New York Chocolate Show Educates Us About A Market Undergoing Segmentation; Retailers Must Take Note

Jan. 3, 2012

Judging by the intensity of adults of all ages, and children too, one would have thought the products on display were the latest in electronics – iPhones or Android phones, iPads or Android tablets, and Kindle or Nook readers. Instead it was the Chocolate Show in New York City. 

The show’s organizers must appeal to both trade (retail buyers) and consumers, who can enter for a fee. Shrewdly the show schedule, which ran in November at The Metropolitan Pavilion, included a school holiday which added to the number of children at the show. 

The diversity of the exhibits was challenging in an extremely positive way. Among the exhibits we found chocolate wine, Organic, vegan and raw chocolates, truffles, macarons (the French cookie – and my personal all-time favorite snack), hot chocolate, tea, coffee, Gelato and more.  Everything looked great and what we sampled was simply delicious. 

There were two uniquely enjoyable aspects of the show. One was watching people, especially those not from the trade, as they checked out the exhibits and then enjoyed product samples. The second was my own show experience – especially the sampling. This was fun. By the way, it was highly educational too – a great place for learning – even if was not exactly part of my diet and exercise regime. 

This was my second Chocolate Show. The first one I attended was in Paris in 2008. Again, the organizers shrewdly included a school holiday. That was November 1st – All Saints’ Day in France. Inside the exhibit hall in Paris, it was hectic, chaotic and exceptionally crowded. For the New York Show, my day was planned to arrive when the show opened, before the crowds got there. That decision, in hindsight, was a good one. As I departed, the New York event it was getting more and more crowded.

Now let me tell about the three things I learned that day.

First, and most important, is that the enjoyment of confections is an emotional and highly personal experience. People love confections – especially chocolates. Please include me on that list. 

Second, and extremely critical for vending and onsite foodservice operations, there is an opportunity to bring a whole new array of confections and snacks to our sites.

Third, for your information, are some highlights about some of the most intriguing products encountered and enjoyed at the New York Chocolate Show.

  1. Mad-Mac: This is New Jersey-based baker of authentic French Madeleines and Macarons. Chef Florian Bellanger is a co-owner of the company. This is the real-deal, classic, French macaron. It is two crunchy, yet dainty, round cookies made from almond flour, sugar and egg whites. The ‘sandwich’ is made with a flavored “panache” between the layers. There are no preservatives and it is gluten-free. I really have been all over Paris tasting searching for the great macaron bakers. This is as good as anything I’ve had in Paris.  
  2. Peanut Butter & Co.: This is a sandwich shop in New York City. It has grown to be a retail brand with a wide range of peanut butter varieties. This proves a very important point. Old favorites, the PBJ sandwich for one, are still popular. For those who grew up eating PBJ sandwiches, this is your childhood favorite now all grown-up.     
  3. Jer’s Chocolates: Jerry Swain has created a line of packaged Bars, Brittle Bites and Squares. The products are kosher certified – no preservatives or fillers. Products are manufactured by hand in small batches.
  4. Screme Gelato Bar: This is a chain of gelato bars – Italian ice cream stores. They also sell wholesale to foodservice operations. Yona and Nicole Levy, the chain’s owners, have a created an imaginative array of tastes and textures. The combination of sweet and savory, even some spicy hot gelatos was a great taste treat. The products are certified kosher. Among their signature flavors are Mojito ( made with fresh mint leaves and fresh squeezed lime) and Chocolate Whiskey ( made from the finest chocolate and the fine whiskey). 
  5. Chupon Chocolate: This is a Swiss chocolate infused with fruit and other exotic flavors. There are mocha, hot chocolate and tea varieties.
  6. Gnosis: “The world’s most nutritious chocolate” is how Vanessa Barg, founder and owner, describes her products. Start with raw chocolate, ethically-sourced.  Add low-glycemic index sweetners, nutrient-dense superfoods and medicinal herbs. The ingredients are certified raw, vegan, organic and kosher. There are bars, truffles and more. The combinations are really interesting: Bali Chocolate with Tumeric & Salt; Grenada Chocolate with Nutmeg; and, Madagascar Chocolate with Pepercorn & Vanilla.
  7. Chocolate Shop Wine: Wine and chocolate, especially with truffles, is an amazing and highly indulgent treat. Try it, especially if you like wine and chocolate separately. Ryan Davis, of Precept Wine, said, “We have taken wine and infused it with chocolate.  There are four wines, Chocolate Red Wine, Crème de Cocoa, Box of Chocolate and Chocolate Strawberry.
  8. NibMor: Their products are organic and vegan – with no refined sugar, dairy, gluten, or GMO (genetically modified foods). There are bars and drink mixes.
  9. Choco Bolo: This New York City Bakery has four locations. I have them on map for my next trip into Manhattan and will want to walk to the most distant location to burn calories in advance of entering the bakery.

