I've talked about history, agriculture, fair trade, even highlighted women as chocolate makers in the past. One thing your Chocolate Priestess has not spent a lot of time on: the price of chocolate from the consumer's view.
Oh, I've talked about how we have to think about all those social and political issues, how you need to spend your money wisely, that is what are reviews are designed to do -- help you make better choices on chocolate. But I've never come right out and discussed what I think is a huge problem with many chocolatiers and companies today.
Chocolate, quality chocolate, is very over-priced.
When I walk into a local store and see a fair-trade, eco-friendly produced bar of the same size as another big brand bar I compare not just ingredients, not just business practices but also prices. Today it is difficult to find such a socially conscious bar in the same size as the general Hershey's bar many of us grew up with in the USA that competes with in in terms of price unless it, too, comes from a big brand name. There are some bigger names out there now in terms of chocolate, fair-trade, and other issues we try to care about but I don't think I've seen them for less that 2+ times the price of that standard bar and then that was on sale, with a coupon.
Something has to change if we, if producers, if growers, if chocolatiers, want to promote chocolate culture and do it in a way that can change the industry worldwide. All the slogans in the world won't make Hanna Homemaker or Lisa Lawyer or Kurt Construction Worker pick up an Endangered Species bar when she/he can get 3 of the cheap big name bars for the same price. During the holidays when the bulk of candy is sold in the USA, unless it is Valentine's Day, they, which means us, are going to go for pennies per ounce over helping the farmers that are just news stories.
So I want to challenge all the chocolatiers out there, all the candy shops, all the companies trying to do the right thing to think a bit more about pricing. You want to make a good living, you want to pay your workers and those who grow and bring you the chocolate a good living wage. If you want to grow your business you are going to have to think about Jane and Joe America, Betty and Edger UK, and the rest of the world who buys your products and think about the tough choices we have to make for our families.
You can help us in three ways.
You can promote your social consciousness more aggressively. That will get some of us to buy your products but to be blunt we can only do that so often.
You can also look at your own business and evaluate what you using in your products. I've seen so many companies put out dozens and dozens of flavors and then I see those flavors, those novelties left over by the dozens and dozens if not more the week or so after a big holiday or in the discount bins at the stores. This trend toward fancier and stranger combinations of chocolates... is it really reflecting well in your bottom line? How much of your price is counting in the "fact" that you'll waste X amount of products or the fact that to try this new flavor you have to buy these extra ingredients?
Finally you tone down your business expectations. Not long ago on LinkedIn a chocolate maker bemoaned the fact that after seven years business had gone under. No reflection on what she could have done differently, no consideration that maybe her advertisements were appropriate, just a blaming of the economic conditions of the world. Why can't you be happy as a local shop? Or a regional shop? Why can't you be thrilled that folks rave about your truffles instead of insisting you can do cookies, too?
I admire the men and women who hear Cacao calling their creativity and their passion, who take that risk of starting a business. I adore everyone who has ever sent us offerings to try and then reveal to you all. I want them to succeed. I want chocolate to be available to the world and to be a force of change in the world.
It can only be that if more of us buy the best chocolates and cocoas created under the best circumstances and we'll only do that if we honestly feel it is worth the price. Help us see that the benefit to cost ratio is much closer than it seems when we walk through our stores or explore the Internet. Reflect on your business and communicate better with us.