnamon & Chili Pepper

Package copy:

We were peace corps volunteers in Madagascar. We fell in love with the country & people. So we tried something unheard of. We started making chocolate from scratch, in Madagascar, using some of the most flavorful cocoa in the world. The result? A better bar of chocolate. And 4x the impact of fair trade cocoa.

Find out more at madecasse.com

Focus: Ethical providence

Analysis: This copy tells an interesting little story about why this company does what it does, and the benefit that has to people they care about: “4x the impact of fair trade cocoa”. Ethical food products have their niche, and I think this copy does a good job of nailing what that audience wants to know about the chocolate they choose.


Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolates

Bar: 75% Bolivia

Package copy:

Product description on the back of a Twenty-four Blackbirds chocolate bar

We make our chocolate with just cocoa beans and sugar to to highlight the natural variation in flavor from each region and harvest. We complete the whole chocolate-making process, from bean to bar, in our small factory in Santa Barbara, CA.

Focus: Ingredients + small scale

Analysis: This copy is so simple, which really suits and echoes their (and all the more compelling) focus on ingredients. “Harvest” is one word that I’m surprised doesn’t show up as often on some of these other bars used in this way—to remind us that variation is a hallmark of smaller scale production, and the nature non-industrial foods.

How do the old stalwarts compare?

After checking out all those artisanal bars, I couldn’t help stopping by Walgreens to check out and compare how the old, recognizable name brand chocolate bars we all grew up with tell their own stories, too.

 

Cadbury

Bar: Dairy Milk

Package copy:

Product description on a Cadbury chocolate bar

John Cadbury opened his first store in 1824. His passion for the art of confectionary produced smooth, rich and delicious chocolates. That tradition lives on today in the form of exquisite chocolates made to suit the connoisseur’s palate. Enjoy.

Focus: History

Analysis: If you’ve been around this long, it makes sense to focus on your history. But given the company Cadbury is sitting in amongst all the chocolates in this article, “exquisite” and “suit the connoisseur’s palate” come off as a bit hokey and lacks credibility. Maybe that’s less the case in the context of a checkout lane, but I think it would make more sense to focus on childhood nostalgia.


Ghirardelli

Bar: Intense Dark 72% Cacao Twilight Delight

Package copy:

Create your own perfect moment with Twilight Delight. Our luxuriously deep and velvety 72% cacao dark chocolate with notes of mocha, blackberry and dark cherry delivers an unrivaled chocolate intensity. Find your moment of timeless pleasure with Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark chocolate.

Focus: Eating experience

Analysis: This copy assumes the buyer is the eater (I wonder how much that holds true for all these chocolates?). Creating a moment for yourself—a “perfect moment” of “timeless pleasure”. It makes sense for this type of mid-priced (fancier than a Hershey bar) but still accessible chocolate. A low-barrier self indulgence.


Godiva

Bar: 72% Dark Chocolate with Almonds

Package copy:

For over 80 years, our passion for perfection in all things chocolate has guided us on a wonderful epicurean adventure. Every Godiva chocolate experience is a journey in decadent delight and represents our commitment to craftsmanship and exceptional quality. Break off a piece of Godiva … everyday.

Focus: Eating experience + history

Analysis: I’m kind of surprised at Godiva’s little story—it neatly captures their ‘why’, gets in a nod to their long history (i.e. they know what they’re doing), tells the reader what they can expect to experience when eating the chocolate, and ends with a tagline-y little call to action. It’s a good little number.


Lindt

Bar: Excellence 70% Cocoa

Package copy:

LINDT EXCELLENCE gourmet chocolate is prepared especially for you by Lindt’s Master Chocolatiers who, from selecting the highest quality cocoa beans to creating the finest textures and tastes chocolate can offer, demand nothing less than perfection. Experience the ultimate union of force and finesse through Lindt Excellence’s intense and elegant flavors, fine textures and lingering tastes. Discover Lindt Excellence with all your senses.

Focus: Craft + quality

Analysis: Well, after you’ve read so many chocolate bar wrappers all at once, the less original ones tend to start to mush together. “High quality” and “finest” and “perfection” mean different things to different people. Now, if your audience is as wide as this—anyone and everyone who likes to eat chocolate, has three dollars in their pocket, and who passes through the candy aisle at a major American drugstore—you’re probably going to resort to these clichés. I like Lindt, but their packaging is kinda lame. Why not focus on Swiss-ness? Nobody questions the quality and craft of Swiss origin products (even if they aren’t actually made there).


Takeaways

A lot of these packages resort to wording that is trite or clichéd—words like ‘rich’, ‘smooth’, ‘quality’, and ‘finest’. When every bar at every price point uses the same copy, it becomes meaningless. It does nothing to help me the customer choose one of my many options.

The best package copy from these samples not only communicates a focused value proposition—tells me what unique value they offer—but evokes that value in format, personality and tone too. Askinoise’s whimsical story for its whimsical flavour. Mast Brothers’ bare-bones description for its three-ingredient bar. Pleasure-focused Godiva’s “epicurean adventure” and promise of a “journey in decadent delight”.

Great packaging acknowledges that being picked up, checked out, and read kicks things off for the customer. It’s part of the consumption experience—customer experience—too.

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