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The Washington Post reports that “like coffee before it, chocolate is going complex and upscale. This holiday season, look for Tasmanian honey wrapped in dark chocolate from Godiva and custom made boxes tied with double-faced satin ribbon at exclusive Manhattan specialty store Bergdorf Goodman. Christmas is the peak time for premium chocolate sales, and big candy companies and small chocolatiers alike are rolling out some of their most high-end products to date.”

Got that?

If not, listen to Laure de Montebello, co-owner and chef of Sans Souci Gourmet Confections: “Chocolate is not always about eating," she tells the Post. “Chocolate is a 'feel' business.”

Or Sharon Rothstein, vice president for global marketing and merchandise for Godiva: “"People who want to take a moment out and truly self-indulge want to do it in a way that's elevated.”

Or John Haugh, president of gourmet chocolate and retail for a division of Mars, who says about the company’s seven “Ethel’s Chocolate Lounges” opened in the Chicago area: "Traditionally, when consumers think about chocolate, they think of special occasions," he says, noting that the lounges are designed to bring "premium chocolate into an everyday experience."

It is, according to the Post, the “Starbucks effect,” in which a traditionally mainstream product is given new complexity and sophistication through savvy product development, canny marketing, and an appreciation for consumer aspirations.
KC's View:
Just reading this piece gave us a hankering for chocolate.

So we went over to the freezer and got one of those Nestle Crunch bars we keep there. Yummm…

Not exactly upscale, but oh so satisfying.

We’d have to disagree with Laure de Montebello. Chocolate is always about eating.

But while we can’t imagine any circumstances under which we’d find ourselves in a Chocolate Lounge, we have to admire the way these companies are trying to find themselves a differential advantage. The trick that Starbucks pulled off was creating an entirely new segment without making it seem out of reach or even outrageous. The chocolate folks may be flirting with crossing that line; it’s hard to tell.

The headline, by the way, is a Spanish proverb that seems appropriate for this trend:

“Ideas should be clear and chocolate thick.”