Sally Williams Fine Foods of South Africa, a premium purveyor of gourmet, hand-made soft textured nougat and related confections has opened offices in the U.S. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with plans to introduce and distribute to American consumers. Trevor P. Shevil has been named Chief Executive Officer, Sally Williams – U.S. Sally Williams, and will run its American operations.
In business for more than 20 years, the South African company currently sells its award-winning products at some of the most prestigious retailers throughout Europe
According to Trevor P. Shevil, “We chose Fort Lauderdale for the site of our U.S. headquarters because of the area’s easy access to the eastern corridor. Since we plan to launch Sally Williams on the East Coast first, the Florida area seemed a logical choice. We have also secured warehousing and distribution, outsourced to industry experts in strategic locations throughout the U.S.” Sally Williams opened its U.S. branch in September 2016 at 1234 NE 4th Ave, Suite B, Fort Lauderdale.
Sally Williams Fine Foods will make its debut in the U.S. at Kosherfest 2016. Kosherfest is the largest North American kosher food show, being held this year November 15-16, at the Meadowlands Expo Center, Secaucus, New Jersey.
Globally, Sally Williams is recognized as one of the most prestigious confectionery brands, particularly recognized as a purveyor of the finest honey nougat and chocolate offerings available today. It is a recipient of the International Great Taste Awards, acknowledged as the benchmark for fine food and drink and described as the ‘Oscars’ of the food world in the United Kingdom. Currently, Sally Williams is distributed widely in more than 20 countries and is sold at many of the finest retailer food halls, including Harrods and Selfridges in the UK.
Line up of Sally Williams Products:
Sally Williams Fine Foods products are manufactured using only the finest all natural ingredients, free of preservatives, colorants and gluten, and are certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. They are available in both non-dairy and dairy varieties. Sally Williams Fine Foods is headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, with offices in London, United Kingdom and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The hair-raising excitement over the DreamWorks motion picture Trolls continues as Jelly Belly Candy Company introduces the Trolls Collection. This new line, inspired by the movie’s heartfelt story and the Trolls’ fun and unique personalities includes a variety of delightful packages of Jelly Belly® jelly beans featuring the pint-sized stars of the film. The Jelly Belly Trolls Collection is available now.
The 4.25-ounce Jelly Belly Trolls Gift Box is bound to be a hot holiday item. Each compartment is filled with Jelly Belly beans to represent a lovable lead character: a mix of Berry Blue and Cotton Candy for the fashion twins Satin and Chenille, Mixed Berry Smoothie for practical Branch, Jewel Very Cherry for exuberant Poppy, Orange Sherbet for upbeat DJ Suki, and Blueberry for adorable Biggie and his sweet companion, Mr. Dinkles. Shipping in 12-count cases.
The 1-ounce bags in their playful packaging are wonderful treats for any occasion. Each bag, perfectly sized for on-the-go snacking, features one of four main characters: Poppy, Branch, DJ Suki or Biggie with Mr. Dinkles. Shipping in mixed 24-count caddies.
Both the 2.8-ounce Grab & Go® bags and 7.5-ounce Gift Bags make wonderful gifts for the upcoming holidays and beyond. The Grab & Go bag showcases whimsical character art of Poppy, Branch and Biggie with Mr. Dinkles. The Gift Bag features lead duo Poppy and Branch, and the bag’s vibrant pink foil-like finish appeals to shoppers as a truly special gift. The Grab & Go bags ship in 12-count caddies, and the Gift Bags ship in 12-count cases.
All bags in this charming collection are filled with the Hugfest Mix, an assortment of Berry Blue, Jewel Very Cherry, Lemon, Lime and Orange Sherbet Jelly Belly bean flavors.
Ethel M Chocolates is sweeter than ever with reimagined designs and new features after an extensive upgrade to its factory and flagship store. The Henderson-based chocolate factory has reopened its door with a fully enhanced guest experience, an updated look, new interactive elements, expanded retail space and additions to its café menu.
To commemorate the special anniversary and factory reopening, Ethel M will be holding a special family-friendly grand reopening celebration on National Chocolate Day, Friday, October 28. The event will be held at the factory from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will feature door prizes, live entertainment, free chocolate samplings, and more.
