Beating the Heat: Will craft chocolate survive the pandemic?
Tell me I’m essential — by David Belo
Luxury and affordable are often oxymorons, however the rise of craft food ushered in by the redistribution of talent and opportunities after the last big financial disaster of the 2008 crash (Im conjuring pictures of ex-bankers kneading bread in repurposed stone-walled post offices in South West London) hundreds of thousands of little businesses around the globe slowly began to pick at industrial food supply chains, our notion of what food has become, and hash into them fueled by stories from their “grandparents day” with a level of artistic and technical know-how not seen in food & drink for a very long time if ever.
As urban fashion becomes glamourised and taken off the streets with Supreme & Louis Vuitton collaborations yielding t-shirts being flogged for up to 20x their retail price to luxury collectors in China, speciality food & drink has aimed to remain accessible, so as to bring little everyday moments of glamour to our lives sans the need to break the bank, line up in tents or buy a 1 sqm of land in Scotland over the internet to become a Lord or Lady just to do so.
As chocolate makers, we at Naviluna have noticed two dominant trends during the pandemic;
- Although consumers are feeling the pinch due to the lockdown, affordable luxury seems to be more important than ever for some sofa-side respite
- The rise of the mighty Home baker!
Self love, TLC, creativity and even a little chocolate brownie side hustling seem to be the “fight or flight” of the urban citizen’s COVID playbook.
The full extent of the economic damage caused by the pandemic is yet to be weighed out, and while some markets seem to have stabilised or even be on their way to recovery, others are left with much uncertainty as to when salaries and jobs will be fully reinstated. A Texan lady on a train once told me, ‘’oh you’re studying to pour drinks’’ as clutched to my copy of a TGI Fridays bar manual, ‘’that’s a great gig, when people are happy, they want a drink. When they’re down on their luck, they want a drink.’’ Does this recession-proof super power apply to chocolate? Whilst not exactly an ‘’essential’’ the commodity was packed into the ration kits of soldiers in World War II, and here lays chocolate’s true cause. With a shopping list of feel good chemicals like anandamide, phenylethylamine and high levels of serotonin, chocolate’s ability to sooth and distract during obscure times is arguably unmatched by anything not being peddled by El Chapo and Friends.
So here the real questions lies as to whether it is industrial or craft chocolate that’s truly able to reach in and sooth the hearts of many that just need an excuse to smile at the creamy rich goodness so painstakingly (or not — in the case of the former) made for our eating pleasure. Whilst of course both industrial and craft chocolate represent different constituencies in terms of target audiences there is a middle swing consumer (insert USA election satire comments here — let’s make chocolate great again?) who is ready and waiting to be wooed and convinced of all the subtle, well-crafted, buzzwordy promises of the craft chocolate movement and will gladly return to their their house-hold-name favourite if not adequately persuaded. We live in a world today with many questions, with this Im sure, being the absolute least important of them all, but a fun one for which we have bought front row seats, and are delighted to wait and see what the outcome is.