Why you should care
Because a candy favorite is getting an artisanal makeover.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, tantalizing taste buds since 1928, are a chocolate-and-peanut-butter institution. They rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in sales each year and annually produce the equivalent of one cup of peanut butter for every person in the world. But they might need to relinquish the spotlight to the growing number of companies targeting the more discerning chocolate lover.
We’re talking artisanal peanut butter cups. Seattle-based Theo Chocolate launched its heart-shaped peanut butter cups, available in milk chocolate and dark, in 2014. The company uses organic and fair-trade ingredients, so you can enjoy that melt-in-your-mouth explosion of salt and sweet ($2.29 for two) without guilt. Debra Music, Theo Chocolate’s chief marketing officer, says she wanted to create the confection for years, but hadn’t been able to find an organic peanut butter supplier. Yes, a real problem, folks. Last year, Music struck a deal with Washington-based CB’s Nuts and started the arduous process of taste testing, which, she explains, involves a ton of eating: “The ratio of the center to the chocolate is hard to get right.” Music says that Theo Chocolate’s cups are healthier than other chocolates, and that they’re better for you than eating, say, licorice as “there’s actual nutritive value in chocolate and peanut butter.”
Many of the new artisanal cups tap into childhood nostalgia, while adding elements that appeal to the adult palate.
Theo Chocolate isn’t the only company using premium ingredients in its peanut butter cups. Last year, Chicago-based chocolate company Wild Ophelia launched fair-trade peanut butter cups in four flavors, including smoked salt, crispy chia seed and toasted coconut. The most popular? Caramelized banana (the company sells a chocolate bar in the same flavor). Wild Ophelia’s philosophy is also appealing: It’s creating an “Ophelia Program” to support female entrepreneurs, offering advice and guidance on their journey, and it donates to organizations that fund female innovators. The trendsetter for tasty chocolate cups with a feel-good twist is Justin’s, which launched its organic peanut butter cups in 2011. And rejoice, nut allergy sufferers: Sun Cups offers chocolate sunflower butter cups that are 100 percent nut-free — they have a creamy, slightly seedy taste.
Many of the new artisanal cups tap into the childhood nostalgia surrounding peanut butter cups, while adding elements that appeal to the adult palate, in both taste and outlook. Rosa Li of ZOMG, Candy believes this trend is an extension of the organic fad in food. “Candy especially benefits from the health halo effect” of labels, she explains: Eating organic or fair-trade candy “makes us feel better about our splurge.” But let’s face it: While artisanal peanut butter cups may sound healthier, they’re still full of fat and sugar — which is not great for your waistline. And premium product means premium pricing.
But to take a note from Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, “If you can’t control your peanut butter, you can’t expect to control your life.” So indulge in all the sweet things you like, but work on that portion control, eh?