Craft chocolate is a new and fast-growing segment of the American chocolate market. To understand American premium chocolate consumer perception of craft chocolate and chocolate quality, we conducted a mixed-methods study using focus groups and projective mapping. Premium chocolate consumers use mainly packaging as a quality proxy and focus on color, cocoa percent, and a European and handmade aesthetic. Projective mapping revealed that participants segmented products based upon purchase occasion rather than cost. Ultimately, when selecting a chocolate product, premium chocolate consumers look for product attributes that convey trust either through the presence or absence of sustainability certifications, or a semblance of meaning. Consumer interest in sustainability certifications is based upon a matrix of the significance and the importance of the certification to the consumer. Meaning is best conveyed through a story, cause or personal affect. Once trust is established, premium chocolate consumers look to chocolate products to bring them utility or joy, which have a constant interplay. Utility and joy are achieved by purchasing a chocolate product as a gift, for its nostalgic purposes, or for medicinal effects. We propose a Chocolate, Trust, Utility, and Joy concept map to explain our finding.
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