Marks & Spencer truffle marketing madness

I was just in M&S in London today, at the Euston station food branch. (Not a chain I regularly patonise, I might add). I was quite astonished to see a graphic board on the wall proclaiming "only the finest Forastero cocoa beans from Ghana are used in our dark chocolate truffles" (substitute your own sexy TV ad voice here).

This is really annoying. You can’t just choose one ingredient from one of your standard products and call it ‘finest’, unless you’re a marketing copywriter that is. ‘Forastero’ is probably a word most of M&S’s customers haven’t heard before, so it sound impressive. So might ‘Ghana’ as more and more companies try to talk up what they’ve got rather than make improvements.

Readers of this site will know that Forastero beans are considered inferior to other types, with few exceptions – and those exceptions don’t originate in Ghana. Recently some artisanal makers such as Pralus and Theo have managed to get some reasonable results with Ghana beans, but this is a world away from the industrial production used for most chocolate, with beans that the International Cocoa Organisation designates as ‘bulk’ rather than ‘flavor’. ‘Flavor’ beans come from countries like Venezuela, Ecuador etc.

I’m not saying you can’t make good truffles with chocolate made from forastero beans, but if you did you might want to shout about something else. Or make better truffles with a better chocolate. The difference can be huge and as always choice of ingredients makes a world of difference – but of course costs more. Would M&S’s marketing department make such a big, bold claim about robusta beans in coffee? I suspect not. A case of ‘mutton dressed as lamb’?

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