“Ethel M has been a staple in the Henderson community for 35 years, and while our cherished family recipes haven’t changed in more than 100 years, we wanted to give our customers a modern experience,” said Oren Young, General Manager of Ethel M Chocolates. “We believe in the connective power of sharing an unexpected experience, and that is what we are committed to do with the newly reimagined factory and store.”
New Factory Store Experience
The redesigned store showcases a new ambiance and atmosphere, highlighting colors and materials that represent the factory’s original copper kettles and signature botanical cactus garden. The upgraded Chocolate Tasting Room overlooks the cactus garden, where guests learn how chocolate is made and sample freshly made confections. The demonstration area features professional chocolatiers who prepare delectable combinations such as chocolate-covered strawberries and caramel dipped apples.
The self-guided viewing aisle, where guests can view how Ethel M Chocolates are made, has also been upgraded with digital displays that illustrate Ethel M Chocolate’s history and the sustainability efforts of Mars Inc..
The café space has been remodeled and now offers an extended menu. Light bites include dark chocolate ganache cupcakes, coconut macarons, and chocolate-dipped strawberries. Specialty drinks include double hot chocolate, Aztec hot chocolate, and chocolate cappuccino. Adjacent to the café, in the enhanced 7,500-square-foot retail space, guests can find the entire line of their favorite Ethel M treats.
In addition to enjoying the new factory, guests can stroll through Nevada’s and one of the world’s largest botanical cactus gardens. The 3-acre breathtaking garden features more than 300 different species of drought-tolerant ornamentals, cacti, and other desert plants. The garden is open to the public 365 days a year.
Sonoma Brands, a consumer products incubator and venture fund founded by Jon Sebastiani, the founder of KRAVE Jerky, is now launching SMASHMALLOW, a premium ‘snackable’ marshmallow brand that will make its exclusive retail launch at Sprouts stores nationwide and is now available on the smashmallow.com website. A broader West Coast launch in other retailers throughout the Pacific Northwest, northern and southern California is slated for November 2016.
Sonoma Brands launched in January 2016 as Sebastiani’s next entrepreneurial endeavor following the acquisition of KRAVE Jerky by The Hershey Company. “At Sonoma Brands, we seek to adapt to ever-changing consumer needs and cravings by invigorating sleepy categories, such as the $36 billion confectionery space,” said Founder of Sonoma Brands, Jon Sebastiani. “As an avid marathon-runner, I’ve often found myself indulging in a marshmallow or two from my cupboard when I needed a sweet fix, as a ‘better-for-you’ and fat-free option. Then on a trip to Paris, I was struck by the fact that bakeries in Europe have decadent marshmallows on display, alongside macarons and other gourmet treats. I knew then that we, at Sonoma Brands, could reintroduce the classic American marshmallow in a fun, delicious and healthier way, taking it far beyond traditional s’mores.”
SMASHMALLOW delivers taste and wow-factor beyond an ordinary marshmallow. The premium on-the-go treat marshmallows are made with organic sugar and all natural ingredients; nothing artificial. SMASHMALLOW ranges from 70-90 calories per servings and is a gluten-free, clean-label indulgence.
SMASHMALLOW comes in seven flavors, including Cinnamon Churro, Strawberries & Cream, Espresso Bean, Mint Chocolate Chip, Toasted Coconut Pineapple, Meyer Lemon Chia Seed and Root Beer Float.
Coming soon to Sprouts stores nationwide, 4.5-ounce SMASHMALLOW bags will be available for a suggested retail price of $3.99.
Organic, salted dark chocolate and pumpkin beer together? Yes, please! Salazon Chocolate Co., a premium chocolate maker known for its line of organic salted dark chocolate bars is launching a new fall seasonal chocolate bar made with Flying Dog Brewery’s The Gourd Standard Pumpkin IPA.
The new fall release, 72% Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Pumpkin Beer (at a suggested retail price of $3.99), incorporates actual ingredients from Flying Dog’s fall seasonal beer, The Gourd Standard Pumpkin IPA, including German Noble Hops, Flying Dog’s custom pumpkin spice blend, and sea salt infused with The Gourd Standard Pumpkin IPA.
