By Laura Gelder

Even the world’s favourite indulgence needs a little help to sell itself and, as always, the onboard market sees different rules and trends apply. Laura Gelder looks at chocolate for onboard retail

There’s much debate in our industry about the ‘science’ of onboard retail sales but when it comes to chocolate, it’s easy to assume it sells itself. A universally-loved treat, it’s a staple of onboard sales – whether as a gift or an onboard treat – but it jostles for attention in a busy market and of course it is subject to consumer trends.

Veganism and vegetarianism is currently the biggest trend of the moment, according to Heerum Fleary, director of Tickeat, a business connecting brands with the travel industry. “It’s almost all about the millennials,” she says. “They seem to be taking over and and airlines are becoming more adventurous in response.”

Vegan chocolate also suits the mass market because increasingly it tastes no different to standard chocolate.
Montezuma’s has updated its 2018 wholesale range with three new mini bar flavours: the Sea Dog (dark chocolate with lime and sea salt), Minted (milk chocolate and crunchy peppermint) and Absolute Black – the company’s best-selling 100% cocoa chocolate which is vegan-friendly as well as sugar-, dairy-, gluten- and soya-free.

Helen Pattinson, Montezuma’s co-founder says: “There has been a huge demand for mini bar formats of our dark chocolate and vegan ranges. They work brilliantly in a meal deal, snack box, or as the perfect complimentary gift onboard.”

Plant-based future?

If veganism is here to stay, and it looks that way, a whole generation of children could well be raised vegan and British company Playin Choc is looking to this market early with charming kids’ boxes.

The educational snack box contains two organic vegan chocolates with a pop-out 3D endangered animal puzzle and animal facts card. Playin Choc’s Dominic Simler says: “We see this as a perfect onboard gift as it educates, puzzles, entertains and inspires creative play while providing wholesome high-quality chocolate which is dairy-, soy-, gluten- and refined sugar-free. The entire package is plastic-free too, with the toys made from recycled card and the box wrapped in home-compostable film. Each toy is a surprise and a collectible, with 46 designs available and more planned.”

Adult experiential offers are also evolving. The Chief Chocolate Officer, for example, offers chocolates specifically made for eating with wine. So pear and elderflower milk chocolate pairs with sauvignon blanc; blueberry, vanilla and black peppercorn dark chocolate with cabernet sauvignon; and toffee and orange blossom white chocolate with chardonnay.

Irish Chocolatier Butlers has traditional ranges for onboard retail, but also includes dessert-themed chocolates, and a range of 35g impulse buy chocolate bars and mini bars in six classic flavours.
The Grown Up Chocolate Company, uses its tongue-in-cheek packaging proclaiming ‘contents exclusively for adults’ thanks to decadent ingredients which are lavishly described.

It’s in the wrapper

For many chocolate brands it’s the packaging, not the chocolate, which sets it apart. The Jenny Wren range offers a three-tier box of truffles in a unique pivoting box. Mike Stanfield says: “Packaging is hugely important in onboard retail and for chocolate in general. You eat with your eyes and for our chocolates to live up to their beautiful taste and luxury ingredients the packaging needs to reflect the quality – you wouldn’t drink Champagne from a plastic cup! We want to give consumers something a bit different.”

Starbrook Airlines – a confectionary brand, not a real airline, targets travel sales specifically with its watercolour artwork evoking the golden age of travel. Using Belgium chocolate, the range includes bars, boxes of truffles, mixed chocolates, pralines and classic Belgium seashells, as well as kids’ chocolate moulded into plane shapes and crisps. It has a strong presence in duty free and just added 90g organic milk chocolate, dark salted caramel and extra dark bars.

Gut Springenheide has unique natural ‘packaging’ for its chocolate – natural chicken eggshells. Eggs are cleaned, sterilised and then filled with a praline chocolate. Latest designs see golden speckles decorating a coloured pearlescent base. Says Barbara Tusky: “Sustainability is our watchword as the original contents of the egg are used for egg-based treats too”. They can come with decorative boxes and toys.

Tickeat’s Fleary concludes: “Travellers are looking to try new things but of course brands like Mars and Ferrero will always be big sellers onboard as they are well known and passengers are comfortable choosing them.”