The Chocolate Life

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I have been noticing on many of the different how to make chocolate websites that a lot of people are planning to start bean to bar chocolate companies. That is fine except most of them have never made a batch of chocolate in their lives. My expectation with the wave of inexperienced makers is that the market will be flooded with some really awful chocolate. The reputation of what is considered artisinal chocolate makers is going to be tarnished. The way I see it with so many people that have no idea what they are doing calling themselves artisinal makers it's going to hurt the reputation of even the well established makers when it comes to public opinion. Something like "I've tried artisinal chocolate and it was awful, I'll stick with the 'cheap' stuff." I've read a review recently of exactly this (wish I had bookmarked the page), it was something like "If this is high quality chocolate, I'll keep buying Hershey's." I think this will effect everyone, from well established to the new guys who have put the time and experience into it.

Now, so no one feels I am misleading anyone, I've kicked around the idea of starting a business that would include bean to bar chocolate, because I love doing it, and I would not sell anything until I feel it is the best it can be. Oddly enough it all started with a chocolate covered croissant from the Netherlands, it's funny how things work.

Opinions?

Andrea

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I would like to start my own bean-to-bar choc operation and I can confidently say that my chocolate is much better than the competition here (not much of a benchmark mind you) but it took a while to get there. I have been making chocolate as a hobby just about every weekend for 2 years and am just now feeling confident with my formulations and roasting profiles and all other parts of the process. I am a research chemist by day, which helps in my chocolate making 'experiments' - I use the same duplicate books as I use in the lab. The upshot is that I would only now expose my chocolate to the market, I would have been embarrased to do so before. Not that it is going to happen yet - money is the main issue there. I agree though, it would be a shame to have people that are happy with mediocre to start selling in that area. I would hope though that consumers would not just stop at one example of 'artisan' chocolate, taste a bit more broadly and conclude that the artisan chocolate maker was just a bad one.
Well, that is kind of almost me you are talking about. In that I am starting a bean-to-bar business - but I have been making chocolate for some time. As I can't sell anything until I have correctly licensed premises (the next headache) I send out samples and ask people for honest comment. I appreciate that free chocolate compromises the responses but comparative tests suggest that I am making good progress and decent chocolate.
I hope that the chocolate market will develop like the tea/coffee/wine market - lots of choice to suit everyone. Surely we WANT more people making chocolate - doing their own thing, bringing us chocolate from their own viewpoint, that they think is worth producing. Capitalism will surely out in the end - the poor producers will lose reputation and/or go out of business and the better ones will thrive.
Won't people remember the make of chocolate they didn't like and avoid that? Do people just buy the word "artisan"? Isn't it more likely to be "Joe Blow Artisan" and the first bit will be discarded?
I'm talking about the people that have never made any chocolate and are already starting the steps to open shops, who don't seem to plan on making any until their shop is open. I've only been making bean to bar chocolate for about 2 years now, I have worked with chocolate since I was 15, but making it is a whole different ball game. It takes practice to really get it and experience takes time.
The only thing you said that is part of the reason I worry about this is "I am making good progress and decent chocolate." This way of thinking confuses me. You (or I, if I decide to start a business) have some really great makers to compete with, is decent going to be enough? *I apologize if this comment seems confrontational, I really don't mean it to be, I'd just like to see this topic from all sides.
My husband completely agrees with your view point on the market. That's why I posed this question here, this site has everyone from the new guys to the well established guys, I'm very curious to see what some of the well known makers might say about this. I think I may be looking at it from the view point of a start up maker with no reputation, and worry the reputation of so many inexperienced start ups will infringe on the way people see all start ups. (did that make any sense?)

Andrea
The thing to consider is really about "artisan" as a pr catchword. I seriously doubt consumers look at "Belgium" as descriptive proof of a chocolate's quality any more because its overused and artisan is getting pretty close to that point. No one says, "That Belgium quality chocolate was terrible! No more Belgium chocolate!" Chocolate consumers seem to fall into two categories uneducated or obsessive. Uneducated consumers won't limit their intake 'cause they won't care enough to obsess over the artisan label and obsessives like to try new things and understand its a crapshoot. The people I know who like chocolate in very general terms don't seem to pay any attention to the label names, much less whether its bean-to-bar, artisan, handmade, whatever. They try it, like it or not and move on. I'm always surprised that they make no attempt to memorize the labels, bad or good, but I think that's how it is for a lot of consumers.

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