“We’ve all seen chocolate paired with wine, but it actually pairs just as well with craft beer,” said Pete Truby, Founder of Salazon Chocolate Co. “And we couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with one of the leaders in creative craft brewing, Flying Dog Brewery, which is also based in Maryland.”
“We view craft beer as an art form and jump on the opportunity to work with like-minded artisans,” Flying Dog Chief Marketing Officer Ben Savage said. “Creativity and commitment to the craft is something Salazon shares with us, and it yielded delicious results.”
The 72% Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Pumpkin Beer bar will be available starting in September at select Whole Foods Markets, Safeway, Earth Fare, MOM’s Organic Markets, New Seasons Markets, and a number of independent natural foods stores and online.
By Lorrie Baumann
Guilt is not among the ingredients for this year’s introductions of specialty chocolates. Along with interesting flavors, chocolatiers are bringing products to the market that have a good story to tell to consumers with a wide range of concerns about which chocolate treat they can enjoy in good conscience.
Chuao Chocolatier’s new Enamored line of organic Fair Trade chocolates in three fruit-forward flavors with floral notes: Raspberry Rose, Coconut Hibiscus and Blueberry Lavender. As their names suggest, Raspberry Rose is made with radiant raspberries sugared with rose petals, Blueberry Lavender is made with blueberries lightly infused with lavender, and Coconut Hibiscus offers creamy coconut with a hint of hibiscus.
The line was created by the brand’s Master Chef and Co-Founder Michael Antonorsi as a tribute to women. “With the Enamored Collection, we wanted to create a product that celebrated ‘you,’ because who you are is enough,” said Antonorsi. “Spreading joy is the intention behind everything we do, and with this new collection we hope to bring a moment of joy to every person who experiences it.”
The Enamored line launched in June, and a percentage of sales goes to Girls, Inc., which shares the brand’s ideals of empowering women. “Girls Inc. is focused on empowering girls to discover their strengths and thrive,” said Judy Vredenburgh, President and CEO of Girls Inc. “This includes helping them build confidence and a positive self-image. We are thrilled to partner with Chuao Chocolatier as they launch this new line that celebrates women and inspires them to do just that.”
Chuao Chocolatier’s new line of bars are made with non-GMO ingredients. The suggested retail price is $7.00. For more information, visit Chuao Chocolatier’s booth at the Summer Fancy Food Show or visit www.ChuaoChocolatier.com.
Abdallah Chocolates is at the Summer Fancy Food Show with flavors we’ve seen before from the company, including its Caramel Almond Coconut, Sugar Free Caramel, Pecan Grizzly and English Toffee chocolates. The absence of a new flavor is due to the company’s construction this year of a new 90,000 square foot facility that’s been taking attention away from product development for the past several months, said National Sales Manager Madonna Schmitz.
The company is expecting to move into its new facility late this summer and to have the production lines running by the first of September, she added. For more information, visit the company’s booth at the Summer Fancy Food Show or visit www.abdallahcandies.com.
Sulpice Chocolat is a start-up company that’s sticking with the traditional flavors of a high-quality peanut butter cup but adding a boost of nutrition. A three-piece serving includes 7g of protein and 3g of fiber – attributes we associate more with nutrition bars than with candy, but this is very definitely a treat that feels like an indulgence. “We’re trying to make the candy aisle better for you,” said Anne Shaeffer, half of the husband and wife team that founded Sulpice Chocolat. For more information, call 630.301.2345 or visit www.sulpicechocolat.com.
Laima Chocolates’ Cheese Chocolate is made in Latvia with white chocolate and real cheese. The company also makes a full line of dessert-flavor chocolates, including Creme Brulee, Key Lime Pie and Tiramisu covered with dark chocolate. A 3.5-ounce bar of the Cheese Chocolate retails for $4.99. It’s been sold in the U.S. for many years in ethnic markets, and it’s been more widely offered by Aero-Cos for the past four or five years. Distributed in the United States by Aero-Cos International, the Laima Chocolates products are made by Orkla Confectionery & Snacks.
