Making the most of Valentine’s Day during lockdown
We might be in lockdown, but cupid will still be firing his bow on February 14th. As consumers plan romantic dinners for two at home, they’ll be looking for beautiful gifts to demonstrate their devotion.
To find out what is the perfect ‘I love you’ present, we spoke to several leading chocolatiers to find out how they’re preparing for the big day and discover what they’ll do differently this year to make the most of the opportunity…
“I started Valentine’s planning at the end of last year and finalised menus at the beginning of January,” explains Laura Cotton, of Cocoa Delicious in Norwich. “Much of my stock needed for Valentine’s was ordered last year, including moulds and ingredients, meaning I could hit the ground running in January.”
Laura predicts her hot chocolate spoons will be popular this year. “People are definitely treating themselves as a pick-me-up during these strange times, especially when we can’t go out and do the things we would normally do for Valentine’s Day. My hot choc spoons are always a hit, but this year they’re perfect for that cosy night in with added indulgence!”
Salted caramel continues to be a key flavour this Valentine’s Day, according to all of our chocolatiers, as well as fruit creams, in particular raspberry and strawberry.
“Anything fruity and boozy is always popular for Valentine’s - prosecco, strawberry, raspberry, martinis,” recommends Laura. “I’m also including tried and tested classics like salted caramel, vanilla mallow and cheesecake - always crowd pleasers!”
“There is always an element of something with rose for Valentines, but we find most customers know their spouse’s favourite and buy that rather than something unusual they may not have tried before,” adds artisan chocolatier Stephen Trigg.
Have a heart
Luxury is definitely the buzzword for Annie’s Vegan Treats.
Owner Julie Arthur says: “It seems that a nation in crisis needs their chocolate treats and we have watched as sales have soared over the past 12 months. We have kept our customers’ spirits up with our goodies and now Annie’s will be offering a luxury box of our higher end chocolates for Valentine’s Day. This was very popular at Christmas so we are making them available again. The box will contain six Praline Hearts and six Caramel de Cordoba (filled with beautiful handmade vegan dulce de leche from Vegan Crazy). These will be presented in a completely plastic free box with a lovely heart design on.
“We tend to stick to the traditional flavours with our chocolates as these are the ones that most people miss on adopting a plant-based lifestyle and our sales definitely reflect that!”
Anatomically shaped Valentine’s day chocolates are predicted to be a hit with customers of Bespoke Chocolates of Cambridge.
“I'm embarrassed to say this but the biggest sellers are usually my large hen night willy or chocolate bottoms with saucy and cheeky messages!” admits owner Chrissie Beadle. “I’m also launching a few new bars with unconventional themes using anatomical hearts instead of the heart-shaped ones.
“This year, as times are tight, we are sticking with our current range, although we do have a new Raspberry – vegan chocolate that we’ll promote for Valentines,” says Stephen Trigg. “Normally I’d be in Japan for the Valentines fairs, so this year is a little different. We’ll be emailing our customers to remind them of what is available via our website.”
This will be the first Valentine’s Day in business for Dominic Hutchings, director and founder of Mr H Bars, and he is hoping Valentine’s customers will fall in love with his range of premium protein bars.
“We think the original dark chocolate flavour is going to be our biggest seller this year,” he says. “Some flavours and creations have been tried and tested, but we definitely have a few in our pockets for later in the year.
“For Valentine’s we will use a red theme all throughout our packaging to coincide with the special day.”
Social media is the marketing tool of choice for most of our chocolatiers, and they’re also using their email databases to communicate to their customers too.
“Much of my marketing relies heavily on social media, Instagram in particular,” says Laura. “I’ve used the pandemic as an opportunity to grow my following and social media presence after losing events and stockists. I’ve also been growing my email newsletter subscriber list too for updates on new product releases.”
Meanwhile, Dominic Hutchings has created a bon bon recipe and accompanying tutorial video for customers to create at home.
“The main thing I'll be doing differently this year is teaming up with a local restaurant,” says James Bridger, owner of Coastal Cocoa. “They are planning to do a three-course takeaway Valentine's meal, so couples can still enjoy a romantic evening without worrying about who is doing the cooking!
“We will be bundling in a couple of my chocolates for their customers to enjoy after their meal, which will hopefully make it a bit more special than your average takeaway dinner.”
Inspired to create something new? Check out our range of Valentines friendly products