A scandal in the world of hipster chocolate looks like it may have had some serious impact on the brand.
Shop owners selling Mast Brothers chocolate say that sales plunged up to 66% after scandal hit the company in December, reports New York Magazine’s Grub Street. Five out of six retailers contacted by the food news site reported that sales of the candy dropped this holiday season, compared to the previous year.
The December debacle was rooted in a blogger’s exposé that alleged that the Mast Brothers, at one point in time, remelted commercial chocolate to create bars instead of making their own. The four-part series argued that the brothers had built their brand on a stylish myth and lacked the true transparency that was necessary as a craft chocolatier.
The Mast brothers have denied these claims, as well as reports that sales have dropped. The company told Grub Street that sales “held steady” in the three weeks after the scandal broke on December 18, and that media attention may have actually boosted revenue.
However, independent retailers that spoke with Grub Street told a different story.
The biggest plunge in sales was at Brooklyn gourmet food store Bklyn Larder. Co-owner Sergio Hernandez said sales dropped 66%, selling $1,700 worth of Mast chocolate bars in the final two weeks of 2015, compared to $5,000 the previous year.
Other shops, such as Bedford Cheese Shop in Brooklyn and Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, experienced decreases between 17 and 47%. At Brooklyn Victory Garden in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, sales remained the same, but three customers returned bars.
A Mast Brothers spokesperson told Grub Street that these experiences did not reflect sales as a whole.
The retailers that Grub Street contacted were perhaps more likely to attract the hip clientele who would read and take offence to the fact that, maybe, at one point in time, the chocolate was not bean-to-bar.
Larger retailers that are responsible for more sales and that may have more casual customers, including Whole Foods and Dean & DeLuca, would not share sales figures with Grub Street. While the scandal may have made the Mast Brothers unpopular in certain gourmet shops in Brooklyn, the brand’s bright and distinctive wrapping could prove to be enough to convince the average shopper to keep buying the chocolate.
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