Valentine’s Day chocolates that suit today’s stay-home mood

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A Lindt mobile store travels around Japan.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Shops and businesses are offering a variety of fun ideas for people to enjoy the occasion at home as it remains necessary to avoid crowded settings during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Matsuya Ginza department store in Tokyo is offering products in its “0.5 Tema Choco” campaign. The name means chocolate that requires only 50% of the usual time and effort to prepare.

One such product is Vestri Antica Gianduia (¥1,944), an Italian chocolate spread that can be softened in a microwave. Tomoe Saveur’s Cacao Jang (¥1,620) is a seasoning made of cacao blended with soy sauce that can enhance meat or sashimi.

Sho Koizumi, a buyer for the department store, said, “This year we are presenting products to enjoy rich at-home dining with food that can be quickly prepared with little time and effort.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Products in Matsuya Ginza department store’s “0.5 Tema Choco” campaign can be used as spreads or seasonings.

In response to the increased popularity of drinking at home due to the pandemic, the department store for the first time has set up a special section in an event space to recommend combinations of alcoholic drinks and chocolates.

Do-it-yourself kits to easily make chocolate sweets at home also have become popular.

Tomizawa Shoten, known as Tomiz, a store that specializes in confectionery ingredients, is offering eight types of Valentine’s Day kits, each containing the necessary ingredients for making chocolate cakes and cookies.

At the store, sales of do-it-yourself confectionery kits have increased by 20% compared to before the pandemic.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A Valentine’s Day kit from Tomizawa Shoten

Tomizawa Shoten President Jun Tomizawa said, “I hope people will enjoy the experience of making sweets at home with their family.”

In late January, Swiss chocolate company Lindt rolled out a mobile chocolate boutique and cafe, which will travel to six commercial facilities across the nation, enabling people to enjoy a special outdoor experience with chocolate.

As Lindt’s establishments stores are located in commercial facilities, people can visit the pop-up store to avoid crowded indoor settings during its Valentine’s Day campaign period.

“The plan is to move the Lindt store to your town. I hope people will enjoy choosing their favorite chocolates,” said Masahiro Kataoka, marketing senior manager of Lindt & Sprungli Japan.

Socially conscious sweets

There have been growing efforts to combine buying chocolate with contributing to society.

Since 2019, Plan International Japan, a public interest organization in Tokyo, has been hosting “Sekai no onnanoko o choco de shien #SapoChoco,” a program to empower girls across the world.

This year, Tokyo Kaikan in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo and the Fujisaki department store in Sendai have joined the initiative.

If consumers purchase select chocolate products sold by a store that supports the project, a portion of the sales will go toward activities helping to solve problems faced by girls in developing countries.

The project has been conducted mainly by Plan International Japan and Otekomachi, a website for working women from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The Takashimaya department store is selling chocolate with the added incentive of reducing the waste of bananas. Takashimaya buys bananas that are not distributed in markets due to having brown spots or other reasons, even though there is no problem with their quality. These bananas are processed and mixed with other ingredients to make commercial products jointly developed by Takashimaya and confectionery stores in Japan. One such product is the Toshi Yoroizuka brand’s Truffle Banane (¥2,301).

Akemi Natsuyama, a senior researcher at Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living, said, “As people spend more time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, Valentine’s Day is changing from an event to give chocolate to people as an obligatory gift to an event to enjoy chocolate for themselves or with loved ones.”

She continued, “While it is still difficult for people to go out, this year’s Valentine’s Day is characterized by having more ideas and events for people safely enjoy while taking the pandemic into consideration.”