How Sweet It Is
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, five boxes of chocolate undergo a serious taste test
(MONEY Magazine) – Forrest Gump may have remarked that life is like a box of chocolates, but he wouldn't believe just how unpredictable that box has become.
The preferred Valentine's Day gift has experienced a significant transformation since a Brit named Richard Cadbury allegedly packaged the sweet in a heart-shaped box in the 1800s. Buoyed by America's growing appreciation for gourmet foods (and by the increased awareness that cocoa is rich in antioxidants), chocolate makers have been pushing new products designed to capture this surging market. Some boutique and household brands are using exotic flavorings like curry powder and chili peppers. Consider discount retailer Target: The Signature Collection in its Choxie line features chocolates combined with sea salt and passion fruit, among other ingredients.
There's also the matter of origin. Some aficionados insist they can taste the difference between, say, African and South American chocolate. Another development is all-natural chocolate: Even mass-market chocolatier Russell Stover has an organic line, made with ingredients that "come from the eco-friendly crop management practices which avoid the use of long lasting pesticides and herbicides."
This being Valentine's Day, presentation is at least as important as taste and ingredients. Here too you have choices. Godiva doesn't offer only its familiar Gold Collection of boxes; it now also has a G Collection and a Platinum Collection with chocolate in different packaging.
But a costlier assortment of chocolates may not necessarily be a better one. That's why the competitors in this test cover a range of prices. For every seeker of the finest European truffles, there are just as many who prefer a bar of Hershey's. Fortunately, quality can be found at all prices. It's all a matter of digging to the bottom of that box.
HOW WE DID IT In keeping with the Valentine's Day theme, a panel of women ages 20 to 70 sampled the chocolate. Taste and presentation were considered, along with value.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Harry & David's chocolate has distinct advantages over the competition:
› The chocolate tastes like chocolate. You get real cocoa flavor—not sugar.
› There's a good assortment: truffles, filled pieces and solid ones.
› The price is right. At 79¢ per piece, the box is a tremendous value.
Most manufacturers package their chocolates in different configurations, especially for Valentine's Day. If your beloved prefers milk chocolate, look for a box without the dark stuff.