Le chocolat des Francais: Savor the Chocolate, Save the Wrappers

489

A French chocolate company, a cluster of talented artist/illustrators, and a classy museum shop are the serendipitous beneficiaries of a clever collaboration that enhances both the visibility and the sales of each participant.

The company, Le chocolat des Francais, is the brainchild of young art school graduates Paul-Henri Masson and Matthieu Escande, and their friend Vincent Muraire, who launched a line of chocolate bars in 2014 at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris. They enlisted dozens of artists to design humorous, colorful wrappers to showcase “your most beautiful nod to French culture.”

To make their preservative-free dark and milk bars they sought out an experienced chocolatier, sourced ingredients of French origin like specific salts from the Camargue and Guerande and northern beet sugar, along with cacao from Ecuador and Peru. The back of the wrappers display the coveted Bio AB France and Europe organic farming labels.

After winning the award for best young chocolate brand at the Salon in 2015, Le chocolat des Francais expanded their product line to include salted caramel, bars with hazelnuts and cocoa nibs, and coated almonds. Their revolving cache of wrappers, designed by a roster of 400 artists – graphic designers, cartoonists, street artists, and famous illustrators – are eye-catchers at 500 retail outlets in Europe and Asia. Customized designs for corporate clients range from the Volkswagen logo for the car company to a wrapper of watches for Swatch.

Until this year, the company has had limited presence in the United States, but that has changed with the arrival of a pop-up at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art Design Shop in Soho, January 9th to February 18th. This marks MoMA Design Store’s first big foray into food-focused product. According to the Museum’s Design Store Director of Merchandising, Emmanuel Plat, “Le chocolat des Francais’ dedication to innovation and originality, together with the production of a beautiful product is exactly what we look for when selecting brands.”

In addition to a technicolor wall of various sizes and types of chocolate for sale, customers are invited to buy a bar with a plain wrapper and have it illustrated by one of Le chocolat’s artists on designated weekends. On a recent Saturday afternoon Brooklyn based Jordan Sondler, whose well-known whimsical illustrations on stationery, wall prints, and home decor, are often food related, sat patiently sketching portraits of children, dogs, and memorabilia for customers lined up with photos to personalize in pastel pink or bold red. Sondler designed a bar for Le chocolat des Francais a few years ago, and also works with other culinary industry clients like Food 52 and Eater.

There is also a Love Notes post box available at the MoMA shop to mail the customized bar – just purchase a pre-stamped envelope along with the bar, write a note to accompany the bar, add the address and drop it in the letter box. “The pop-up is doing very, very well,” says Masson, “Both Le chocolat des Francais and MoMA are happy about that, and we may open other pop-ups in the U.S.” Meanwhile this feast for the eyes as well as the palate offers inspiration to develop other creative liaisons between cuisine and culture.