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BASLE, Switzerland (Reuters Life!) - The world's first virtual community dedicated purely to chocolate, launched last week in Switzerland, gives cyber-networkers the chance to satisfy their sweet tooth as their friend network grows.
Modeled on successful precursors like Facebook and MySpace, myswisschocolate.com, based in the small town of Pfaeffikon near Zurich, provides a virtual platform for people who share a love of the sugary treat that is the country's trademark.
"Although we're passionate about chocolate, our site is not just for chocolate lovers but also for those learning to love chocolate all over the world," site founder Sven Beichler told Reuters.
After registering on the homepage of what the founders call the "club," members are automatically awarded a voucher for 5 Swiss francs ($4.98) worth of chocolate.
"For every friend the user then adds to his or her network, his chocolate account increases proportionately," Beichel said. Users are also awarded "chocolate points" every time a friend buys chocolate without a voucher.
The virtual balance of the chocolate-lover's account can then be converted into real chocolate -- handmade by myswisschocolate.com and shipped to 15 countries worldwide.
Switzerland pioneered the mass market development of chocolate in the 1800s and is still home to producers such as KitKat-maker Nestle, Barry Callebaut and Lindt & Spruengli -- famed for its gold-wrapped bunnies sold all over the world.
Since its launch last week, the site has recorded over a hundred registrations, and the founders aim to boost membership by up to a thousand by the end of the year.
"We customize chocolate too and can make it with marzipan, ginger, coffee and even 23 carat gold," Beichel said, adding that gold-laced chocolate has one of the highest price tags.
Other ingredients that can be included on request are rose petals, curry powder and sea salt.
Prices, including postage, start at 3 Swiss francs per 100 gram bar, and all products can also be delivered as gifts.
Reporting by Josie Cox, editing by Paul Casciato