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The Proof is in the Packaging

By Cocoa Runners  ·  30th June 2021  ·  How is Chocolate Made?

Cocoa Runners Stack of Chocolate Bars on a Table

Pick up a chocolate bar and what do you see first? Not the shiny brown bar or the beautiful moulded design. No. It’s the wrapper on the outside. It’s the first thing customers see and an incredibly important thing to get right.

But the secrets to a good wrapper are much more complex than you might think.

The Practical

Why do we package things? Of course, making them look good is one thing, but most important of all is to protect what’s inside. The foil and outer paper must keep the bar and its ingredients – especially cocoa butter – from escaping.

It should also be airtight, to keep the aromas from escaping and to prevent the bar picking up other smells from nearby goods in transit. It should be sealed tight enough to last during delivery, but not so tight as to be impossible to open.

As you can see, packaging is complicated – but this is only the start.

The Aesthetic

Most craft chocolate bars are wrapped by hand, by the makers themselves or sometimes friends and family who have been roped in to help out. The hand-touched feel shows that you’re holding a product that’s been made with love.

This is taken an extra step by the likes of Bryan Graham at Fruition, who hand signs every bar as you would a work of art.

But what about the overall look of the wrapper? A rich, vibrant colour with intense and intricate patterns like Omnom’s Tanzania Dark Milk looks tantalisingly moreish. 

Or the clean professionalism of Bare Bones reflects the precision of craft chocolate.

The beans’ origin is also something to play with here: Marou hand-wrap their outstanding bars in gorgeous, gilded geometric patterns printed on a vibrant, solid colour, recalling chocolate’s Indochina and French colonial roots in Vietnam.

The Message

But most importantly, the overall message of the chocolate bar can be summed up in the packaging.

Sustainability

Sustainability can be at the heart of the bar. TBros’ Dak Lak 76% dark is wrapped in dried and compressed nipa palm. Eco-friendly, handmade, and gorgeous to look at with its subtle printed outline decoration of farmers in the field.

Or you can try paper packaging made from recycled food waste, with Bare Bones leading the way in their partnership with a fellow Scottish packaging company.

Finally, we have the likes of Original Beans, whose inner foil wrapper doesn’t look much at first glance – but it’s actually biodegradable! Just pop it on your compost heap at home (once you’re done with the chocolate, of course).

Askinosie puts its farmers front and centre of the packaging.

Championing Farmers

Another key tenet of craft chocolate is putting cocoa farmers first and foremost. And some makers take this literally, putting their farmers on the front of their bars.

Menakao adorns each bar with a picture of a native Madagascan tribesperson, reflecting the importance the Madagascan people have within the company and its work.

And Shawn from Askinosie takes this one step further, designing each bar with a photograph of the lead farmer for that origin.

Can you reseal it?

Craft chocolate is meant to be savoured. And this is reflected in the packaging of many of our bars.

Have you ever tried to reseal a bar of mass-produced supermarket chocolate? It’s impossible, and for good reason. They don’t want you to reseal it! Even a big 100g bar is meant to be eaten in one sitting (that’s how the recipes are designed).

A bar of craft chocolate, on the other hand, should last a few days or weeks as you savour it one or two bars at a time. That’s why lots of our makers wrap their bars in resealable packaging.

Top of the game here are Pump Street’s award-winning resealable and airtight pouches.

Don’t be fooled!

So, what is the key in debunking the confectionery from the craft? It’s not in the overall look, but – as usual – in the small print.

Read the label: if there is anything on the ingredients list that your grandmother wouldn’t know about, avoid the bar. Think palm oil, E numbers, etc. 

Then see if the packaging mentions the bean origin – down to the specific region or cooperative – and where the bar is produced. Commercial chocolate usually won’t mention these last two details.

Summary

As we’ve explained, packaging is hard to master. But it will mean so much in the first impressions of a Craft Chocolate bar. 

The packaging should make the message known immediately: it’s craft chocolate. Make the chocolate proud to be craft on the front, and both the maker and the customer will reap the rewards. 

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