Heavenly Caramels Coconut Caramels, Pecan Caramels and Vanilla Sea Salt Caramels covered with chocolate are the newest product introduction from Utah-based J. Morgan’s Confections. A 4.2-ounce bag retails for $3.49 to $3.99.
The Heavenly Caramels line also includes several products that aren’t covered in chocolate and that feature flavors you wouldn’t necessarily associate with caramel, including Cinnamon Caramel, Old English Licorice Caramel, Coconut Caramel, Caramel Apple, Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel and Butter Caramel. Each 4.7-ounce bag of these varieties retails for $3.49. For more information, call 801.688.4999 or visit www.jmorganconfections.com.
This story was originally published in the June 2016 issue of Gourmet News.
Dorval Trading Co., Ltd. announces its latest SOUR POWER® item in the 2-pound bag range: New SOUR POWER QUATTRO® DOUBLES.
A creative new spin on “assorted,” each mini-belt has two colors and two flavors, either strawberry/tutti frutti or blue raspberry/green apple. The DOUBLES concept is a variation on Dorval’s popular Sour Power Quattro, a four-color/four-flavor belt.
SOUR POWER is now available in Straws and Belts, all in wrapped, unwrapped or in bulk format in a variety of package types and flavors. Packed in 9 x 2-pound cartons, these SOUR POWER QUATTRO DOUBLES bags are available to ship now.
By Lorrie Baumann
La Pasta’s Radicchio, Parsnip & Apricot Ravioli has won the 2016 sofi Award for Best New Product. Radicchio is sauteed with a little bit of balsamic vinegar to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables and then folded into ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheese together with roasted parsnips and dried apricots. The filling is then enclosed in La Pasta’s signature pasta with black pepper pasta stripes.
“We got lucky. It happens,” said Alexis Konownitzine, President of La Pasta, “Our chef Kristen made the product and will be at the Fancy Food Show.”
La Pasta already had several sofi Awards for products including its Marinara Sauce and Beet, Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Ravioli. This year’s winner was selected from among 23 finalists in the Best New Product category by the sofi judging panel of culinary experts in a blind tasting. Overall, 28 products were named winners and 100 named finalists from among 3,200 entries this year.
This year’s judging diverged from the methodology used for the past couple of years, in that the judging was completed before the Summer Fancy Food Show and winners were named at the same time as finalists. This process was designed to make the judging more fair and transparent, according to the Specialty Food Association, which owns the sofi Awards program. The products were judged by criteria that awarded 70 percent of the product’s score for taste, which included flavor, appearance, texture and aroma and 30 percent for ingredient quality, which included a consideration of whether any of the product’s ingredients were artificial and whether they were combined in a creative or unexpected way. One winner was chosen in each of the 28 judging categories, and the top 4 percent of the entries in each category were named finalists. No awards were presented this year in classic, foodservice or product line categories, which were part of last year’s contest.
Finalists for the Best New Product award included Dalmatia Sour Cherry Spread from Atalanta Corporation, Jansal Valley Boneless Prosciutto Toscano D.O.P. from Sid Wainer and Son Specialty Produce and Specialty Food, Organic Stoneground Flakes Cereal — Purple Corn from Back to the Roots and Sliced Prosciutto (Domestic) from Creminelli Fine Meats. “Prosciutto is everywhere in the U.S., but we do it differently, using whole-muscle Duroc pork that’s 100 percent vegetarian-fed with no antibiotics ever. We layer it in the tray by hand instead of by machine,” said Kyle Svete, Creminelli Fine Meats’ Director of Sales for National Accounts. “We invest in people, not machines. It’s part of who we are – people, animal, craft…. We have machines to help us do our job, but it’s really about the people. The recyclable tray and the elegant look of it elevates the product and the category.”
“We’re proud of it. We put the ingredients right on the front of the label,” he added. “That’s all there is to it – time, love, pork and sea salt.”
Chocolate-covered Cocomels – 5 Salts from JJ’s Sweets, Gourmet Honey Spread: Salted Honey from Cloister Honey LLC, Wild Boar Salted Star Anise Single Origin Organic Dark Chocolate Bar from Hagensborg Chocolate Ltd., Original Tangerine Sriracha from Just Jan’s Inc., Mr. Hot Stuff Pepper Spread from Steppin’ Out LLC, Clementine Crush Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Enzo Olive Oil Company/P-R Farms, Inc. and Deschutes Brewery® Black Butte Porter Truffle from Moonstruck Chocolate, Co. were also among the finalists for the Best New Product Award.
