Fine chocolate has been freed from the conventions that have traditionally defined the segment, making a bold foray into the lifestyle segment. From explorations in color to artist collabs, chocolate is cementing a commitment to sustainability while forging a path of craft and personalization, says the report from our sister magazine Formes de Luxe.
All about color
Conventional colors begone! About 15 years ago, Patrick Roger broke with accepted shades in the chocolate segment, paving the way for other French chocolatiers to show their true colors. Disruptive for its time, his emerald green— developed by Paper Factory using a mass-dyed, FSC-certified paper over-printed with water-based ink to achieve the final shade—is today more fashionable than ever.
Margaux Pasquier, Director of Marketing Projects at Thibault Bergeron, confirms: “Rather than opting for mouth-watering colors, master chocolatiers are choosing shades that have not been thus far associated with strong sales in the food sector: peacock blue or turquoise and tropical greens, with a penchant for shades inspired by the luxurious foliage of the jungle.”
Bouillet pink, Michalak white, and bright Hermé orange: while major brands have laid claim to colors that are now a part of their identity, they have no qualms about occasionally breaking ranks—for major holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas—or more permanently, especially when seeking clarity in product branding. The Maison du Chocolat is one such example. The brand’s cocoa-colored chocolate coffret now bears a different color for each product: deep green for truffles, pink for chocolate sweets, and bright yellow for pastries and macarons.
As for chocolate bars, the color code (to differentiate ever larger product ranges) is superimposed on the brand’s identifying color—an essential reference point as the bean-to-bar approach becomes widespread within an ultra-segmented market that includes increasing numbers of origins, terroirs, estates, and vintages.
Ducasse pulled off the feat of introducing the notion of craft—and kraft paper—into the world of high-end chocolate. First launched in 2013, the packaging collections from La Manufacture Alain Ducasse included a then radical—but ultimately visionary—choice of raw, 100%-recycled, micro-fluted carboard enhanced with gold hot stamping. Designed by Pierre Tachon (Soins Graphiques agency), the concept has since been applied to coffrets and hexagonal sleeves, as well as bag-boxes (C2Pack). “Unlike ostentatious packaging, the idea was to get straight to the point,” remarks Tachon, who also designed the chocolates for La Manufacture. “That meant prioritizing raw materials and natural colors to showcase what makes craft ‘craft’ and its core values.”
Adopted by numerous brands, craft and kraft paper continue to be successful. At UK brand Chocolarder in 2022, Easter eggs were packaged in openwork, honeycomb sleeves made from kraft paper supported by a card- board exoskeleton (Flexi-Hex).
But perhaps the most remarkable design to appear on the chocolate scene in recent years remains the coffret by Julien Dechenaud: an oval accordion made of 120 leaves of foodgrade card designed by French agency Bemad and assembled at La Paper Factory’s workshops. Winner of a Prix Formes de Luxe award in 2021, the coffret redefines the limits of manufacturing and will be adapted this year as round ornaments for Christmas and bells for Easter. The coffret was a real challenge in terms of balancing tensions to create a choice eco-solution suited to brand strategies that eschew the PET cases traditionally used.
Do illustrations on the pack always have to be related to the product itself? When it comes to chocolate, the answer is no. Now that chocolate has made inroads into lifestyle domains, all graphic design strategies are valid ways to illustrate a brand’s singularity. And a new generation of chocolatiers is inventing an iconography that rejects the naturalist illustrations and cartographic style that some brands still use to situate the geographic origin of their chocolates. Take the quirky world of Omnom (Iceland): for this organic chocolate brand, one of the co-founders, designer André Úlfur of Visage/Studio Wolftown, developed an ultra-graphic aesthetic in the form of a vectorized bestiary featuring wolves, sheep, polar bears and penguins. The stiff, matte cardboard cases, decorated with a sleeve-cum-label, can be unfolded and used as small tasting platters. The minimalist formats (60g) reflect the “tasting” trend among chocolate bars, which have decreased in weight as they have increased in quality.
Coco (Edinburg) seeks to elevate the chocolate bar to the status of collector object: using a concept developed by agency Freytag Anderson, the Scottish chocolatier wraps its bars in original compositions and drawings, all created by independent artists (French graphic designer/illustrator duos Palefroi and Atelier Bingo; British illustrator Andrew Rae; Scottish designer Chris Turner…). The product line, The Art of Chocolate, is printed on uncoated paper (Fedrigoni), and each bar is embellished with a white label evocative of the descriptions that accompany artworks in a museum.
In Shanghai, the Low Key Design agency drew on similar inspiration to design a collection of punchy, vividly colored cases for bean-to-bar boutique Nibbo. Embossed and embellished with a black satin varnish, each mini pouch includes a card, tucked into a front pocket, resembling a ticket to a “museum of chocolate flavors”.
Personalization & ready-to-send
Having worked with more than 500 artists— including illustrators, comic book artists, and painters—Le Chocolat des Français is a pioneer in artistic interpretations. Last year, the brand launched Christmas happenings in its boutiques in Paris. The events included original works created live by an artist on bars pre-packaged in recycled Olin natural white paper (Antalis). Paul-Henri Masson, the brand’s co-founder, offers an option to personalize chocolate bars online.
Chocolate is witnessing a boom in customization, especially during the winter holidays, as an increasing number of chocolatiers introduce personalized offers. At Hugo & Victor, writer’s notebooks, grimoires, and hat boxes (Makao/ SNCA) come with personalized sleeves, bands, and hot stamping, all paired with new options that go hand-in-hand with the of development e-commerce. “During the pandemic, we released our cocoa envelope,” explains Founder Hugues Pouget, “an extra-flat, gourmet envelope designed to be slipped into mail boxes, with a single format containing 18 chocolate candies.” Made by Thibault Bergeron, the envelope is in cocoa paper.
At James Cropper and Favini (the Crush line), the paper, available with 15 to 40% cocoa bean waste, is also popular with artisan chocolatiers in search of ever more sustainable coffrets and cases. This trend review wraps up with Éditions du Chocolat, where Marc Lafard, CEO, created Chocopost, a patented, extra-flat case-envelope (less than 3cm thick) compatible with all decorations and finishes, and suited to flexible and rigid embellishing materials. Designed to optimize delivery of corporate gifts while minimizing shipping costs, it can be mailed at letter rate, and its ingenious opening mechanism—an insertable cardboard tab—also acts as a tamper-proof device.
With modular geometry and available in single, double, or triple-fluted recycled cardboard, Chocopost also comes in an isothermal version that utilizes a recyclable lining made from eco-designed triple-layer films.
This article was originally published in the autumn 2022 issue of Formes de Luxe magazine. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.