There are some lessons to be learned from the 2011 Chocolate Show. Specifically, we saw lots of products reflecting these trends:

  1. Rule #1 for any food, snack or beverage is beverage is really simple and never changes.  What we eat or drink must “taste good.” If not, it might be purchased once, but it won’t ever be purchased again.
  2. The mass market continues to fragment into many smaller niche markets. We see that in unique tastes, textures flavors and combinations of flavors exhibited at the Chocolate Show. It is also, in part, the increasing diversity of the U.S. population. There is an increased awareness of new foods and flavors as people experience when traveling abroad – things they want to enjoy again at home.
  3. There is a growing influence for sustainability in everything people do and in what they eat and drink. More and more people want to do business with, and buy from, companies doing ‘good.’ We see people interested in sustainably grown crops – and the ingredients sourced from those crops – such as cocoa beans for chocolate. And there is increasing interest in natural and/or organic foods – without pesticides, and no additives or chemicals. There is a genuine interest now to “fair trade” crops – certifying that the farmers or growers received “fair” payment for their crops. 
  4. Indulgence continues to be important. Call it a “divine” taste experience. It can be a single serve confection – “a special treat just for me.” Or maybe it is a multi-serving package for family or friends to enjoy. Many of these products are expensive – priced significantly above the selling prices we get at our vending and onsite foodservice locations. While it seems that we hear so much about price promotions and that everyone is looking for a better deal, something unique and great tasting will sustain a premium price point – and higher margins too.  

Here is what you should do next

Take a serious look at the sites you serve and the population at those locations.

  1. Are there opportunities to add to your product line-up?
  2. Which sites might be good test locations for sustainably sourced or organic confections and snacks?
  3. Are ethnic populations working at sites who would enjoy (and buy) confections with primary ingredients sourced from their home country?
  4. Can you add, and sell, highly indulgent confections?
  5. If you do catering, will some of these categories and products help you improve your menu?
  6. If you are operating unattended, self-checkout, stores, where and how can source some of these products? 

It won’t work everywhere. But it might work in enough places to drive increased sales and profits. If you had seen the passionate interest among attendees, you would be convinced, as I am, that there we have an opportunity to sell a number of the products exhibited at the 2011 New York Chocolate Show. 

For more information, contact:

Mad Mac LLC

265 Vreeland Avenue

Paterson, NJ 07504

Phone: 973.225.0930

Email: [email protected]

Peanut Butter & Co.

P.O. Box 2000

New York, NY 10101

Phone: 1-866-ILOVEPB

Email: [email protected]


Jer’s Chocolates:

Suite 105

437 S Highway 101

Solana Beach, CA 92075
Phone: 1-800-540-7265

Email: [email protected]


Screme Gelato Bar

New York, NY

Phone: 1-212-362-2111

Email: [email protected]


Chupon Chocolate


Gnosis Chocolate

Astoria, NY

Phone: 646.688.5549

Email: [email protected]


Chocolate Shop Wine

Precept Wine

1910 Fairview Avenue E

Suite 400

Seattle, WA 98102

Phone: 845-417-5658

Email: [email protected]



223 Wall Street #142
Huntington, NY 11743
Phone: 718-374-5091
Email: [email protected]


Choco Bolo

Phone: 917-528-1540

About the Author

Paul Schlossberg is president of D/FW Consulting, which helps clients merchandise and market products in impulse intense selling environments, such as vending, foodservice and convenience stores. He can be reached at [email protected] or 972-877-2972;