Other finalists were Pineapple Habanero Caramel from JulieAnn Caramels, Frozen Passion Chia Lassi from Monsieur Singh LLC, Chicken Fat (Schmaltz) Premium Cooking Oil from Fatworks LLC, Avocado Oil Mayo and Licorice Mint Tea from Chosen Foods, Inc., Chili Crunch Bar from Vivra Chocolate, Vegan Stone Ground Hazelnut Butter from Karmalize LLC, Raspberry Amaretto Preserves from Robert Rothschild Farm, Orange Artisan Fruit Cracker from Simple & Crisp, Gluten-Free Coffee Brownie from Savvy Girl Baking Company and Dark Moon from Marin French Cheese Company.
In the remaining categories, Brussizzle Sprouts from Pacific Pickle Works, Inc. was named the best appetizer. The Spice Hunter, Inc.‘s Coriander Lime Global Fusion Rub was named best baking ingredient, baking mix or flavor enhancer, Ginger Hemp Granola from Michele’s Granola LLC was the best in the category for breads, muffins, granola or cereal, and Vermont Creamery‘s Bijou was judged the best cheese. Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche was a finalist for the award both this year and last year.
Money on Honey by Droga Chocolates won the sofi in the chocolate category, and Bittermilk LLC‘s No. 3 Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour won the award in the cold beverage category. Bittermilk was a sofi finalist last year with the same product. Non-GMO Salted Caramelized Fig Spread from King’s Cupboard was named the best condiment, and Sea Salt & Vanilla Farmstead Goat Milk Caramels from Big Picture Farm LLC received the award for the best confection. Big Picture Farm won sofi Awards last year for best new product with its Raspberry Rhubarb Goat Milk Caramels and for best confection with its Goat Milk Chai Caramels. Moon Dance Baking‘s Holly Baking Cookie Brittle Cinnamon & Spice was named in the category for cookies, brownies, cakes or pie.
Barnier Pimento Sauce with Preserved Lemon from FoodMatch Inc. was named best cooking, dipping or finishing sauce. Cranberry Pistachio “The Original” from Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps was named the best cracker. Epicurean Butter‘s Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter was named in the category for best dairy or dairy alternative product. “The reason this is something really new and innovative is that this is organic pasteurized cream, organic coconut oil, organic honey, organic canola oil, organic cocoa powder and Himalayan pink salt. It’s good on crepes, pancakes French toast. We actually just love it on a baguette,” said Janey Hubschman, who co-founded Epicurean Butter with her husband John, who’s the chef and still does all the formulations for the company’s products. “It’s got a lovely mouth feel with the butter and the coconut oil and then the finish of the salt.” The Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter is part of a product line that includes 13 finishing butters, of which two are organic. The company has just installed new equipment in its plant that allows Epicurean Butter to produce single-serve squeeze packs. Each of those has 190 calories for a 1-ounce serving, and Hubschman expects that the single-serve packaging will draw a lot of interest from the producers of home-delivered meal kits.
Bourbon Matured Maple Syrup from BLiS LLC was named the best dessert sauce, topping or syrup. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate‘s Single Origin Drinking Chocolate 72% Belize, Toledo received the sofi Award for the best hot beverage. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate was a finalist in the chocolate category last year with its 72% Madagascar, Sambirano bar. The Gelato Fiasco‘s Ripe Mango Sorbetto was named the best ice cream, gelato or frozen treat.
Cioccomiel, a spread made from hazelnuts, cocoa and honey, won the sofi Award for the best jam, preserve, honey or nut butter. It is imported by Marcelli Formaggi LLC.
Fermín Chorizo Ibérico Picante / Fermín Ibérico Pork Dry-Cured Chorizo Sausage Spicy from Fermin USA was named the best meat, pate or seafood.
