Lake Champlain Chocolates is a Vermont chocolate company that exhibited at the Summer Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C. The company recently collaborated with rock band Grace Potter and the Nocturnals to craft a spicy chocolate bar, Grace Under Fire. I talked to Meghan Fitzpatrick, marketing director for Lake Champlain Chocolates, about blogging, chocolate trends and the collaboration.
What kinds of items are doing well with consumers?
Smaller packages are most popular with consumers at the moment — affordable luxuries for everyday and gifting opportunities. Dark chocolate remains popular, as does salty and sweet, and sweet and spicy.
What is the collaboration with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals? What has customer response been like to the Grace Under Fire chocolate bar?
We have been thrilled with our collaboration with Grace Potter, and the customer response has reflected this as well. It is our No. 1 selling bar online and in our company-owned retail stores. We’ve recently offered it to all of our wholesale customers and anticipate the bar to continue to grow in popularity. It was a true collaboration between Grace and Lake Champlain Chocolates: We worked together to create the flavor of the bar by talking with Grace about what types of food she and her band like to eat when they are on the road.
For LCC, it has opened up a younger market, and the flavor — roasted pistachio and red pepper with dark chocolate — adds a dimension to our line of bars. The bar is a point of differentiation for the band and for LCC. We keep the band stocked with bars as they tour nationwide so they can enjoy them but also to share with folks on their travels.
Your blog has posts on everything from chocolate tasting to chocolate storage. What’s your goal with the blog, and what kind of response have you gotten from customers?
Our goal with the blog is to educate customers about our chocolate, and chocolate in general, to give people an inside peek as to what is happening daily or weekly at our factory and offices in Burlington, to let people know about events and promotions. Ultimately, it’s to drive people to our website to purchase chocolate, or drive them to a store nearby that sells our chocolate. We post every blog entry on Facebook and Twitter, and this is where most of the blog traffic comes from. As our followers and fans increase, so do the number of people clicking through to our blog.
The LCC blog also tries to address the different types of customers we have: local people and tourists who visit our retail stores in Vermont, people who order online for self-consumption, gifting and corporate sales, and people who buy our products at one of our wholesale accounts. The blog entry on chocolate storage received some of the highest clicks this past month.
What are issues affecting the chocolate industry?
The biggest issue for the chocolate industry is ensuring supply for the future. To borrow from the World Cocoa Foundation, it’s about people, profit and the planet. We need farmers to be active and engaged in the production of cacao. There are more than 6 million farmers in the world, and they are incredibly decentralized, and cacao has a fragmented and lengthy supply chain because of poor roads and lack of infrastructure in the growing regions.
WCF programs, including the Farmer Field Schools, work to address the sustainability of cacao through social and economic programs. Certification and payment of a slight premium aren’t enough to make a real difference; we must address the challenges at the root causes with a long-term approach.
Image courtesy of Lake Champlain Chocolates