The chocolate selection at any store indicates who their consumers are, what the most popular products are, and the overall price will indicate its purchase by the consumer. I have chosen to investigate the chocolate selection at Consumer Value Stores, better known as CVS, and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe. The two shops are conveniently across the street from each other in Harvard square. The location of CVS and Cardullo’s is important to mention because that may indicate what products they have and the price points of each product. I chose the CVS location in Harvard square believing there may be some higher end options offered here due to the location and demand of Harvard square. I selected Cardullo’s as they are gourmet shoppe with foreign and unknown brands of chocolate.
Personal perceptions of each store prior to research:
Cardullo’s is a specialty shop and they pride themselves on providing an array of products from all over the world. You walk into their shop and you can buy jam from Greece, honey from Zambia, wine from California, bread from Somerville, and crackers from Latvia. When I think of Cardullo’s, I begin to have images of chocolates from far away, companies and brands I have never encountered before, and high prices. I generally would go here if I am looking for something new to try or window shopping to see what new items they have.
As for CVS, in my mind they are a one stop shop. I can buy toiletry items, have my prescription filled, and purchase chocolate all at the same time. I believe they have fair and equivalent prices for all of their products, so I generally don’t worry about getting the best deal when I shop here. This is a store where I can find all the popular brands, from food, to medications, to paper towels, and a CVS equivalent of the same brand name product. With the use of CVS yellow sticker prices indicating sale items, it is easy to locate the cheapest product when searching for the best deal.
All the chocolate you find at CVS is a popular brand name and the CVS brand chocolate. From the Nestle company, I could easily locate KitKat, Crunch, and Butterfinger chocolates. The Mars company selection consisted of M&M’s, Snickers, Dove, Twix, Milky Way, and Mars chocolate. Cadbury, Milka, and Toblerone from the Kraft Company. Throughout the chocolate aisle, I could find these chocolates in bar form, mini snack size, bite size, and in bags (bulk).
There were two other prominent chocolate bars to select from, Lindt and Ghirardelli, that are not associated with the large corporations mentioned above. For Ghirardelli, each bar variety that was displayed there was a CVS bar to match it. Not only were the flavors the same, but the packaging style and design are very similar. The bars were not the only ones replicated, but the small bag that contains 12 pieces of small Ghirardelli squares, that can be found in individual packing, was also replicated. As for Lindt, the same thing could be found – for every bar flavor, you could find the CVS brand directly underneath it. Similar to Ghirardelli, the small bag that contains about twenty-five Lindt chocolate truffles was replicated and found beneath it. Even though the CVS brand could be located beneath these chocolates you really have to search for it, as the display makes these choices close to the ground. When searching for chocolate at CVS you are overwhelmed with the choices present and it would be rare that the shelves closer to the ground would be immediately located.
The selection of CVS chocolate was limited to the Ghirardelli and Lindt as I described above, except for the few packages I saw of chocolate covered fruit, chocolate covered nuts, mint chocolate bites.
The chocolate selection at the CVS registers are easily located so while you are waiting in line, you can see the chocolate selection and ponder purchasing a last minute treat. Even at the self-checkout registers there is a small chocolate, candy, and gum rack for very last minute purchases while you are checking your items out. The chocolate choices that can be found here are the most popular purchases such as Snickers, Reese’s, and KitKat.
Cardullo’s has a very wide selection of chocolate from all over the world. They have small batch, craft chocolate maker, and chocolatier chocolates such as Francois Pralus pure origin bars and Chocolat Bonnat single origin bars. They carry craft chocolate makers such as Taza, Vosges, and Chuao. Craft chocolate makers are are companies that creates small batches of chocolate from bean to bar (Coe & Coe 2013). Cardullo’s also carries the Big Five chocolates such as Toblerone, KitKat, D’Or, and Cadbury. Then there are is the popular Belgian chocolate companies such as Godiva, Nehaus, and Dolfin that are regularly in stock.
Looking around at Cardullo’s selections, I was most attracted to the packaging of Francois Pralus pure origin bars. The front of the bar clearly and in the largest text states the country of origin for the cacao used in the bar. Directly under the country’s name you can immediately see what type of cacao was used in preparing this chocolate bar. Third, the chocolate bar also has the longitude and latitude of the location of the farm where the beans are grown! The bars seen at Cardullo’s indicates what we have learned in class, that cacao generally is grown 20 degrees above and below the equator (Presilla 2009:9). The packaging also has a map of the world with an indication as to where this cacao come from to give the consumer a better idea of how far the cacao farm is from your local grocer. I could imagine this map as a tool to indicate how far the chocolate is coming from and why the price costs as much as it does. This was the most expensive bar I could find at Cardullo’s, with a price of $11.99!
