Shocolate Eggs

Preoccupied with Eating Chocolate Easter Eggs

When chocolate Easter eggs first appeared in the 1870s from Fry’s and Cadbury’s, they were a bit of a luxury. That continued for about a century, but the emergence of mass merchandising contributed to explosive growth for the business of Easter chocolates in the latter half of the 20th century. For one day in many parts of the world, chocolate eggs are an essential obsession.

France, in fact, is in lockdown for Easter, but chocolate shops there count as essential businesses, authorized to stay open. See’s Candies will ship more than 4.5 million chocolate Easter eggs this year. Last year they had to shut down.

Research on Dealing with All Those Eggs

The influx of so many chocolate eggs presents parents with a dilemma. Should they restrict access? Or will that merely make them more desirable? Believe it or not, there’s experimental research to answer this question.

Jane Ogden and colleagues conducted two naturalistic experiments and reported their findings in Appetite. In each study, researchers randomly assigned parents to a restriction or non-restriction group. In one of the studies, researchers gave parents chocolate coins for their children. The other study took place during an Easter break when children would be naturally receiving a bounty of chocolate Easter eggs.

In the restriction group of each study, children saw their chocolates and received one to eat. But then parents put them out of reach and restricted further consumption according to a protocol – not too much, not at mealtimes, and not too often. In the other group, children could have their chocolates whenever they wanted, as much as they wanted.

The results were pretty straightforward. In the restriction group, children ate less chocolate, but they became more preoccupied with it. The other group ate more, but wound up being less interested in the chocolate treats. Their thoughts shifted to other sweet treats. The authors explain:

“The results from the present studies indicate the following: if they want their child to eat less overall then restrict it. If they want their child to be less preoccupied with trying to eat it then let them have it and get it over and done with.”

Supply Issues

So it would seem that the supply side of the chocolate Easter egg equation plays a big role. Once we have the eggs in our midst, the choice is either eat them or let them dominate our thoughts.

Britain’s chocolatiers have a slightly different problem. After whisky, chocolate is Britain’s biggest food export and Europe accounts for 70 percent of a billion dollars in sales. Or it used to. Now, because of Brexit, the supply to Europe is severely restricted. Does this mean that Europeans will become more obsessed with British chocolate? Or will the interest eventually fade?

Time will tell.

Click here for the study by Ogden et al and here for more on the travails of British chocolatiers.

Shocolate Eggs, photograph © Susan Fitzgerald / flickr

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April 4, 2021

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