Chocolate is arguably the UK’s favourite treat. We are ranked 4th in the world league tables of per capita consumption, and the average Brit consumes approximately 9.5kg of chocolate per year (although my waistband tells me I consume a lot more than that)! Britain’s first chocolate factory opened in 1657 – making it 50 years older than the UK’s first tea shop!
The UK chocolate Easter egg market is worth over £220 million – so as you may expect, ‘egg-xtra’ special care is required to deal with the extra demand around Easter. How do logistics professionals stop themselves from ‘cracking’ under the pressure?
What came first, the chocolate or the egg?
Before we have even had a chance to take down our Christmas trees and commence our New Years’ diet, supermarkets begin to stock the shelves with Easter treats. While this may seem incredibly early, the production of chocolate eggs actually begins around 8 months prior. Cocoa pods are transported from family farms and plantations in South America and West Africa in the first stages of the supply chain process (cultivating, harvesting and splitting).
The remaining stages of the process involve fermenting and drying the cocoa, winnowing, grinding and roasting. The cocoa is then sent through quality control, with only the finest grade cocoa beans selected for shipment to the UK via airfreight. Only then can the chocolate be moulded into its famous egg shape in time for Easter.
Melt in your mouth, not before!
It is important that the shipping conditions protect the chocolate from humidity, moisture, and foreign odours. The ideal shipping temperature for chocolate is around 55 degrees – any higher and the taste, appearance and quality of the product can be greatly compromised.
A common problem is ‘fat bloom’ – the white frosting that covers chocolate that has been exposed to too much humidity and moisture. The sugar within the chocolate absorbs the moisture, resulting in the dusted layer of crystallised sugar. ‘Bloomed’ chocolate can cause consumers to assume their product is inedible however it is still safe to eat – only appearance and shelf life are affected.
On the (rocky) road…
Transporting chocolate by road requires specially refrigerated trucks. In order to ensure a perfect shipment, the trucks are insulated against cool and warm air to ensure the chocolate keeps it shape and texture, and to avoid the aforementioned ‘fat-blooming’. Proper air circulation in refrigerated trucks means that products can be palletized and loaded in bulk – helping to ship larger volumes to keep up with demands.
The logistics involved in transporting chocolate from the pod to the consumer requires a lot of care and attention. Ensuring the eggs are stocked on the shelves in perfect condition is a difficult and lengthy task, and logistics professionals should be commended on their efforts for dealing with the extra demand this time of year… Oh, who are we kidding – everyone knows the Easter Bunny is the real brains behind the operation!
Written by Kerry-Ann Holleyman – Team Assistant at Alchemy Global Talent Solutions.