From a health perspective, chocolate certainly doesn’t have the best reputation. But it hasn’t always been this way... Who remembers when Mars bars and ‘Marathons’ were THE snack to eat to give you energy, keep hunger at bay, and even recover after sport? The advertising messages were, by today’s standards, somewhat misleading. As awareness of the health implications of saturated fat and sugar grew, slogans such as ‘a Mars a day helps you work, rest and play’ were reigned in. Bars were rebranded, downsized and their recipes re-worked to comply with not only changing advertising standards, but also modern nutritional guidelines.
Rather than chocolate leaving consumers feeling satisfied, virtuous and energised (as the 80s adverts would imply), the revelations surrounding ingredients meant that chocolate began to leave a bitter taste in consumers’ mouths. Our corner shop favourites had become ‘guilty pleasures’ so to speak, and advertising began to reflect as much. Take Galaxy, for example, which featured a lady retreating to her hidden secret treat stash for a clandestine chocolate fix. It’s a reputation that endures to this day, but with a new wave of chocolate bars lending a fresh credibility the age old ‘health’ stance, is there more place for chocolate in our diets than the sugar/ fat debate would have us believe? Many up and coming chocolate brands not only have a high percentage of cocoa, but in some cases, they contain other health-giving ingredients such as coconut cream and date powder in place of dairy and sugar. The result is as natural, raw and – dare I say it? – healthy a chocolate bar as the confectionery market has ever known. While chocolate’s fall from grace all those years ago may have negatively affected our confidence in (and relationship with) sweet treats, the disassociation of the sweet shop masses from health and sports contexts did ultimately serve some positive purpose. That is, it re-opened the ‘health food’ niche for the likes of Kaakao, Ombar and Chocolate and Love. These brands, among others, have made great strides in rebuilding chocolate’s bad rep with their raw, quality products. After all, cocoa, in itself, contains active ingredients which can improve alertness and mood. In the absence of all the ‘nasties’ we now know to avoid, there is surely something in the ’ ‘work, rest, play’ promise after all.