“He turned and reached behind him for the chocolate bar, then he turned back again and handed it to Charlie. Charlie grabbed it and quickly tore off the wrapper and took an enormous bite. Then he took another…and another…and oh, the joy of being able to cram large pieces of something sweet and solid into one’s mouth! The sheer blissful joy of being able to fill one’s mouth with rich solid food!”
This quote is taken from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a 1964 children’s book written by British author Roald Dahl. (There were two movies based on the book as well.) The story features a young boy who wins a tour of a chocolate factory owned by Willy Wonka, an eccentric candy maker.
As you read the quote, you can picture Charlie savoring every piece of that chocolate bar, the smile on his face, the utter bliss he experiences with that first bite. It is a totally emotional experience. For many people chocolate is indeed an emotional experience.
The Food & Drink Business Europe online publication recently published an article about how the Emotional Benefits of Chocolate Outweigh Any Health Concerns. It was not a scientific article about the benefits or unhealthiness of chocolate itself. Instead, it addressed the “psychological merits of the treat.”
The research outlined in the article showed that consumers overwhelmingly believe there are emotional health benefits to eating chocolate. So it is not surprising that in many markets, sales of the confection are booming and there is strong consumer demand for quality chocolate. The article goes on to say that:
Approaching one quarter (22%) of chocolate eaters in France say that a product containing premium ingredients is an important factor when buying chocolate, followed by 21% in Italy, 17% in Spain, 11% in Germany and 9% in Poland. What’s more, one quarter (25%) of chocolate buyers in the UK say they would be willing to pay more for a luxury brand of chocolate for themselves, whilst 44% would be willing to pay more when buying as a gift.
This research emphasizes the fact that consumers care about what’s inside the chocolate as well as what’s inside the package. If you are a manufacturer of chocolates you better be paying attention to the look, the smell, the taste, and the packaging – which all contribute to the emotional appeal of the brand as well as the bottom line results.
Customers are looking for premium ingredients. That also means they are looking for a premium chocolate sensory experience, from the snap sound of breaking off a piece of chocolate to the first taste of the confection. The consumer may judge the quality of a whole box of chocolates, maybe even a whole company’s offerings, from that first bite. It’s an emotional choice so they may not give a poor chocolate a second chance. If a chocolate is rough or grainy, consumers will consider it to be of poor quality; they are expecting smooth and creamy to the palate.
Measuring the viscosity and the yield stress of the ingredients to see how they will affect the snap and hardness of the chocolate is a must in the quality assurance program of the chocolate industry. It also is important for the manufacturer to perform rheological tests to study and control the texture of the final product. As we mentioned in a previous article, How Does that Chocolate Feel?, manufacturers need to use a highly flexible Modular Advanced Rheometer System (MARS) to look at the physical properties, including the crystallation behavior of the fat, which is one of the most important factors in the texture and ‘mouthfeel’ of chocolate.
These analysis quality control steps are ways to help ensure a quality product, but there are at least two other quality control concerns. When a recipient of the gift of chocolates opens the box, are all the pieces there? And are there any ingredients contained in the chocolate that shouldn’t be there? Can you imagine being the gift-giver and watching your dinner host open the box of chocolates at the end of the meal and offer the treats to the dinner guests, and one of the spaces in the tray is empty before it is even offered to the first guest? That would be quite embarrassing — to the host, to the giver, to the guests – and not the kind of emotion you want a consumer to feel the next time he or she is walking down the chocolate aisle, and ignoring your brand.
Even worse than finding an empty space where a chocolate candy should be, is finding a foreign object. That issue could cause a social media nightmare, in addition to consumer complaints. Many raw ingredients are bagged in fields and on farms and then shipped directly to manufacturers without being checked for foreign matter, like stones and glass. Sometimes pieces of machinery break off during the manufacturing process, or screens and filters are not of adequate size so unsuitable materials, like metal and plastic, often go unseen.
Installing x-ray systems that detect dense contaminants such as metal, stone, and glass, and checkweighers that help ensure that a chocolate appears in each of the assigned spots in a tray are quality control necessities. It may have turned into a different story if Charlie bit into the chocolate and broke a tooth. His emotional attachment to Mr. Wonka’s chocolates and factory may have ended with that first bite.
Mr. Wonka is described as ‘the most amazing, the most fantastic, the most extraordinary chocolate maker the world has ever seen!’ Does that describe your company? Are you implementing quality control procedures and equipment throughout your plant to help ensure consumers make an emotional connection to your brand and think your products are the most extraordinary chocolate the world has ever seen? It all starts with the first bite.