Our Love Affair with Valentine's Day Chocolate

Why heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolate are a Valentine’s must

Valentine’s Day is around the corner.  Time for friendly and romantic gestures! Whether customers pre-plan or opt for the last-minute rush, their go-to gift is most likely a heart-shaped box full of chocolate.  This isn’t just an educated guess — the numbers don’t lie. 52% of all Valentine’s day sales, or $1.8 billion  will be spent on candy including chocolate, according to the National Retail Federation. Of that total, approximately 36 million heart shaped boxes are sold each year according to AdAge.

We all know that consumers are hunting for the perfect heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolate, but why is chocolate the “it” gift of the holiday?  We’ve done some digging and it seems that the “why” is a mix of ancient beliefs and brilliant marketing.

Chocolate – the Potion of Love

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the history of chocolate’s entanglement with love can be traced back to Mayan and Aztec civilizations, where they were known to consume a drink a made of roasted cacao beans with cornmeal, vanilla, honey, and chilies. This elixir was viewed as an aphrodisiac. This supposed “power” combined with its rich flavor spurred European explorers to bring drinking chocolate (minus the add-ins) back to Europe where it was all the rage among royalty and the elite.  As the price of sugar came down through the years, and drinking chocolate became readily available, it was also enjoyed by the middle class.

While chocolate does contain trace amounts of tryptophan and phenylethylamine, brain chemicals said to give that “loving feeling,” modern researchers proved that these amounts are too small to have an effect. No matter what the science says, consumers still view chocolate as an emotionally rewarding indulgence and candy of “love,” drawing people to purchase for Valentine’s day and other romantic occasions.

Heart Shaped Box – Buy into the Hype

So, we know that drinking chocolate was the start of the “box of chocolates” craze but how did our love affair with chocolate morph from a beverage to the sweet treats we give today? Drinking chocolate was the springboard. Drinking chocolate maintained its popularity from the explorers all the way up to Victorian times.  Enter British chocolate manufacturer Richard Cadbury. His family’s company had a new process for creating drinking chocolate that left him with excess cocoa butter. Not wanting to be wasteful, he decided to use to excess to create what he called “eating chocolates,” an older version of modern-day chocolate.

During the Victorian Era, people were known to spoil those they love with lavish gifts. Cadbury decided to capitalize on this devotion and marketed his chocolates in elaborate heart-shaped boxes adorned with with imagery of cupid and intricate lace. His intent was aimed at capturing the lovebirds who were in the market for elaborate gifts to woo the object of their desire.  Not only were the treats on the inside said to inspire love, but Cadbury claimed the boxes were so beautiful, they should be treated as keepsakes for holding mementos like love letters, locks of hair, and other love remembrances once the chocolate was gone.  While heart-shaped boxes were coveted gifts of the elite during Cadbury’s time, American company, Russel Stover brought Valentine’s day chocolate boxes to the masses, selling them in Midwest department stores during the 1920’s.  Ever since, they have been a customer favorite.  And in our opinion, will stay a favorite because we simply can’t imagine Valentine’s Day (or any day) without chocolate!

You know consumers are hunting for them, so why not make sure you have all the chocolate boxes and Valentine’s candy they desire?  We can help you hit Cupid’s mark.

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