Bonne année, bonne santé! Traditional New Year’s greetings in France begin like this, wishing Happy New Year and good health, to be said each time you see someone for the first time in the year, throughout the month of January. So I’m taking this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy and healthy 2016, and to get back into blogging after a bit of a festive break I thought I’d talk about one of my favourite things….chocolate. No irony intended, chocolate can be healthy!
Our household is still groaning under a surplus of chocolate, having been given quite a few boxes for a vin chaud party we held, then more from JF’s family on our brief visit, and even more in England over Christmas and I’m not quite ready yet to stop indulging. I’ll pull myself together and take control after the galette and associated gatherings that take up at least half of January. (And then it’ll be Chandeleur, French pancake day, and then before we know it Easter…oh dear, just when am I going to get raisonnable?!)
Much is written about chocolate in France, about how it’s beautifully handmade, artisanal and elegant. This can of course be true and a good percentage of chocolate sold is from chocolatiers and pâtisseries, certainly a much higher percentage than in many other parts of the world. But this is not the whole story. Vast amounts, especially at Christmas, are produced industrially and shifted through enormous supermarkets. I know I’ve mentioned it before, and it came up frequently in the things expat bloggers like about France at Christmas, the fact that Christmas in France is less commercial than elsewhere, but it’s not some backward quaint little country stuck in a mythical golden era pre-globalisation, not at all.
The French supermarket giant Carrefour is one of the top 3 biggest supermarket chains in the world, moving between 2nd and 3rd place over the last few years and Auchan makes the top 15. The buying frenzy in the days leading up to Christmas in my nearest Carrefour would suggest that French love to shop every bit as much as their Anglosaxon counterparts (particularly when it comes to food).
Just because they don’t start marketing Christmas in October, doesn’t mean they don’t go crazy in the last few days and I must admit to being astounded by the quantities of chocolate on display. Take a look at my photos. They are not taken in a warehouse, but in the chocolate section of the supermarket itself, with forklifts restocking the 2.5m high towers continually, so much so that there’s no time to remove the delivery pallets. A far cry from the pretty, understated displays in independent chocolate boutiques (as seen in the first 2 photos above)!
Here are a few facts and figures: 40,000 tonnes of chocolate are consumed in France over the fêtes de fin d’année (end of year festivities including New Year as well as Christmas). French eat around 7kg of chocolate per head per annum but are only in 7th position behind such countries as Ireland, Britain, Belgium and Switzerland (number 1 consumers). They spend on average 110€ each a year on chocolate and its sales don’t tend to be affected by financial crises as it’s considered an affordable little pleasure even during difficult times.
90% of French people claim to like chocolate and associate it with pleasure, while 83% eat it at least once a week. For half the population chocolate is a comfort food. 30% of chocolate consumed in France is dark chocolate which makes it more popular than elsewhere in the world where on average it’s only 5% of consumption. Chocolate is the most commonly given present at Christmas.
In selection boxes in France you’ll rarely find fruit-filled centres, nor mint. Truffles, pralines, ganache and gianduja are popular as is liqueur, especially cherry. If you want strawberry, violet, lemon etc you’ll need to go to a specialist and even then there won’t be as much choice as there is for nut-based fillings. Almost every box in the giant stacks in my photos is praline; too bad if you have a nut allergy!
Does this massive production and consumption of “industrial” chocolate surprise you about France? I hope I haven’t busted a myth that French only eat amazing hand-crafted chocolates!
PIN it for later!
I think I may have fallen in love with France just a little bit more. When we visited Paris, I had various chocolate shops mapped out that I wanted to visit. Even though Malaysia is a producer of cocoa beans, it’s not a great place for the tasty end product. Chocolates manufactured there are engineered to withstand the tropical heat, so it’s not as “melt in your mouth” as I prefer. Now that we are back in America, my family of 5 people received over 4 kg of chocolate for Christmas. I’m happy to say that even though it’s been a few weeks, it’s not completely gone which demonstrates some restraint on our part. P.S. Heading off to the market in a bit to buy my ingredients for a belated Galette des Rois after being captivated by your other blog post.
Cheese is good! That does help *alittle*
Oh no! How is it possible?!!!!
Watchit Richard! I like dark too…and Roquefort pâtisserie certainly makes yummy choc, lucky you!!
I didn’t know that US candy comes in bags, that sounds cute! Thanks for always participating Diane.
I love checking out all the French boxes of Chocolate. In the US it seems like all the seasonal Christmas candy comes in bags for the most part (hello Christmas tree Reese’s, my fave!), French chocolates are always so festive in their little boxes. And best part? Now it’s all majorly discounted! Thx for hosting!
so much chocolate! great! #all about france 12
Sorry. *Squirms with embarrassment*.
