Welcome to Part 2 where chocolate tasters each give their own unique take on the current Dark Matters craft chocolate related question.
The current question is: How do you feel about living in a time where new horizons in chocolate are being explored so widely (i.e. ruby chocolate, white chocolate, etc). What are the downfalls in this exploration by chocolate makers? What are the benefits?
Estelle Tracy of 37 Chocolates
Estelle Tracy: It’s an exciting time to be involved in chocolate. There is a dizzying array of bars and flavors, so much that it’s hard to keep up with the latest innovations, the latest origin, or new “it” bar. That said, I do see that the media’s attention usually goes to the flashiest thing (think bacon chocolate), not the most delicious. I get it, of course, but it can also be frustrating.
It was interesting to see how Ruby took the media by storm. Sure, I’d be curious about the chocolate, of course, but the pink color is what brought attention to it (“Millenials will love it”) But when you take a step back, the introduction of Ruby actually provides a great opportunity for makers to engage with their customers: the same way my friends contacted me with the news, I know many makers were questioned about the invention. With some marketing savviness, though, you can use it to promote the good, tried and true stuff. I know for instance some makers make raspberry white chocolate (Solkiki comes to mind) so they could publicize their raspberry bar on social media or their newsletter since people’s attention is already grabbed by the news. Even better, they could reach out to a local journalist and explain their own, delicious pink bar is available…now! With the right mindset, you can use the news headlines in your industry to your advantage.
Lori Romaine of Time to Eat Chocolate
Lori Romaine: I think it’s great that we can explore new horizons as long as there is transparency about the endeavor. I think ruby chocolate, despite the controversy around it, shows that people are dreaming up new ideas and go beyond what we are used to seeing and experiencing. It’s good to have healthy change; and change will happen whether we initially like it or not. I would hope that chocolate makers would inspire each other to be creative as they inspire others like myself around them.
Sharon Terenzi, The Chocolate Journalist
Sharon Terenzi: In every food sector, the fear and the excitement for innovation are exactly the same. On one side, there is the excitement that innovation will bring more opportunities, options and efficiency. On the other side, there is the fear that innovation will jeopardize the authenticity of a product. What I don’t like about most innovations in chocolate nowadays is that they start from the goal of lowering costs, which is never an exciting starting point. It could be an exciting premise if it didn’t compromise the end-result (i.e. the chocolate), but this is often not the case. From adding oily substances to using unfermented cocoa beans, the quality of the chocolate is often the sacrificial lamb that succumbs to the power of innovation in the name of a lower price tag. On the opposite spectrum, I am a big fan of innovations who don’t directly impact the end product, but that make its process and delivery easier. For example, innovations on bean-to-bar machines, innovations in quality evaluation processes, innovations in teaching methods at origin, or even innovations in the methods of transportation. These are innovations who make the process to chocolate more efficient without compromising its quality, but actually improving it. Therefore, the biggest downfall of such wide exploration is to me the risk of starting from the wrong intentions. The benefits are the opportunities to bring chocolate to an increased quality while making everybody’s job easier. What road to take is up to the conscience of each company.
Patricia Baker of Time to Eat Chocolate
Patricia Baker: Growing up, the word “chocolate: meant Hershey’s, Nestle, Mars and See’s Candy. When the bean-to-bar (craft) chocolate movement started in the mid-2000s, it was easy to keep track of the main players, though it was often difficult to find their bars. These days, every time I look at Instagram or Facebook, there is a new chocolate maker that I’ve never heard of before (both domestically and internationally). It’s a struggle to keep up-to-date (but what a fun “problem” to have)!
There was a time when I actively avoided white chocolate. However, lately, chocolate makers and chocolatiers have been so creative that flavored and/or toasted white chocolate bars are among my favorites! And don’t get me started on all the inventive inclusion bars out there nowadays! This is definitely an exciting time to be a chocolate-lover!
