Mixed News From Hershey: Recession is Good - Closing Plants
Posted in: News & New Product Press
I agree with John; good shot, Susie.Heres some more information on the industry, the recession troubles and the perspective from a small bean-to-bar manufacturer. http://www.news-leader.com/article/20090130/BUSINESS04/901300335/1003/ARCHIVES
There are still discretionary dollars to be spent but artesian chocolate makers in their retail shops and small bean-to-bar manufacturers will have to be ever more creative in order to capture their share of those dollars. And to stay in business, watch your overhead at every turn.In a local newspaper article yesterday (1-30-09) on the release of Shawn Askinosies new chocolate bar made with cacao from the Philippines the question was asked: How do you sell an $8.00 bar of chocolate in a recession?In the current economy, how does a small chocolate factory sell $8 bars?(Askinosie Chocolate) Sales had plunged in October -- a reflection of the lack of consumer confidence, he said. Then in December, sales rose 8.8 percent over December 2007, and overall fourth quarter sales were up 40 percent from the same period in 2007.However, sales were under his target and he had to make difficult changes. He laid off three employees; others who left the factory were not replaced.He and the staff more tightly control inventory, making only what they need, when they need it."We feel people still love chocolate and will splurge to buy the little pleasures ... But we have to be careful not to take that for granted, regardless of what the statistics say."Heres another opinion from me . (not that its worth anything): Ill bet that in 5 years there will be dozens of small bean-to-bar manufacturers of very, very good chocolate. Some will supply high end pastry chefs, some will sell retail over the internet and from their specialty shops and some will process their country of origin chocolates into artesian confections for sale over the counter in their store front shops. How could there be such a radical change in a stodgy old industry as bulk chocolate processing?Heres how. As always: Economics and Demographics. The Boomers (demographics: largest population segment) are entering their retirement years but cant; due to the financial meltdown (economics). Were going to be looking to change careers; not retire. Cant afford to now.Artisanal food and beverage are very attractive. Examples: More wineries opening every day in the U.S. Now wineries in every state in the Union. Micro breweries in every medium-sized town in America. There used to be only 4 or 5 big breweries in the U.S.Coffee shops. Tens of thousands of them where beans are roasted on-site. There never used to be small , bean-roasting coffee shops when I was kid, where you can see fresh roasted beans by country of origin displayed in showcases in the store. Now, a town of 100,000 people will have several such shops. How did this happen? Well, people figured out that its not that difficult to buy small equipment and supplies and process the farm product: wine grapes, coffee, hops for beer, just a step above home hobby level; and then sell retail.Dozens of web sites sell green coffee beans to home hobby roasters http://www.sweetmarias.com/
.For $20 you can buy a hot air popcorn popper at WalMart (trust meyou dont need a link. If you dont have one in your town, youre going to get one in about 15 minutes) and order a pound of green coffee beans off the net to roast at home. If several thousand people do this as a hobby, then some percentage of them will have the thought to scale it up and start a business selling coffee retail or wholesale.This has just in the past couple of years started in the home chocolate roasting arena. Clay Gordon would know about this better than I but Ill be there are maybe only 50 of us bean heads roasting at home. He offers some fermented beans for sale at( http://www.thechocolatelife.com/page/cocoa-beans
) as does Chocolate Alchemy .John Nanci over at Chocolate Alchemy has developed a system of small counter top machines that you can use to process home roasted cocoa beans into finished dark or milk chocolate and he also has a few countries of origin beans for sale. I predict that as more people pick up this hobby, as happened in coffee, some will get the idea to make a business of it. Not just in the U.S. but in all the consuming countries.As to travelling world-wide buying direct from farmers and giving back to them, that takes some money and dedication. There may also be more of this in my hypothetical future as these imagined small American roasters become successful and can afford to search out new countries of origin.Lets look forward to it. Im not trying to make this financial mess look good, my retirement portfolio gets smaller by the day. But I think there will be more people with good taste looking to pursue artisanal dreams. We should expect a great future for really good chocolate.Forgive me for wasting your time here, these are just some half-roasted thoughts from a neophyte bean head. All the best tasting to you.