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Le Chocolat des Français, When Taste Meets Beauty

The French brand Le Chocolat des Français has called on artists, illustrators, and graphic novelists to create the packaging for its chocolate bars, which can now be found at the MoMA Design Store and at Bloomingdale’s in New York.

“We wanted people to think twice about ripping the paper used to wrap our chocolate bars,” says Paul-Henri Masson, the founder of Le Chocolat des Français along with Matthieu Escande and Vincent Muraire. And the gamble has paid off. The trio of Parisian thirtysomethings have made their packaging into artwork. In a testament to their success, their bars are the only edible products sold at the MoMA Design Store, the boutique at the renowned New York museum.

Le Chocolat des Français carved out a niche thanks to its organic, preservative-free products and an elegant marketing campaign. In November 2014, the brand was present at the Paris Chocolat Fair having recruited 50 artists including Edith Carron, Marie Assénat, Laura Junger, and Laurène Boglio to decorate the packaging for its bars. Some 300 examples of their work were showcased as if in a gallery. The company then made waves in 2016 with a 20-foot-tall chocolate statue of King Kong in homage to the work of contemporary artist Richard Orlinski, and again in 2017 with a mural depicting former French president Jacques Chirac made using 2,080 chocolate bars!

Trendy, Pop-Culture Packaging

The bars feature figures such as a blue, curly-haired poodle, a bunny hugging the Sacré-Coeur basilica, a young singer reminiscent of Claude François, and a sailor sporting retro tattoos. Trendy pop is the overall theme. The brand goes for “bright, joyous colors,” says Paul-Henri Masson. “We choose the artists we work with based on impulse and feeling.”

Some 500 artists have already contributed to Le Chocolat des Français, including tattoo artist Jean André and illustrator Jean Jullien, whose Peace for Paris drawing went viral on social media following the November 2015 terrorist attacks. Their works and many others now serve as the packaging for the brand’s products, such as dark chocolate squares, bars filled with hazelnut praline, and chocolate-covered almonds.

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The products are all made in France; the bars in artisanal chocolate factories in des Yvelines département west of Paris and next to Le Touquet in Normandy, the bonbons near Angers, and the chocolate-covered nuts between Marseille and Avignon. The hazelnuts and almonds are sourced in Italy, but the milk, cream, and butter are produced in the French Alps. The salt is harvested from the marshes in Guérande and Camargue, while the sugar is made using beets grown in Northern France.

Coming Soon: Fully-French Beans

The cacao beans are imported from Ecuador and Peru, but this has not stopped Le Chocolat des Français working on a bar made exclusively with French beans. Long overshadowed by the more profitable sugarcane, the cacao tree is currently enjoying a comeback in French Guyana and Martinique according to Paul-Henri Masson. “We are currently conducting tests with a first bag of beans, but the process is long. It takes seven years to grow high-quality beans.”

The products by Le Chocolat des Français have won over the double Michelin-star chef Thierry Marx, who heads up the brasserie Le 58 on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. But they have also found a loyal following in the United States, which is now the brand’s second biggest export market after Japan. This success was reflected at the Fancy Food Show in New York, which featured the company’s product decorated with towering skyscrapers and Uncle Sam wearing sunglasses. The brand is now distributed in the U.S. department stores Bloomingdale’s, Nieman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue and in specialty food stores Le District, Murray’s, and OCabanon in Manhattan.

Some 500,000 bars were sold in 2017, and 700,000 in 2018. The first Le Chocolat des Français store is set to open in Paris in September. As for a store in the United States, this would be a “logical move,” says Paul-Henri Masson. “The Americans love our products!”

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