Thursday, October 1, 2015

How to Make Halloween Chocolate that Sells!

Over on The Chocolate Journalist website last week, the journalist talked about six reasons chocolate makers might find their sales falling flat. This made me think of our upcoming holiday, Halloween, which should be a huge seller for any chocolate or candy maker yet I've seen lovely chocolates unbought and nearly unsellable come November 1st. While I think the six reasons were great two more came to my mind that I'd like to share with you all as we count down to Halloween. The photos in this article come from the years 2009-2014 of our Halloween Treat Challenge.

Unless you are selling solely online (I would never recommend that especially for small companies) you need to think about the economics and expectations of your community to learn how to best promote your creations.

1. Catch Phrases

You might have made an investment in your training and proclaim yourself “French” or “Swiss” trained but if you running a small shop in a small town with one or two grocery stores or a high rate of poverty your potential market is unlikely to know what that means. I live in a fairly well-off university town and I've met many people who don't even know that chocolate originates from cocoa beans so they certainly might scratch their heads at your fancy training claims. Instead of fancy training pedigrees use phrases like "homemade" or handcrafted" or even "locally produced" when you are promoting your chocolates in general. Use the pedigrees in large cities where you have more competition or wealthy villages or towns where the average income is above average.

2. Comparative Pricing

If the people in your community can buy a 20 piece chocolate box at the local drugstore for $15 why would they pay $2 a piece for your truffles? Maybe for a very special holiday they might but how many of you want to only be a holiday chocolate company? Check out your competition especially if your competition is a grocery store, specialty food shop, or convenience store. What the folks in your community are used to paying should be strongly considered before you even start up your chocolate business. If the average "chocolate" bar is under 2 ounces and priced at around a dollar, your 3 oz at $3 will seem pricy. Sure you can overcome that with a lot of marketing but that takes time and money. Perhaps start with similar sized bars for just slightly more money and then as you win mouths over, you can introduce buyers to bigger or better products.

3. Ingredient Locations

Finally consider how you are getting your ingredients. You might have met some amazing cocoa farmers at big city trade show be behind the fair trade movement but those ingredients have to get to you from them. That costs money and takes time. If your market isn't used to the best beans nor understands what single origin or bean to bar means, that might not be where you should be making your investments to start off. Consider using local ingredients when you can for added flavors and good but easily acquired couverture. As your business increases and you introduce your community to better chocolate you can always change to better couverture because by then you'll have taught your market about chocolate and slowly increased your prices as they learn. The upside to using more local ingredients as much as possible is lower costs and the ability to promote yourself as a local job creator or supporter.

There are three immediate concerns I've seen ignored by several small chocolate and candy shops over the seven years I've been doing this blog. Chocolate making and sell is a tough business. Don't make it tougher by making your products out of mind or out of reach for your local customers.

What does this have to do with Halloween?

The same things you should think about in general apply even more to holidays but with one very specific Halloween question.

1) How do the people in your community celebrate Halloween?

If it is a big trick or treating event, you'll want small individually wrapped products that you can make and sell in bulk.

If it is a place where parties are the big thing then you need to think about how parties.

If these are Halloween parties for children, go for milk or white chocolate, lower price, "spooky" or funny shapes and names.

If these are adult Halloween parties those can range from let's get drunk (you could do the kids with a crank up on the creepy) to horror movie watching (consider bite sized treats or something with popcorn) to sophisticated masquerades (elegant 2-3 bite pieces and a center piece or two would be excellent here).

Look back over the examples from past Halloween Treat Challenge posts that I've peppered this article with for examples. Which of these items would be good for trick or treating where you live? Now which of these should your shop be making to sell for Halloween?

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