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Don’t Be Tricked by These 4 Claims When Shopping for Chocolate This Christmas

The winter Holiday season is that time of the year where chocolate companies, from family-owned businesses to corporations, make a great chunk of their yearly income.

It’s a much-anticipated time for all chocolate brands, that get ready months in advance to satisfy the increased demand with special releases, gift sets, Christmas collections, and limited-edition products. Also, consumers around the world evoke their inner chocoholic more than ever this time of the year: more hot chocolate sipped next to the Christmas tree, more sweet treats to keep around the house for guests, more boxes of bonbons gifted, and a bigger inclination to indulge. But while we shop frenetically for chocolate, the opportunities to be misled by deceiving marketing claims increase too.

We are in such a hurry during the holiday season that we might not pay attention to what we are actually purchasing, and believe in a quick look at the packaging instead of taking a few moments to reflect: “Is what I am purchasing worth the money? Is this product as high quality as it claims to be? Am I being misled somehow?”.

Here are 4 claims that you should always question when shopping for chocolate, especially during this holiday season:

what big chocolate doesnt want you to know about chocolate

1.  Artisanal/Handmade

These words evoke in us positive feelings: a product that has been made with love and care by the hands of a passionate professional that values quality over quantity. But let’s use our brains here: how can a brand that sells billions of products in thousands of stores around the world use artisanal methods? Simple, it doesn’t.

Perhaps the claim was left there when the company was founded (like “Handmade in Belgium since 1876”), or it is an intentional marketing technique to evoke the positive feelings connected to these words, when reality couldn’t be more different. Nowadays a brand needs to prove its “artisanality”: visit their website, check their Social Media, and realize for yourself the real scale of the brand you are looking at.

the truth about chocolate

2. Premium/Excellence/Selection

It’s funny how big companies set the lowest possible standards for chocolate with their everyday products just to create Premium, Excellence or Selection lines with the false illusion of offering better alternatives. When a chocolate bar costs $1 and is made with the cheapest possible ingredients, anything that is slightly better can then be part of an exclusive line.

But this doesn’t mean that the “premium” line is anything special or worth purchasing since the comparison is set on such low-quality standards. This is another marketing technique to make consumers spend more money on the premium/excellence/selection products, especially during the holidays when we look for special chocolate to gift.

Don’t believe these claims, but always check for other cues of quality such as the ingredients list, the price and the overall assortment of the company.

Is chocolate vegan

3. Intense/Noir/Extra Dark

Be alarmed when you read these words on the packaging of what should be “dark chocolate”. Companies know well that consumers associate dark chocolate with health benefits and low-sugar content. This is why dark chocolate is always a best seller. But these intense/noir/extra dark claims are used when the brand doesn’t have the requirements to legally call their products “dark chocolate”. In these cases, sugar can be the very first ingredient (just when you thought you were choosing the healthiest option!), or the product can even contain dairy ingredients like milk powder (while you righteously expect dark chocolate to be dairy-free).

The company puts these claims in bold letters on the front of its packaging to suggest that the product is dark chocolate, while in reality, the ingredients used are far away from the quality standard for dark chocolate (this is why the company can’t write “dark chocolate” on the packaging). Remember to always check the ingredients list to cast any doubt, no matter what the intriguing words written on the packaging might suggest.

milk powder in chocolate

4. Simple/Natural/Minimal ingredients

If you get excited about these claims, you are rewarding a company for doing the bare minimum. Chocolate is a complex food to make, but one that requires very few ingredients, with cacao and sugar being already enough for dark chocolate. Not using vegetable oils or artificial flavours should be expected, not rewarded. You wouldn’t congratulate a chef for not putting poison in your dish, right?

It’s also worth considering that big chocolate companies were the first ones to use questionable ingredients in their products, and it’s funny how they are now patting themselves on the back for using simple, natural and minimal ingredients. We shouldn’t be giving medal of honours to companies for doing the bare minimum!

Notice also that these claims are in no way synonymous with quality: you can use few ingredients and they can still be cheap, low-quality and unethical. So while shopping for chocolate, these claims should bear little to no value in your mind.

It’s tricky out there with so many different chocolate brands, shiny and colourful packages, bold statements, eye-catching images, and all the other savvy techniques used by companies to get your attention and lead you to purchase.

But keep it simple and stick to these easy instructions: check the ingredients list, give value to the price tag (quality products will never be too cheap), don’t give importance to “bare minimum” claims, and always do your research on the company’s Social Media accounts and websites to get a feeling of who they really are.

Happy chocolate shopping, everybody!

Sharon is a Chocolate Blogger that reports the latest news and trends in the chocolate industry from around the world. Read more of her work on: thechocolatejournalist.com.

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