“Chocolate will always be the most affordable luxury and affordable to a lot of people. Indulgence is key and we are seeing real engagement from the chocolate maker,” says Gérald Palacios, Managing Director of Event International, the company that owns the Salon du Chocolat brand. “This year, we have more exhibitors than last year, but in a different format, for professionals, we have the B2B village that I think will grow more and more in time. We also have more artisans and have 38 countries represented."
He also tells ConfectioneryNews in an exclusive video interview (below) that according to his feedback, consumer relationship to chocolate is also changing and they are ready to pay more for a sweet treat because they understand the value of a brand that can prove traceability in the cocoa supply chain.
While this is good news for the chocolate industry, especially if it means cocoa farmers obtain a living income, it is also good for Salon du Chocolat, which is back bigger and better, post-pandemic, in its home city of Paris – with a huge international expansion plan to take the brand to new territories including Peru and Turkey next year, as well as pitching up in Dubai, Riyadh, and Shanghai, along with a fresh presence in the United States and Canada.
Palacios says there is a lot of interest in chocolate and pastries in these countries. “The better people understand what is chocolate and cacao, the better they will buy and understand the benefits to a broader world.
“As I said in my introductory speech, people are eating more chocolate, better chocolate … it's a new, universal trend, and what we are trying to do is bring more and more foreign brands and new talent to get a full spectrum about the future of this new sweet gastronomy,” Palacios says.
Japan is back
This year’s Paris Salon du Chocolat received a fillip with the return of a sizeable delegation of Japanese chocolatiers, for the first time since the Covid pandemic.
“Last year was very complicated, very few Japanese came back, because of COVID-19, but Japan, for us, is in our heart. We have been in Japan for 23 years. It's a beautiful experience, beautiful people, and I see more and more people want to seize this Japanese passion for chocolate.”
Apart from the daily fashion parade of chocolate-themed outfits, the Champagne bar, and the French pastry chef demonstrations, the Salon du Chocolat is perhaps unique because it is open to the general public who can buy directly from exhibitors. Not only do they come to the Porte de Versailles in huge numbers on what is traditionally a long weekend in October, but they are becoming increasingly engaged about where chocolate is sourced from and more knowledgeable about the issues surrounding the cocoa industry such as deforestation and child labour.
Running alongside the trade fair is a series of talks on sustainability, which is very well attended by visitors.
“I think this story becomes more and more important. There are some chocolate products that you can scan with your phone and you can see who the producers are, where the cocoa comes from, and the supply chain,” says Palacios.
“Ten years ago, the consumer was not that knowledgeable, now there is a willingness to engage. And this is what we appreciate, you know when you talk to people, they will say the question that we have today from consumers is completely different from five years ago.
“And also in terms of the media, we have journalists here this week from all over the world because this is what we bring, the information change in the industry, and this is also the role that we want to play that's why we say we're ambassadors of a bigger cause.”