While I personally love that there is such a unique and diverse selection of chocolates to choose from, I’m also concerned about the sustainability of the market. As consumers, we “vote” with our purchases. If money were no object, I’d gladly buy one of each bar from each chocolate maker out there; but, the reality is that I’m lucky to buy 5-10 bars a month. since I want to try as many chocolates as possible, I typically don’t repeat buy from a particular maker, unless I really like their style. There is small-ish (yet growing) group of craft chocolate devotees, but that amount of overall sales won’t keep ALL the makers afloat long-term :'(
“Ruby” chocolate (touted as the 4th type of chocolate) certainly made a splash and created a buzz when it was announced in the media recently; however, I see that as a passing fad that will fade once Millennials (their target audience) move onto the next flashy trend. Time will tell!
Craft chocolate is poised to transition from niche to mainstream, but how do we get the general consumer to regularly choose craft chocolates over mass-produced ones? I try to be an “ambassador” for craft chocolate, there are times when I feel my Eating the Chocolate Alphabet blog is simply “preaching to the choir” rather than making “converts”. Maybe there needs to be product placement in movies or TV? Maybe young adult “influencers” need to be seen eating and enjoying craft chocolate to boost awareness? but then, how will the featured maker(s) keep up with demand? Will they succumb to pressure and start cutting corners or will they combine forces with other makers so more can thrive?
It’s exciting to watch the craft chocolate industry expand and start making inroads into the overall market share; but, at what point will the market become too saturated? How will makers continue to differentiate themselves? These are questions to which I don’t have answers, but that won’t stop me from trying and posting about as many chocolates as possible. The future of chocolate is evolving!
Victoria Cooksey of Dark Matters Chocolate Reviews
Victoria Cooksey: Chocolate has played a significant role in my life for as long as I can remember. Halloween I would separate out the chocolate candy bars from other non-chocolate items (I didn’t want the chocolate to end up tasting like a sucker), December was associated with coveted boxes of bonbons, and once a year the only so-called white chocolate I typically consumed showed up in the shape of a rabbit. My how life has changed!
For many years I didn’t eat white chocolate. Then I took my first trip to Paris. There I tried white chocolate bars by various makers (like A la Mere de Famille). Granted, these were often still mostly vanilla and sugar, but there was a new level of quality and a more luscious texture. Thus the door to white chocolate enjoyment was cracked open a bit. Now look at what is out there! Thanks to bars like Turmeric of a Goat Thing by WKND Chocolate, Toasted Madagascar White by Dormouse Chocolates, and white chocolate bars by makers such as Akesson’s, Askinosie, Fruition, Original Beans, and Map Chocolate; I am so back into craving white chocolate. Many makers no longer add vanilla. The bars aren’t as sweet, creative inclusions are being added, makers are now using single-origin cocoa butter and in some cases even pressing their own cocoa butter to use. Fantastic!
As for ruby chocolate: on the positive side I think anything that gets people talking about chocolate who normally don’t consider anything other than what’s on the shelf at a typical grocery store aisle is good. I’ve heard from some chocolate makers that people have come in looking for ruby chocolate which in some cases lead to conversations about craft chocolate, how it’s made, etc. Anytime you can get someone in the door there is a chance to have them sample your product, or craft chocolate bars you sell, and perhaps gain new costumers and new fans of craft chocolate. I personally wouldn’t mind trying ruby chocolate because of natural curiosity. I want to know what it tastes like for myself. I think the downside is that so many chocolatiers, craft chocolate makers and craft chocolate reviewers haven’t had the opportunity to try it. In one way, that certainly got the chocolate community talking about ruby chocolate in a big way, so there was that side of advertising, so to speak. However, not getting the chance to try it can lead to misconception or negativity, especially in the form of people feeling excluded. Since I haven’t personally been present at an official sampling, or a talk given about ruby chocolate, I don’t have enough information to comment much further on ruby chocolate at this time, so for now it’s a bit of a wait-and-see situation.
I look forward to seeing what the future brings for this wild, amazing, tasty, creative world of craft chocolate! (Not everything has changed though, I still sort my chocolate, only now it’s craft chocolate full of limited editions, single-origins, inclusion bars, white chocolate, and who knows; maybe even a ruby chocolate confection will find it’s way in there one day).
What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of white chocolate?
As always, thank you so much for reading these posts! Keep on eating craft chocolate!