5 On Your Side

Getting the Sweetest Chocolates for Your Sweetie

Posted February 7, 2008 5:35 p.m. EST
Updated February 7, 2008 9:38 p.m. EST

With Valentine's Day a week away, many are struggling to answer a burning question: How will you say 'I love you' to your sweetheart?

Here's a tidbit: Chocolate sales are expected to be bigger than usual next Thursday, when more couples celebrate their love at home, rather than going out, on a weeknight. And chocolate sales should grow more in the future: By 2011, U.S. chocolate sales are forecast to reach $18 billion.

Consumer Reports, though, cautions against immediately running to the corner drug store and grabbing a foil-wrapped, heart-shaped box of chocolates that often will look and taste like wax.

Consumer Reports staffers tested nearly two dozen brands of gift-box chocolates, ranging in price from $8 at drugstores and supermarkets to $97 at boutiques.

Texture and flavor are keys to picking out the best of the varied chocolates out there: creamy milk, deep dark or white chocolate pieces, perhaps filled with fruit or even chili pepper.

"The best assortments taste fresh and are made with high-quality ingredients," Ellen Klosz, a Consumer Reports tester, said. "They had well-blended flavors that tasted real, not artificial. And you look for that ultra-smooth texture."

Nine gift-box chocolates were rated excellent, including a $43, one-pound assortment from Candinas. The assortment was also rated a best buy for its ultra-smooth milk and dark chocolate pieces with hints of fresh cream and butter.

Three other gift-box assortments of milk and dark chocolates also got ratings of very good and best buys: See's Famous Old Time, for $15 a pound; Leonidas Assortment, for $34 a pound; and Godiva, for $38 a pound.

If the chocolates are not available in a store near you, you can order them online or by phone. Be sure to factor in shipping costs. In some cases, overnight shpping can add $20 or more to the bill.

Chocolate prices are up this year, driven by higher energy and dairy costs. One brand went up $16 a box from 2007, according to Consumer Reports.

For many, though, the cost will be worth every mouth-watering bite of those chocolate delights.