Stöger Organic Austrian Pumpkin Seed Oil was named the best oil. It is imported by Los Chileros, which won a finalist award last year for the same product.
Gustiamo, Inc.‘s Pianogrillo Sicilian Cherry Tomato Sauce took home the sofi Award for the best pasta sauce, while the best pasta was Pastifico Artigianale Leonardo Carassai, made in Campofilone, Italy, and imported by Bravo International Inc.
Wozz! Kitchen Creations, which won the 2015 sofi Award for best salsa or dip with its Kiwi Lime Salsa Verde takes home the gold in the salad dressing category this year with North African Chermoula Dressing. This year’s award in the salsa or dip category went to American Spoon Foods’ Pumpkin Seed Salsa.
Hickory Smoked Spicy Candied Bacon from Little Red Dot Kitchen LLC won the sofi Award this year in the category for savory snacks. The best sweet snack came from Creative Snacks Co. with its Organic Coconut Bites.
Dinner Tonight Black Bean Tortilla Chili Mix from Backyard Safari Company won the award for best soup, stew, bean or chili. ParmCrisps Mini Aged Parmesan Crisps from Kitchen Table Bakers won the award for the best vegan or gluten-free product. Kitchen Table Bakers was a finalist last year for its Jalapeno Parmesan Crisps. Finally, this year’s best vinegar was Balsamic Nectar from Boulder Flavours.
Savor sweet health with Pacific Resources International’s new Manuka Honey Salted Caramels. Using only the finest Manuka honey harvested from the pristine New Zealand native forests and solar-evaporated natural sea salt from the clean waters surrounding New Zealand, a classic caramel is reborn for today’s health and taste-conscious consumer. Manuka Honey Caramels are built on a base of organic brown rice syrup, condensed whole milk, organic dried cane syrup, molasses and natural flavors.
For more than a quarter of a century, Pacific Resources International has imported and developed New Zealand’s highest quality products for the U.S. consumer. It was the first to introduce Manuka honey to these shores in 1989, and has since developed America’s largest range of authentic New Zealand Manuka wellness products and everyday energy treats for a healthier lifestyle. Manuka is renowned for its special properties that help with digestive issues and build the body’s defense system.
By Greg Gonzales
The father of modern taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus, named the plant from which chocolate is derived Theobroma cacao, Sanskrit for “food of the gods.” Hernando Cortez said cocoa could allow a person to go all day without food or exhaustion. Now, science has put cocoa under a microscope to confirm those long-held beliefs, and farming practices and conditions have improved globally, along with the market. Cocoa products are also set to boom like coffee and tea, with a dynamic and blossoming specialty market. From no-sugar-added and mission-based brands to single-origin bars that showcase the regional flavors of cacao, there’s a chocolate bar for everyone from functional foodies to kids. The best part is, we’re learning that cocoa can be quite good for us in moderation.
Health is the last thought on anyone’s mind in the candy aisle, but dark chocolate can be considered a functional kind of treat. The cacao plant has been considered a healing and boosting supplement for thousands of years, thought to aid in liver function and feelings of well-being. Researchers now are calling cocoa a nutraceutical, a food that contains physiologically active compounds that promote health, might prevent disease and goes beyond nutrition to aid in cognitive and aerobic activities. The stimulants caffeine and theobromine account for the waking boost, while phenylethylamine has a similar effect to oxytocin, the love chemical, and lifts mood. Cocoa also contains anandamide, a cannabinoid naturally produced in the human body that opens up synapses in the brain to allow for more neural activity and feelings of bliss. Combined, these chemicals ramp up serotonin and endorphin production in the brain, with effects similar to a “runner’s high.”
Chocolate also provides the building blocks for these feel-good neurotransmitters, and a mix of fats. Magnesium, iron, calcium potassium, sodium — and vitamins A, B, C, D and E — are all present and accounted for in quality cocoa. And while the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests everyone ought to keep saturated fats limited to 10 percent of daily intake, a little chocolate might help.