Depending on what kind of chocolate is being displayed, the display can vary at CVS. All of the chocolates that come in bags with multiple small size candy bars can be found in silver metal baskets. The individual chocolate bars are found on the general shelving, slanted at a 30 degree angle. This angle provides the consumer first with the type of chocolate rather than the brand name of the chocolate. This is because your eyes start at the bottom of the bar and move up to the top of the bar where the brand name is positioned.
The way CVS has their chocolate organized is by the most popular at eye level. Their shelving consists of five rows, and the second and third shelves have the most popular brands occupying that space. These shelves are prime at the prime height for most consumers, therefore their eyes are attracted to these shelves first and they generally will purchase a product from here. The other shelves hold the other less popular items and the CVS brand items.
As a consumer, I personally did not think much about what is being used to display the chocolate at CVS prior to this research. However, when comparing it to Cardullo’s, it is now more striking to me how plain and unattractive the displays are for chocolate at CVS. For chocolate that is known as the the food of the gods (Coe & Coe 2013)! The display at Cardullo’s was slightly more attractive, and that was not on the part of the shop, it is on the part of the product. Many of the packaging from the different companies were bright, attractive, and stood out from each other. Since the packaging was more attractive, this is what made the display more attractive.
What was interesting about the Lindt, Ghirardelli, and CVS knock-off brand of both of these chocolates, they were located in the front of the store. The display at the front of the store did start off the chocolate aisle, but it is also a prime place for the store clerks to keep an eye on their most expensive chocolate.
At Cardullo’s, the display of chocolate is very different than what I saw in CVS. First, you find no chocolates in bags. Almost all the chocolate is sold individually and in bar form only. Second, all the chocolate bars were kept in their original manufacturing boxes. These boxes were was used to prop the chocolate up, price of the chocolate, and to ensure the company’s logo is accurately displayed. I did notice some of the shelves did have a black, sleek, metal shelving unit in them, where bars who did not have manufacturing boxes were displayed on. However, this was not common. What was more interesting about these chocolate bars, was the fact that they contained no prices on them.
I personally was shocked to discover that Cardullo’s carries the general Kraft, Mars, and Nestle brands along with the higher end chocolates. My perceptions of this shop is of new foreign brands with high prices. I also stick to one area of their chocolate wall and never wander down the aisle enough to see what else they sell.
Since the checkout area at Cardullo’s is small, I have not found any chocolate that can be purchased last minute at the register. I believe this says something about Cardullo’s general customers, they have the luxury of time to make a full decision before checking out. Cardullo’s is a place where many customers have in mind what they would like to purchase and know their selection is very unique. You cannot walk into this store and buy anything you need, like you can at CVS. However, what you can find at the register is small pocket candies and sticks of marzipan for last minute purchases.
The price for an individual chocolate bar varied from $1.99 – $4.19 depending on the brand, flavor, and size. The prices at CVS are easy to read and understand with clear labels. As I mentioned above, there are also yellow price tags indicated sales and promotions throughout the chocolate aisle. If a price could not be located on a chocolate product, I could go to the price check machine at the front of the store to find the price. Overall, the pricing at CVS is easy to read, accurately placed, and a great customer value.
The most expensive bar chocolate I could find at CVS was Ghirardelli chocolate at $4.19 for a single bar. CVS brand, which is a replica of Ghirardelli bar was selling for $3.19 with almost exact packaging.
At Cardullo’s some of the bars of chocolate are easily accessible and labeled with prices. However, it seems that some of the more expensive chocolates do not have their prices clearly labeled. Some of the bars either had no price on them or they were on the back of the bar. Here I feel intimidated going to the cashier to ask them the price of a chocolate bar. If I do have the guts to do it, I try to control my emotions as much as I can and brace myself for an elaborate price for a product that is unknown to me. I feel if I walk in here I should know I am going to pay high prices and should not care about the price of it at all.
