$17billion is the projected total US sales of chocolate confectionery in 2009, according to Mintel, a market research company.
71% is how much Hershey’s second-quarter earnings increased from 2008 to 2009.
"While a $50 meal may be off the table, a $5 premium chocolate bar can convey a gourmet pleasure at a much lower price…[I]t can also carry an endorphin rush whose mood-improving value can’t be ignored." —from a Sept. 26 dailyfinance.com article about recession-proof gourmet foods
Even as car manufacturers, insurance giants and banks begged for bailouts last year, the gourmet chocolate industry chugged steadily toward record profits. Whether it was "people crying over their 401(k)s," as Santa Fe chocolatier Jeff Keenan puts it, or former Prada shoppers searching for a cheaper kind of luxury, the chocolate industry has grown at a rate of roughly 2 percent each year since 2006, a trend that Mintel, a market research company, says will continue through 2012.
"Chocolate may very well be recession-proof—it's just a matter of how much consumers want to pay for it," Mintel senior analyst Krista Faron told The Wall Street Journal in January. According to Hayward Simoneaux, owner of Todos Santos Chocolates and Confections, Santa Feans are perfectly happy to pay.
"I've been open 10 years, and typically every year I've done better than the year before," Simoneaux tells SFR. Todos Santos' sales didn't grow in 2008, but they stayed steady, and Simoneaux says this is his best October on record.
Meanwhile, for Keenan's specialty shop, The Chocolate Smith, 2008 was the best year since the store opened six years ago; Keenan expects an even better showing in 2009.
According to Mintel, 78 percent of people buy chocolate for their own consumption. Of those, its 2008 report says, "The top reason…is because respondents had a chocolate craving." A meager 8 percent buy chocolates "because they are sad or depressed."
Simoneaux has his own theory. Beyond an exemplary product—his most popular treats are "anything with salt"—Simoneaux says Santa Feans appreciate the value of buying locally, even if it's a bit more expensive.
Or, as dailyfinance.com puts it, "given the level of self-indulgence they represent, [gourmet chocolates] are actually extremely cost-effective." Or maybe even finance geeks understand the power of an honest-to-goodness chocolate craving.