NW Chocolate Festival 2016: Chocolate Trends with Victoria Cooksey

Note:  This post was originally posted on 11-15-16 when my blog was on Blogspot.

This past weekend I attended the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA.  Luckily, for me, it’s just a bit over a hours drive, plus a short ferry ride away.  (I reside in Port Townsend, WA).  With the topic of trends I’m looking at both what I found to be different from last year’s festival, and what is trending in general in the wonderful world of bean to bar chocolate.

These trends are listed in no particular order.

1. Coconut.  Both coconut milk, and coconut sugar (along with other non-dairy ingredients) are being utilized more frequently in chocolate bars.  I like coconut ingredients in bars as long as the coconut flavor doesn’t take over.  Here are two bars I loved that use coconut in some fashion.  (I just may have got The Chocolate Journalist, Sharon Terenzi, to try, and buy, Marou’s coconut milk bar as her first purchase of the festival.  Love her!).

2. Dark, dark, dark chocolate.  The consumer demand for 80%, 90%, and 100% bars continues to rise. Some makers I talked to at the festival really seem to enjoy experimenting with higher percentage bars, while others indicated that they only made them due to consumers wanting them.  Either way, makers are getting better, and better at making very palatable high percentage bars.  The higher the percentage the more skill a chocolate maker needs. Here are two of my favorites from the festival:

3.  Showing exact percentages of ingredients on the label.  This one is still a fairly fresh trend.  While many bars list the overall percentage of cocoa (chocolate, and cocoa butter), very few actually break it down with all ingredients so a big high five to Firefly for being a trend setter!

4.  Unusual flavors. For example: Firefly’s bay nut bar, Gusto’s rosemary white chocolate, Raaka’s apple pie (also got to try their bananas fosters bar), Milk Boy’s essential pine tree oil (leaves a peppermint feel in the mouth), and Zotter’s coffee & grits, and chestnut & rum.

5.  Japan.  Japan’s artisan chocolate makers scene is on the rise. According to Sweets Escalier, Japan has around “fifty” artisan makers, and growing.  Hope they come back to next year’s event!

6.  Holiday bars.  More makers are branching out to include holiday items along with their usual line.  Sirene has now started making a Winter Warmer bar with cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

7.  Dark Milk bars are on the rise.  I saw more of them than ever at this year’s festival.  This bar won the NW Chocolate Festival’s award for 1st place milk chocolate bar 2016:

8.  Mini bars.  The mini chocolate bar trend is starting to catch on in the U.S.

9.  Sesame seeds, toasted/crunchy rice, lavender, and hot pepper played a greater role in the bars at the show.  I made this a trend of it’s own because of the large presence of these particular flavors. The hot pepper/Ghost pepper showed up in a wide range of bonbons, bars, and drinking chocolate.

10.  Smoky notes.  Smoke flavor used to be considered a flaw in the beans, but now makers are really seeking out, and playing with this flavor note.

11.  Single origin bars are in full force.  This trend is continuing. While I certainly enjoy these bars I am always happy to see a well made bar using multiple beans.  Nothing wrong with some variation in our lives!

I was also pleased to see a larger selections of chocolate truffles/bonbons, and drinking chocolates present this year.

What chocolate trends are you enjoying?

Hope to see you next year at the NW Chocolate Festival!

NW Chocolate Festival:





Victoria Cooksey:




Check out my chocolate reviews, and cooking videos at:



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