CVS is the type of store where I would not be intimidated to go to the cashier and ask for a price check. Cardullo’s, on the other hand, is a store where I would rather not approach the cashier and ask them for a price check. If I do happen to have gathered the courage, I would mentally prepare myself to control my emotions when I hear the price. This may sound extreme, but Cardullo’s is not a value store and many of their items are priced high.
What I found most interesting as I was doing my research, CVS was selling Cadbury chocolate for a higher price than Cardullo’s was! The price difference was about 30 cents, but still important difference to note. One would think that purchasing chocolate at CVS would be the cheapest and best way to go, but this case proved otherwise!
After a thorough analysis of the chocolate selection at CVS I believe that their chocolate is branded, packaged, and priced for the average consumer of chocolate. Prior to this class, I would have been perfectly fine purchasing chocolate from CVS, whether from the Big Five or CVS brand as they generally had the best prices. CVS chocolate is for the consumer who may lack time and would need to purchase their chocolate, while running other errands, instead of going to a speciality shop. CVS chocolate is for the consumer who may lack finances to purchase any chocolate that is over $4.50, so they are limited to what they may consume. Additionally, offering chocolate in bulk, bags, is an ideal product for many consumers who believe they are getting a deal when buying a large quantity of items.
Cardullo’s is a shop that carries many imported goods as well as locally produced goods. They cater to the consumer who likes to purchase foreign goods, possibly a consumer who misses a certain product from home. Or possibly for a consumer who once travelled to a specific place and wants to enjoy those products again in their own home. Or for a consumer who has never travelled to such a destination, but can have a try of it through their foods. What ever the case, I see this as a store who promises fond memories for the consumer who purchases their goods.
Francois Pralus, the bar from Sao Tome and Principe, is made with Forastero chocolate. As we have learned and discussed in class, Forastero is the type of cacao that is used to make 90% of all chocolate consumed today (Presilla 2009:72). With that in mind, for a bar that costs $11.99 I am not sure it is worth it to purchase and consume a bulk cacao variety for that price.
Chocolate has been transformed dramatically over the years through hybridization or creolization. Hybridization or creolization is, a combination of multiple cultures to create a new and unique culture. This is evident in chocolate in America as we can see the addition of ingredients only palatable to the American consumers such as peanut butter. “Entirely new, creolized culture was taking form that partook elements from both cultures …” (Coe & Coe 2013:113).
At Cardullo’s you can see the wide array of hybridization of chocolate with many unique choices. Chuao chocolate was the brand that stood out to me the most that had such a grand display of hybridization of chocolate. They had a selection of chocolate potato chips, popcorn chocolate, rocky road chocolate, s’more chocolate, cinnamon cereal, and so much more! As a matter of fact, I could not locate a single plain chocolate bar from Chuao company! With the varying types they had to offer, it is hard not to notice these.
While at CVS, you can see the hybridization as well, but not with as unique flavors Cardullo’s is offering. Peanut butter was the most common additional ingredient added to the chocolate that could be found at CVS. In second, caramel was found to be the additional ingredient in many chocolate bars. This small variety of hybrid chocolate is uninspiring and uniform. If a consumer was shopping for chocolate at CVS and looking for something new to try, CVS would not be able to provide that variety.
In conclusion, CVS provides the popular companies chocolates at a low price, with low variety. While at Cardullo’s they provide not only the bean to farm chocolate, but also popular companies, all on the same shelf! If you are looking for something new to try, stop at Cardullo’s while in Harvard square. If you are looking for the typical American chocolate, stop at CVS to purchase your chocolate.
I would like to make one last point of my research – My research at CVS and Cardullo’s may not be accurate of their general display, stocking techniques, or general product variety. A majority of my research was completed in a two day period, a very short window of time. I want to take a moment to acknowledge that I may have been at their stores on an empty day, prior to shipment arriving. This could have skewed my research and some points discussed in this post. Please let me know if you have realized other products or if you have any comments!
 Martin, Carla D. 2015. Lecture 7: The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market on March 11, 2015.
 Chuao Chocolatier, chocolate selection. http://chuaochocolatier.com/chocolate-bars.html.
Presilla, Maricel E. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2013. True History of Chocolate. 3rd edition. London: Thames and Hudson.
Goody, Jack. 1982. Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine. pp. 72-88.
Nesto, Bill. 2010. Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. 10(1):131-135.
–All photography was taken by the author of this post. —