Calling all chocolate makers: Make sure you have enough premium and “better-for-you” chocolate on hand today for all those “Last-Minute Louies.” Ha, I bet only a select few remember that moniker from days back when.
More importantly, it’s probably a good time to consider what you should be putting out for next year. Yes, I’m jumping forward that far ahead. One of the reasons stems from what a recent report form Nielsen Product Insider posted yesterday.
The email from Genevieve Lee Aronson, v.p. – communications, Nielsen, said that “According to the latest data, consumers continue to gravitate towards healthier options — even on Valentine's Day. Nielsen data shows growing sales of "better-for-you" chocolates. She also mentioned fresh strawberries and wine. No issues there; they’re favorites of mine as well.
But let’s focus on the chocolate and Valentine’s Day. The Nielsen report said that last year, Valentine’s Day candy generated $695 million. What’s interesting here is this observation:
“Whether Valentine’s Day or any simply sweet occasion, chocolate dollars have started to increase among varieties that have better-for-you, healthy ingredients. For example, sales of specialty chocolates containing cacao, an ingredient that some believe can improve heart health, have increased in dollars from 2016 by 26.3 percent [Need to interject here. I believe what they mean is that the chocolates contain a higher percentage of cacao.
Naturally, to be chocolate, it needs to contain cocoa and cocoa butter]. Additionally, chocolates with all natural, clean label and sustainable claims are also on the rise. In fact, 51% of specialty chocolate sales in 2017 came from products that are categorized as clean labeled. For chocolate candy manufacturers, knowing which attributes are driving sales growth can help plan to better satisfy consumers’ sweet tooths.”
This cute little graphic gives you a quick idea of what “better-for-you” characteristics consumers are interested. Personally, I’ve always believed that premium chocolate never needed a “better-for-you” moniker.
Nielsen chocolateIf you’re using fine-flavored cocoa beans and quality ingredients, you don’t need much to satisfy one’s craving for indulgence. It’s portion control, sweet satiation and healthy living wrapped in one.
And keep in mind that clean label doesn’t have to be boring. Having recently covered the ISM show in Cologne, Germany — don’t miss our tag-team coverage in the March issue — it’s clear that upgrading ingredients has become a movement. 
Whether it’s better chocolate, better fats, better inclusions, even better packaging, providing upgrades for consumers is a winning strategy.
And on a related Valentine’s Day note, I saw this item on Galentine’s Day in this morning’s Chicago Tribune. Despite my age, I do try to remain current on pop culture and lifestyle trends. In full disclosure, however, I have to admit this one passed me by. 
It seems Galentine’s Day was first introduced on the NBC television show, “Parks and Recreation.” It’s a comedy show — and yes, even I have seen it — that aired from 2009 to 2015.
As she explains in that 2010 episode, actress Amy Poehler, playing the character Leslie Knope, said, “Every Feb. 13, my ladyfriends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”
Well, it’s gone beyond that, even to the point of dovetailing the celebration with the #MeToo movement. From my perspective, it’s a great opportunity for candy and chocolate makers to help women celebrate female solidarity. And what better way than with chocolate and sweets?