The course of true love has never run smoothly, and for many chocolatiers this year, the same can be said for Valentine’s Day preparation. Amid a slew of packaging and ingredient shortages and shipping constraints, February’s sugar rush looked a little different for some chocolatiers than it has in the past.
Global chocolate supplier Barry Callebaut’s peak season runs from Halloween to Easter, so planning always comes early, pandemic or not. But now there “seems to be no margin for error,” especially when brands import ingredients from overseas, said Thomas Mulvihill, the company’s vice president of marketing for the Americas.
“With all the global supply chain challenges, it’s very difficult to react to any unexpected short-term tweaks, adjustments or changes,” he told Retail Brew.
- “The precision and rigor of the sharpness of planning are increasingly focused and extensive.”
Before the peak of Valentine’s Day, consumers should to pass $2.2 billion in candy this year, up from $2 billion in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation — three brands shared exactly what that planning entailed, from localized sourcing to altered marketing strategies.
Life The supply chain is like a box of chocolates
Josh Mohr, senior vice president of marketing at chocolatier TCHO, said the company typically sells limited-edition Valentine’s Day gift sets with two or three different themed designs. But it’s been a “crazy year” for the supply chain, Mohr said, and getting those materials has been trickier, not least because of the paper shortage. So, the company decided to ignore it completely.
“The Valentine’s Day coin hits us a little hard this year,” he said.
TCHO typically sees a 20% increase in demand during the holidays, but without its special packaging, the company shifts its marketing strategy to focus on its bakery ingredients business, he noted.
It doesn’t help that TCHO launched a new dairy-free branding in December and the company had to speed up production cycles and reorganize materials 60 days earlier after its revamped chocolate sold out faster than expected. .
“Our whole team and I became desensitized to the letters we were getting from suppliers about price increases and delays,” Mohr said. “You just have to expect things to take, not just a week or two longer; it’s more like two or three more months, if you’re lucky.
This caused the company to rethink its approach to limited edition packaging, especially as a recently certified B Corp.
- “There are benefits to not having to run around and create packaging with pink hearts just because that’s expected,” he noted.
But the main takeaway? Prepare earlier.
“We’re looking at the fourth quarter, we’re looking at Valentine’s Day 2023. We’re a year ahead of things [that] we were about six months ahead.
Take your time : But even early preparation can’t sweeten an exceptionally bitter supply chain. Michael Antonorsi, president and co-founder (or, his favorite title: chief joy activator) of Chuao Chocolatier, said the company has started preparing for its two big chocolate holidays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. , in July. It was around this time that he ordered the hard red boxes in which Valentine’s Day products, such as candies and truffles, are usually packaged.
They were supposed to arrive in November, but still haven’t arrived, so the company had to scramble to get a locally-sourced (and more expensive) collapsible box. That’s enough, but “it’s definitely not the same experience,” he tells us.
“It was quite dramatic to bring the expeditions online,” Antonorsi said. “You can prepare, you can try to buy ahead, you can try to buy more, but then you end up in inefficiencies where you start to have excess inventory, and all of that is a financial burden. .”
Also, as a small company (it has about 50 employees in total), Chuao may not “get as much attention as big customers” from suppliers, and sometimes has to negotiate, Antonorsi said.
- “We’re like, ‘Okay, what do you have there in your R&D box? Send me a pound of it, at least I can do something with it. But you’re starting to come up with solutions.
A silver lining? Its grocery partnerships (including Whole Foods, Wegmans and Ralphs) were unaffected, as special Valentine’s Day boxes are only sold online and at its Carlsbad, Calif.-based store. Before Covid, Chuao typically saw a long line of shoppers, waiting to find their Valentine’s Day gifts, Antonorsi said. The store had been closed due to the pandemic until last November, and people are coming back.
“We’re starting to get a little more foot traffic, but it’s definitely a fraction of what it was pre-Covid,” he said.
Most sales have been diverted to pickup or online, he noted, and in-store shopping is more for last-minute gifts.
- Like many retailers do for Christmas, Chuao has set Valentine’s Day order deadlines to ensure loved ones aren’t left empty-handed (by the time you read this, you’ll have to splurge on… air the next day).
Home Sweet Home: Los Angeles-based chocolatier (you might remember their Chrissy Teigen Banana Bread Chocolate collaboration last year) didn’t have such a difficult Valentine’s Day relationship this year.
Christmas is actually its biggest-selling holiday due to corporate gifts, with Valentine’s Day coming in second, although it has become “busier” every year (sales have doubled a year on the other over the past five years), even throughout the pandemic, CEO Jonathan Grahm told us.
- As he begins to prepare for Christmas in the summer, he said Compartés only develops special Valentine’s Day products a month in advance.
Compartés is “certainly not going to let our momentum stop” due to constraints that inevitably arise, he noted. The company has learned to adapt when potential problems arise, he said, and self-manufacturing and sourcing 80% of its ingredients, packaging and materials locally has made that much easier.
When an order for gift boxes was stuck on a freighter at the Port of Los Angeles for two months last year, he found a neighborhood vendor (and paid 10 times as much) to get replacement boxes in one wink.
- Additionally, Compartés has its chocolate bar wrappers printed locally, taking just two to three weeks from design to production, and the Valentine’s Day heart-shaped boxes are hand-painted by Grahm.
- Ingredients like raspberries and strawberries (found in V-day bars like Raspberry Rose and Strawberry Shortcake) often come from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.
“Compartés is very connected to LA as part of our brand identity,” he said. “A salesman comes to my wedding, I mean, it’s like family,” he said.
Love truly conquers everything, even the supply chain.