I’m crazy about cheese – does that help? 😀
Someone gave me some chocolate made by the Roquefort les Pains chocolatier for Christmas. Not only was it delicious, it was also jewel-like to look at. It was dark – far nicer than that sickly milk stuff inexplicably advocated by Phoebe! Still, there’s no accounting for taste……
Same here… I actually rarely eat chocolate, not on top of my list of favorites!
Rose and violet creams!!!! From Fortnums; will make a note of it! 🙂
I’m sure you’re happy to have found your “chocolate homeland”! Luckily you seem to spend quite a bit of time in France 🙂
NOT A CHOCAHOLIC!!!!????? How come? Sorry, I can’t help shouting when I hear from someone who doesn’t love chocolate!!!!
What a lot of chocolate. I reckon you can’t beat bendict mints. Dark chocolate with mint filling. However when I am ancient I want to be fed on rose and violet creams from fortnum and masons in London.
Great post! I’ve had some delicious hand crafted chocolate in France but have also seen the supermarkets bulging with boxes of chocolates. How great that they ditch the fruit-filled centres…because, really, who likes them anyway? I am also a bit fan of dark choc so think France must be my chocolate homeland ! #allaboutfrance
Good to hear Carolyne!
I saw something on TV a few nights ago about how very dark choc keeps you fuller for longer and is simply harder to eat being to strong therefore you eat less…I do like dark choc but I LOVE milk more!
I sort of agree except for the price, so I find I eat quite a lot of those brands in the “heaving towers” to get my chocolate fix… 🙁
I hated hot chocolate till I came to France, it’s so watery in UK! I’m afraid chocolate doesn’t last a second with me. It’s my 10 yo son who hoards…as I used to when I was a kid.
Being a complete chocoholic I feel quite at home in France with choc-everything! 😉
Have you been to a Lindt shop Swags? One just opened near me and it’s heaven!!! In my research I discovered that Germans actually eat more chocolate than the French!
The artisan boxes cost an arm and a leg. I just bought a tiny box from a chain chocolatier (so a sort of mid way compromise) for a (galette) party tonight and it was daylight robbery!!! I’m with you on the yummy pralines over hard toffee (though every now and then my inner non-gourmand comes out and I love a strawberry cream from Quality Street!!!)
No myth busting here – I see those chocolate aisles every Christmas and am a sucker for a nice looking box of French chocolates. I know the artisan ones are generally nicer but they cost a fortune and I love dipping into a large flat box of chocs, like a 1940’s American movie star LOL. We were given a couple of boxes of UK chocolates (Roses and Quality Street) this year but despite bravely munching through them I did not like them as much as French ones. Far too many fruit creams (yuk) and chewy toffee/caramels one of which pulled out a filling (grumble). Give me a nice praline any day or some really nice very dark chocolate – delicious!
OMG I die every year over the Lindt boxes – they’re so beautiful and filled with amazing-ness!! We’re finding that Germany has chocolate obsession, too, albeit their standards for taste are a bit lower than the French. (Shhhh, you didn’t hear it from me!) 😉
I love the boutique chocolate shops especially at Christmas though some of the prices are eye-watering! Am partial to Ferrero Rochers myself so the photo of the towering Ferreros is a sweet dream for me 🙂 I’m always amazed how chocolate finds itself into the lives of French people – even kids cereal is loaded with it.
This is so interesting. I had no idea that the French ate so much chocolate. It’s not really my kind of thing but I do love their chocolat chard – so much more properly chocolatey than the ones we get in England.
Wow! All that chocolate is definitely making me feel a bit queasy…I’m the only member of our family that saves her chocolate up for months. This is really interesting. I had no idea the French ate so much chocolate. I do love their chocolat chaud though. Much more properly chocolatey than the ones we get in England.
Bonne annee, bonne sante! And look at those heaving towers of chocolate… I do love it, but would definitely prefer a small amount of something handmade or 70% cocoa (upwards) than great piles of the mass-produced stuff. #allaboutfrance
I love chocolate, but since being in France I have refined my tastes for dark chocolate. I find I need less, although I do indulge every day, a square with my morning coffee. Not overly keen on having large selection boxes though, the added sugar and flavours detract from the real chocolate!
You are talking my language #ChocolateLover
I’m not a chocaholic, but like a nibble from time to time. To be truthful, I find many of the boxed chocolates in France rather sweet and sickly. If I’m buying it for us, it’s either After Eights or a bar of Milka. For friends I buy the sophisticated fancy French stuff. 🙂