Succeeding in chocolate is getting stickier, it seems. And this applies as much to the renowned, established names in the business as well as the newer, smaller artisan chocolatiers. Both are striving to offer confectionery that will appeal to consumers looking for something new, but without alienating aficionados. Basically, they tread a fine line between tradition and innovation.
OK, so tell me what both camps are up to?
First, the new kids on the block. Artisan outfits sprang up in the nineties in France. Innovation has been slower in Belgium, where the big names dominate. One Belgian craftsman, Laurent Gerbaud, fills his treats with figs from Izmir in Turkey, the bitter berries of the Barberry tree, Cape pears, and yuzu, a citrus fruit from Japan. He also uses less sugar and fat for his more weight-conscious customers. But these specialist chocolate makers are careful not to go too crazy, knowing how hard it is to build up a brand and a loyal clientele. Mr Gerbaud laments that even after 11 years, he still does not churn a profit.
Yuzu. How exotic. And what are the big-name chocolatiers up to?
Famous brands such as Leonidas, Godiva and Neuhaus are increasingly cultivating consumers in emerging countries. Leonidas already has 40 shops in China, which, along with the Arab world, is the priority for the company. It was a prolonged stay in China that inspired Mr Gerbaud's new flavours of chocolates. While in the country, he began to coat kumquats (small candied oranges) with dark chocolate - this turned out to be an unexpected delicacy. The Laurent Gerbaud packaging is also distinctive - the logo features a red seal with the word chocolate in Chinese.
Tell us more about Leonidas.
Leonidas was founded after the 1913 International Exhibition by Leonidas Kestekides, a Greek pastry maker who decided to settle in Belgium. Kestekides's descendants still run the business, with the Leonidas brand known worldwide through about 1,300 outlets in 50 countries, selling 6,000 tonnes a year, or one million chocolates a day. The company is using its 100th anniversary celebrations to reinvigorate its product line as well as spruce up its shops.
More Barberries, fewer coffee creams?
The big boys want to keep everyone happy - those who feel that the selection is a little old-fashioned and those who are faithful to old favourites such as the Manon.
What's a Manon?
The Manon is the bestseller for Leonidas. It's a praline filled with coffee-flavoured cream and covered in white chocolate and it has been an industry mainstay for decades. Other Leonidas stalwarts include chocolates filled with orange peel and marzipan, which you must admit is a little less out there.
* Agence France-Presse