According to BDSI (the Association of the German Confectionery Industry), neither the chocolate bodies nor the packaging of unsold Santas are resurrected in new garments at Easter. The Association says it is an unjustified rumour that Father Christmases are melted down or repackaged as Easter Bunnies in the spring. Instead, seasonal products in the food retail trade are generally offered at reduced prices or donated to charitable organisations.
Packaging plays a major role, particularly in the food industry. It’s important to protect the flavour, guard against temperature fluctuations and prevent damage. The handling of food and outer packaging is therefore subject to special European standards and to health and hygiene regulations.
According to this legislation, any chocolate that has been delivered cannot be accepted back and resold in a new guise. If this were done, a product would lose its transparency. Neither the sell-by date nor the individual ingredients would allow any precise verification if, say, several Santas were melted down into one Easter Bunny.
Compliance with food law means ensuring high quality standards for chocolate at all times and only packaging merchandise while it is fresh. As soon as the chocolate has been cast into its shape, it is taken to the packaging machines without delay. Moreover, according to the experts, any product conversion would be economically pointless for manufacturers.
The logistics would be highly labour-intensive. The chocolate would have to be unwrapped, any fillings – such as marzipan – would have to be re-melted, and the new product would eventually have to be packaged again. The resulting costs would exceed profits, even under an optimistic estimate. Also, many years of experience in the industry have shown that any unsold seasonal merchandise can easily be reduced to a minimum. As such items are sold at highly discounted prices, they usually disappear off the shelves within weeks of the festivities.
And of course companies are concerned about their reputation. After all, when chocolate gets older, it deteriorates in quality. If it were heated up multiple times, the fat within the chocolate might degenerate. Last but not least, the production of Easter Bunnies starts quite early, in December, so that if there are any Father Christmases left in January, they’d have a problem catching up with the Easter Bunnies anyway.
To protect chocolate from any loss of flavour, conventional packaging usually has an inner lining of aluminium foil while the outer packaging is carton or paper. To ensure sustainability, however, more and more manufacturers are now using polypropylene. They then enclose and seal the product directly within printable single-material packaging, so that no further layer is required. As well as being recyclable, polypropylene foil scores very well by being lightweight and impermeable to the impact of light and odours. Experts reckon that compared with traditional packaging, polypropylene can save an average of around 1,000 tonnes of packaging in Germany alone.