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Napoletanos, coffee's most tasteful marketing tool.

One of the more widespread, enduring and mouth-watering of customs in European coffee is the practice of serving a morsel of chocolate-- a Napoletano as it is commonly known--at the side of the cup. Time has yet to dim the power of coffee sipped along with a nibble of chocolate--and if it be a fine coffee and a superior chocolate then even the most indifferent consumer senses the proximity of paradise.

The coffee may be a light or dark roast, a blend or single origin, an espresso or long cup; the bite of chocolate may be dark or milk, plain or flavored. The chocolate can come in a galaxy of shapes and styles--brick-like traditional Napoletanos, or as small ingots or in thin tablets. Although usually wrapped, and bearing the emblem of the hosting restaurant or hotel, or of the coffee company itself, the chocolate can also be presented naked and molded in the shape of small coffee beans. The forms and presentations are almost as numerous as the settings--a bar in Vienna, a corporate boardroom in Frankfurt, a cafe in Paris, a hotel in Barcelona.

So widespread is the tradition of coffee and chocolate that in strategic "chocolate nations" like France, the manufacture of the small tablets actually factors in the national production volume. There are chocolate manufacturers that are specialized in the genre. In France, one of these is Monbana.

While one-third of Monbana's annual turnover is from sales of chocolate powder for drinks and the food industry, and another third is in dietary products (Monbana was the first company to offer a line of dietary products to an Olympic Games), the full remaining third of business activity is based on producing small chocolates that are principally intended for coffee and tea services. Yes, tea too is frequently offered with chocolate, although the tradition and the imagery does not seem so potent as for the combination of coffee and chocolate.

The company was formed in 1934 as a classic French chocolate manufacturer. Today, Monbana processes and packs its various chocolate products at a plant in Mayenne, from the basic cocoa derivatives acquired on the international market. The commercial office is now located in La Garenne-Colombes near Paris.

All told, Monbara has more than 100 entries in its product line (and for example can even supply Carimali hot-drink dispensers on request). In each area it has its own brand names, but in sum THE company's work is 90% in private labels. Relative to Napoletanos, Monbana was the first company in France to commercialize the concept and remains market leader. Currently, Monbana produces about 500 names in private label Napoletanos. At any given moment, the company can be working with upwards to 300 different coffee roasting firms--from very small to very large in size. For these roasters, the tiny chocolate packages are an essential element in their hotel-restaurant-bar service and in office coffee service as well. For the various establishments themselves, the Napoletanos are a quite tangible marketing tool.

The Monbana plant produces nine million Napoletanos each month--100 million units per year. The house specialty is the "Suchard" style, meaning a miniature candy bar of a certain quality standard with both an inner and outer wrapper. Nevertheless, the company remains dedicated to offering coffee roasters a wide choice in product shapes and package styles tailored to their specific interests. The product can vary from water format in a single film wrap to what may be the latest word in coffee service chocolate fashion, "the square."

In addition to chocolate coffee beans, which have become a classic in their own right, Monbana offers a range of chocolate tablet qualities based on the five gram size, and a base of 70% cocoa content. These can be dark, milk, white chocolates, chocolate plain or with nuts, they can be traditional or flavored with mint or caramel.

In a world of marketing, it is hardly surprising that the package message is of particular importance. With in-house computer laser, Monbana can work up personalized packaging designs for runs of as little as 1,000 units, although obviously the bigger the run, the more economical the service. Color choices run from single to four-color processes. Monbana works with clients across Europe, but outside of France, the company is most active in Portugal and the Netherlands.
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Title Annotation:Monbana manufacturers Napoletanos chocolate
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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