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Confectionery remains one of the most fiercely competitive of fast-moving consumer goods sectors with multinational-owned brands fighting tooth and nail to gain shelf stand out.

But consumers have changed and the foodie movement is now obsessed with origins.

There was a time when legendary Belgian and Swiss chocolate brands such as Godiva and Lindt were the very last words in luxury confectionery.

Nowadays, however, these famous brands have almost become mainstream as the growth in the luxury confectionery sector has ushered in a wave of higher-priced premium, gourmet chocolate brands such as Duffy’s, Amelia Rope, Seed & Bean, Hotel Chocolat, The Grown Up Chocolate Company and Montezuma’s, that differentiate and distinguish themselves with their high-percentage cocoa content, Fairtrade status, ethical sourcing, distinct provenances, exotic flavours and organic ingredients.

Look closer and you’ll soon notice that one thing all these bean-to-bar chocolate brands have in common (apart from their love for ethically sourced chocolate) is their strategic use of highly distinctive and visually striking packaging to carve out a small, but growing niche of this enormous business.


Willie's Cacao set
Willie’s Cacao (image source – Brandopus)

Exemplifying the new appetite for gourmet chocolate is Willie’s Cacao, a 100% cacao bar launched on a shoestring budget in 2007 by eccentric British chocolate maker Willie Harcourt-Cooze, the star of a fly-on-the-wall TV documentary about his efforts to get the business off the ground. Produced from Harcourt-Cooze’s own plantation of cacao trees inVenezuela,Willie’s Cacao initially sold poorly, but a 2013 redesign by the BrandOpus design agency transformed the brand’s prospects, leading to a 259% sales growth in Waitrose, its largest customer, and a 116% sales leap in overseas markets.


The new design employed a powerful, yet playful typographic brand mark across the growing range of Willie’s Cacao bean-to-bar products. Clear distinctions between flavours were made with vibrant colours and prominent cocoa percentage labels enabled shoppers to easily navigate the portfolio.


Source - Mast Brothers
Mast Brothers (image source – Mast Brothers)

Over in the States another gourmet chocolate brand gaining prominence is Mast, set up in Brooklyn by brothers Rick and Michael Mast in 2007, and now with shops inLos Angeles and London. Known for obsessive attention to detail and meticulous craftsmanship the brothers have also won acclaim for eye-catching packaging, which has featured in the likes of Vanity Fair. Each slender slab of chocolate comes elegantly wrapped in gold foil and a creamy page of stylised paper bearing a simple, thoughtful design created by the company’s own in-house team.


Another small-batch chocolate brand making waves in the US is Xocolatl (named after the bitter cacao bean-based drink once consumed by the Aztecs). Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Xocolatl (abbreviated as XOATL) is made from just two ingredients: single-origin Peruvian cacao and organic cane sugar.


small batch chocolate Xocolatl
Xocolatl (image source – The Dieline)

Local agency Juku Design has created colourful packaging for the start-up brand, which cleverly weaves in Aztec-inspired patterns with playful, child-like drawings of Atlanta where the chocolate is made.


Other Juku designs for the Xocolatl range feature stylised depictions of the cocoa tree which is so important for the brand’s owners, while another clever touch sees the last three letters of the abbreviated name XOATL highlighted as ‘ATL’ is the well-known airport code for Atlanta.

At Hunter we understand the changing nature of the confectionery market in mature markets. At a time when products containing a high percentage of sugar are increasingly demonised, the highest rates of growth for the industry are likely to come at the premium and the luxury end of the market where hand-crafted credentials, ethical standards, high-quality ingredients and on-trend packaging designs are all essential attributes.