February: arguably the month people eat the weight they lost after the holidays in chocolate. From two-pound Nutella filled hearts to a month-long hot chocolate festival, it seems like there’s a flamboyant amount of chocolate on the streets of New York.
Chocolate and candy consumption in the United States has been on a steady rise, reported the Simmons National Consumer Survey. However, chocolate’s ‘healthy’ component, cacao, is minimal in popular brands. Munchies by Vice reported that a Hershey’s bar contains only about 11 percent cacao. Still, industry growth signals that the industrial chocolate business is nowhere near from changing
What makes it sell? “Passion,” says chef Rodolfo Goncalves, owner of Sweet Corner Bakeshop and creator of the two-pound Nutella chocolate heart. After going viral on social media, his hand-sized chocolate hearts have sold out. If there’s going to be some heartbreaking this Valentine’s, “that’s the heart you should be breaking,” said Goncalves.
Predicting that the current chocolate craze is long-lasting, the question whether chocolate could be less unhealthy rises. Raw cacao contains more natural antioxidants than blueberries, and half a cup of it contains one gram of sugar, reported Dr. Joseph Mercola.
Industrially produced and sold chocolate tends to contain numerous ingredients, sometimes chemical, that are not found in nature in raw form as cacao beans are. However, having less ingredients in a chocolate bar can result much more expensive.
Ingredients: organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar, and traces of almonds, cashews, coconut, hazelnuts, and pecans.
If an artisanal chocolate brand does not have the millions of dollars needed to launch a “marketing campaign New York style, then it’s not going to make it, said Miscelanea owner, Guillaume Guevara. In his Mexican convenience store he sells artisanal Mexican chocolates, varying between four to 20 dollars a bar. “It’s sad that they’re doing things right, but can’t grow internationally because of lack of funds.”
On the contrary, opening an artisanal chocolate business resembling to that of Max Brenner's restaurant-shop model seems “totally possible right now,” said Dr. Krishnendu Ray, Department Chair of the Food Studies program at NYU. It would have to be at the high-end of the middle market, for costs and expenses to work out, he said. He thinks people are ready for it, for something authentically Mexican. “Not Swiss, not Belgian, but Mexican, they were the people who did it first.”