Q&A: Salon du Chocolat’s Chyai Mulberg on upcoming NYC show, fresh off Paris

By Kristine Sherred contact

- Last updated on GMT

More than two dozen cities have hosted the Salon du Chocolat, which has put on more than 300 events in 25 years. Pic: Nicolas Rodet/Salon du Chocolat
More than two dozen cities have hosted the Salon du Chocolat, which has put on more than 300 events in 25 years. Pic: Nicolas Rodet/Salon du Chocolat

Related tags: Chocolate, Chocolate confectionery market, craft chocolate, artisan, Exhibition, New york city, Cocoa, fashion, trendspotting, Chocolatiers

For the first time in nearly a decade, New York City will host the part-art museum, part-chocolate school extravaganza on November 15-17, 2019 at the Javits Center in Hudson Yards, Manhattan. We got the scoop from event director Chyai Mulberg on what to expect and what’s next for the Salon’s next quarter-century.

CN: How has the Salon evolved over the years? What did the first one in Paris in 1995 look like compared to 2019?

CM​: We have run some 327 editions of Salon in 25 years, and the show has evolved in many ways. We had about 40 exhibitors at the first show, which was 3,000 square meters in size. That’s a stark size difference to today’s shows, which feature around 260 exhibitors showcasing in a 24,000-square-meter space.

CN: In 25 years, more than 30 cities have played host. How has the multi-city approach affected the show’s trajectory? Does content vary depending on location?

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Fine chocolates on display / Pic: Thomas Raffoux

CM​: Salon du Chocolat is a unique global pageantry of chocolatiers, artisans, pastry chefs, experts, and businesses throughout the world who have one thing in common: their passion for all things chocolate. This year, the show finds its home in the epicenter of the world​ – New York City.

The model is adaptable according to a specific country’s needs. We can have BTC and BTB Salon events in a few countries or only host BTC events, and we can explore the various animation zones in different ways, according to the local culture and maturity of the market.

CN: The fine chocolate market has grown tremendously in the past two decades, now accounting for 5% of the US market according to the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA). What has changed, and why did the Salon feel now was the time to bring this immersive event to the US?

CM​: A lot of things have changed over the past couple of decades. The desire to be educated about the products we put in our bodies, the development of the bean-to-bar method, and growing support for the growth of small and mid-sized businesses – to name a few.

There’s also a growing emphasis on sustainability and the global economy for cocoa producers. A lot of international brands are interested in launching their brands in the US and Salon du Chocolat provides that dedicated platform for them to learn about the average US consumer’s needs and palate.

CN: How has the audience of Salon evolved over the years? Do guests travel great distances to attend, regardless of location, or does each show attract mostly locals?

CM​: Attendees at each show are mainly from the host nation; however, when Salon grows to a certain size (such as in Paris or Japan), we’ve seen it attract people from beyond the host country.

Globally, consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about chocolate, as they have more opportunities to taste a wider variety of chocolates in the US and abroad while traveling.

CN: What role does the advisory board play in curating the event? How important is it to have working professionals from throughout the chocolate and pastry sphere?

CM​: They offer advice when curating the event, as well as introductions to other key players. The board is also a place for industry supporters to integrate into the event and address industry-specific and marketplace issues.

CN: Has the Fashion Show always been a signature element of the event?

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The Fashion Show in action / Pic: Thomas Raffoux

CM​: Yes, the fashion show is a key component, as it positions not only the chocolate as an art but also shows the creativity of the participating chocolate makers and designers. It is also a very important element in terms of communication – it is extremely engaging and visual.

CN: As an event director, you deal with a lot of moving parts. What all goes into putting on this kind of show?

CM​: This is what I like most about my job! Every day is different and there are lots of moving parts. Often it is a ‘listening tour’ [of] meeting with customers and supporters. Some days are focused on the operational/logistical end of producing a festival of this size, while others are creative workshopping with marketing and social media experts. The content also has a lot of moving pieces: we have seven sets of designer/chocolatiers creating fashion designs for the Cocoa Capsule Fashion Show and have secured models and a hair and makeup provider. I also handle the coordination of the two dozen [planned] demonstrations, as well as coordination of the SDC Junior events, such as hands-on chocolate-making, painting and sculpting.

CN: What’s on the horizon for Salon? What should we expect in 2020 from the show and from the broader haute chocolate business as a whole?

CM​: In a broad sense, we like to stay on top of trend development in the haute chocolate business. By doing so, we can ensure that these trends are exhibited or highlighted in our upcoming shows. For example, we’ve seen that consumers increasingly aim to understand the origins of the products they purchase, so we like to highlight products from the host country’s producers.

We want Salon du Chocolat to be present in all locations around the world where there is a certain level of maturity of the market and with consumers, and an interest from the chocolate makers and industries… So, do expect Salon to be held in a few new countries in the coming years!

Learn more at salonduchocolatny.com​. Advance general admission tickets​ cost $25 per day, with $10 tickets available for children ages 6-12. On-site tickets run $35 for adults.

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