There’s nothing like a gift of chocolate to make things sweeter in anyone’s life. At chocolate and candy shops, while the best-selling chocolate gifts may vary, one tasty thing is abundantly clear: chocolates are a top treat.
At Sweet Cooie’s in Denver, Colo., General Manager Anna Quinones said that her best-sellers are Tony’s Chocoloni full-size chocolate bars and hand-rolled truffles from a local chocolate maker, Toute de Jour. “We use social media for branding, promotion, and visuals of our displays; in the store, we rely on our delicious-looking displays to boost sales,” she reported. “Pre-pandemic we gave out samples, but for now, it’s the look and the scent that sells the chocolates we offer.” According to Quinones, to keep chocolates fresh, they are placed in sealed containers in a dry, cool room. “We also only order in small quantities at a time, so the chocolates are constantly rotated, and always fresh.”
In Wilmington, Del., Nicholas Govatos, co-owner of Govatos Chocolates, shares responsibility for the third-generation, 124-year-old business with his brother. After all these years, sales are still going strong. “We’re old school, and to sell our chocolates, we really rely on our customers’ satisfaction level, which is very high. Our business is really based on repeat business. People buy our candy and they ship it to family members and friends and use it for business gifts, because they know our name, and they know our chocolate,” he related. “They’re sending a little bit of Delaware for Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, and more. We are really a word-of-mouth business in terms of sales.” Govatos also uses the company website to enchance sales. “We don’t do online ordering, that’s my personal preference. We like to talk to people, whether in-store or by phone, so they can ask questions and we can custom package anything they like in a nice box. Our standard assortments come in one, two, and three pound boxes.” Established in 1894, the company’s top-sellers have remained favorites for generations. “Our butter creams and caramels are to die for, and our Maraschino cherries are always top-sellers. We make a lot of specialty pieces, and those include our very well known chocolate-covered pretzels.”
To keep his chocolates fresh, Govatos explained, “We don’t have a need for refrigerated cases. We do have a cold room in our factory, but we do not over-produce. Many commercially-branded chocolates have such a high demand that they set up production to freeze the piece and then drop thaw it in different temperature freezers before they box and market, but we don’t do that. We extrapolate what we will sell based on the previous year’s volume, thinking what we will need each year, and then we make just enough of everything. If we think we’ll sell more chocolates early in the season, then we make more. If we don’t think we are selling as much, we just stop producing that item. It’s part of the draw that brings people in here – they have to come and order quickly to get what they want for the season,” he laughed. The company’s two stores are 900 and 700-square-feet respectively.
Amber Travis, director of operations for Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates in Wichita, Kan., said her top tips to sell more chocolate gifts are displays in the company’s retail locations and promoting a growing interest in online ordering. “Customers can build a box online on our website, but our retail store displays are still key for us in terms of driving purchases.” The company’s best-sellers are four differently-sized boxes of chocolates – 16, 6, and 9 piece boxes. “The smaller boxes make a great holiday or hostess gift. The larger boxes are great presents, too. Our chocolates are all Belgian, and our number one seller I would say is our champagne chocolate. It’s Brut Cava in a dark chocolate with sparkle sugar on it. You get the feel and taste of bubbles when you bite into it. Another very popular chocolate is our salt caramel. It’s a chewy Tahitian bean caramel with a bit of Florida sea salt on it, dipped in dark chocolate. It’s really a perfect combination of flavor and taste,” she enthused.
To keep chocolates fresh in the company’s three stores, the largest of which is 1,600 square feet, Travis said “We have a short, five-week shelf life, because we use no preservatives. So, what we do is maintain our quality control and expiration timeline, and that way, within that window everything can be kept at room temperature. We vacuum- seal our chocolates to store and transport them, which keeps them crisp and sheltered during the transit from manufacturing.”
At The Best Chocolate in Town, located in Indianapolis, Ind., Store Manager Casey Deal also relies on a mix of social media posting and branding online, along with displays in the 200-square-foot shop, to sell the company’s special chocolates. “You couldn’t market the displays these days without social media, but you need the displays to market online, so I would call that an equal balance of both areas,” she said. As to the company’s best sellers, Deal reported, “We carry a multitude of different chocolate truffles. I think we have 50 different flavors that we do regularly. Some standout flavors for us currently in the fall season are pumpkin spice, caramel apple and the Old Fashioned flavor. We have some vegan truffles that always do well regardless of the season, because we are friendly to people with all kinds of diets.” She noted that the store doesn’t carry every variety of truffle all at once, but instead keeps a seasonal rotation of top sellers. “We also consistently do well with a variety of gift treats, from chocolate covered pretzels to chocolate covered Nutter Butters and marshmallows.” To keep things fresh, Deal said the company makes only a limited supply of the chocolates, which have a shelf-life of no more than four months. “We make sure nothing ever gets stale, and we just have a very good system of producing the amount of chocolates that we need, and then rotating our stock.”
In Glendale, Ariz., Jennifer Cerreta, co-owner of the family-owned Cerreta Fine Chocolates, agreed with other store owners that a mix of in-store display and social media displays drive chocolate sales. However, she stressed that her large 18,000-square-foot store and warehouse is known as “a hometown chocolatier. That means we have a lot of traditional purchasers who have been getting their chocolates from us for a long time, from grandmas to corporate buyers. In many cases, they’ve been buying from us for many years, and it is almost a multi-generational buying that takes place. They think of us first, and that goes beyond displays or social media.” The company’s “number one piece,” Cerreta described as “a French mint that is our signature piece. We are known for these after dinner mints.” Like other shop owners, Cerreta ensures chocolate gifts stay fresh by creating limited batches. “We are the manufacturers as well as the sellers, so we see what needs to be made to ship out or sell in the store. We have that ability and flexibility.”
The business began in Ohio in the 1940s, Ceretta said. “We’ve all been brought up in the chocolate-making business going back to our grandfather, and our customers have often been brought up with us.”
In short: chocolate transcends the years, and regardless of what items sell best, it remains a gift that people keep on giving – and enjoying themselves.