Not all of the fats in cocoa are associated with raised cholesterol and heart disease. Marilynn Schnepf, Emeritus Professor of Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, said only about a third of those fats in are associated with heart disease, and that limited intake can help combat negative effects. “Turn the package over and look at the label,” she said. “The first ingredient in chocolate is sugar, so be aware of that. Many products which you think are good chocolate have different fats in them. Sometimes it won’t be cocoa butter, but coconut oil or hydrogenated oil. My advice would be to enjoy very high quality chocolate, so you don’t have to eat very much of it to really enjoy it.” She then explained that chocolate with the highest cocoa powder content that hasn’t been Dutch processed is best, since Dutch processing destroys antioxidant properties of chocolate. The more bitter, the better. “The bitterness of chocolate comes from the flavonoids, the antioxidants,” she said. To reap the benefits of the cacao plant to the fullest extent, consumers have to seek out minimally-processed, high-cocoa products.
Gourmet chocolate producers have no shortage of such products, offering a little something for every need. At Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, shoppers can select from a variety of ultra-dark chocolate bars, with some brands offering a full 100 percent cocoa bar. “People who shop for health reasons seek more than 65 percent cocoa,” said Kristen Connelly, Grocery Buyer for Rainbow Grocery. “It’s extremely bitter, but people have developed a palate for extremely dark chocolate.” She also mentioned that a lot of brands will use a blend of cocoa sourced from multiple regions. Other specialty chocolate companies source their cocoa from single regions, such as Chocolate Santander, showcasing the individual flavors from each country and crop like “third wave” specialty coffee. “We see a lot more single origins than blends,” Connelly said. “People want to taste the nuances of the product. They want to taste the difference between a Madagascar chocolate bar and an Ecuadorian bar. These might even taste different year to year, based on the crop. Now, the producers try to bring out the flavor of the bean.” On top of that, functional food lovers are trying to get more bang for their bar, with added ingredients for more nutritional benefit. “I’m seeing more interest in functional chocolate, with antioxidants added or kava added, or superfruits,” said Connelly. “Five or six years ago, the response to that [from consumers] was no.” She described these new developments in chocolate as “double duty.” The additives and antioxidants are something these consumers are already eating daily. “It’s almost as regimented as taking vitamins,” she said. “If you’re going to take turmeric and ashwanganda every day and can fit a square of chocolate in, why not?”
Increased global demand and even a recent chocolate shortage have driven prices up, but the market has expanded regardless. The rise of the middle class outside of the U.S., such as those in China and India, have introduced 1 billion potential new consumers to the chocolate market. Jesse Last, Cocoa Sourcing Manager at Taza Chocolate, says the rising price will balance out sooner rather than later, as the potential profit for farmers — who he said are among the poorest in the world — goes up as a result of the increase. “It’s going to incentivize people to plant more cacao trees and satisfy demand,” he said. “There’s always going to be a little lag. Prices are going to go up, and usually when you plant a cacao tree it takes two years to start producing pods.” He also said chocolate gets undervalued in the market, often called an affordable luxury, “relative to things like a fine wine or quality coffee, or artisan beer.”
In addition to health and indulgence, consumers are also willing to pay more for a bar that was ethically and sustainably produced, since it gives them a voice in an industry notorious for bad farming practice and child labor. “When you support a chocolate maker engaged in ethical trading practices, it’s a way for consumers to vote with their wallets,” said Last. Connelly added: “When you think about the idea of child slaves, a dollar more is not that much!”
The industry seeks to improve conditions, too, but some observers are skeptical. Corporate initiatives like Cocoa Action, Cocoa Horizons Foundation and Cocoa Life have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into increasing cocoa yields and sustainability through farmer education from the Ivory Coast to Brazil. However, Managing Director of Hardman Agribusiness Co. Doug Hawkins wrote in his Destruction By Chocolate report that these efforts aren’t quite up to par. “These initiatives, while worthy in their aims, appear to have their greater impact on social welfare issues and brand projection, than in the drive for sustainable cocoa production,” he said. Producers aren’t sitting idly by, but Cocoa Life had only acquired 21 percent of its cocoa sustainably by the end of 2015. “There’s room for improvement, as well, and the consumer plays a big role in asking for a high-quality product that the farmers are compensated for,” said Last. “There’s all these craft chocolate makers making really high-quality chocolate and paying fair prices for the cacao beans. Consumers have a choice!”