Why does nearly every chocolatier I call get all weird with me when I ask what couverture they use? I often get a "Who are you again?" or "We use a secret blend of *expensive chocolate*, *list of cheap chocolates*" or my personal favorite, "We use the finest."
Hey Clay, what about setting up a page that listed chocolatiers and their couvertures? I'd hate to keep this Guittard client list all to myself. ;)
I believe one reason is that some may consider it their proprietary information. Probably most established chocolatiers put some effort in finding the best chocolate they could that would work perfectly for what their needs are. Some traveled to trade shows (domestic and international) and spent some money on the process.
This would justify the secrecy in my mind. It may not be fair to work hard in locating something and then just give the information away.
As I read this I chuckled.... I was just having a discussion in my shop about deceptive practices in the chocolate industry with one of my employees. As far as I'm concerned, if a chocolatier isn't willing to celebrate/promote the company whose chocolate they use, what else are they hiding???
From a marketing perspective, if they are using a world-renown chocolate company's product, it will only HELP them convince the consumer their product is first rate. They don't have to disclose the "secret blend"...
For example, in my shop we make dark chocolate, but not white chocolate. For our white chocolate, we use Belcolade. I've found it to be fabulous for our recipes, and we use it in such small quantities, it doesn't make sense to clean a refiner to make a batch.
Come visit my shop. I'll tell you the source of the beans, Heck... I even print the recipe on every box!!!
No lies, or secretive BS here at Choklat. Just honest to goodness, amazing chocolate!!
If someone gives you the gears when you ask a fundamental question like that, tell them to stuff their chocolate. There's always another chocolatier just around the corner willing to sell you their product.
I have found most places very happy to tell me what chocolate they use. If they don't know, they usually find someone who does.
I agree with you Robert. On the rare occasion I come across the company/person who doesn't want to tell me I think they are hiding something. What else aren't they telling me? And like you said, I'm not asking for the blend percentages.
You've identified one (of multiple) of the fundamental problems with chocolate businesses - They "sample" their chocolate.
Business is about making money. Period. Most small business owners don't get this concept. Giving product away without getting something in return - whether intrinsic or extrinsic is just plain bad business, and is one of the ingredients in the recipe for failure.
At Choklat, our staff are specifically instructed NOT to sample, unless the customer has already committed to spending significant money, at which time the purpose of the sample is to entice them to buy some of the sampled product (sort of like buying a matching purse in the shoe store).
We have "chocolate connosieurs" in our shop all the time spouting off about this chocolate and that chocolate, and what we do to quickly shut them up, is have a drawer full of bars from manufacturers all over the world.
The debate usually goes like this (with each type of chocolate, not just the example):
Customer: "I'm from Australia, and I like Haigh's chocolate. It's the best."
Us: "Well, you're in luck. Compared to ours, it sucks. Now you don't have to wait to go back to Australia to get world class chocolate. Wait right there. We have some in stock. I'll get a small piece you can compare for yourself to one of our comparable 70%'s"
Customer: "Oh My God! You're right. I had no idea."
Cha-ching. Not only does the cash register ring for one bar, but for several, because the person wants to try different kinds, and we have a new, and loyal customer.
The other day I had a German gentleman in the shop with a Rausch wrapper. He walked out with over $100 in our bars that he was sending to family in Germany, and pleading for us to never close.
I could cite example after example like this.
The bottom line, whether you're making your own chocolate or not, is to analyze the competition, and differentiate your product in such a way that it DOES taste better. Then educate them with your samples. Don't hide things, and don't give without getting.
Again, I disagree with giving product away. There is no need.
Since opening our doors last August, we have been beseiged with countless requests to "donate" product, under the auspice that it will give us great exposure. Those asking for the donations try to give us the impression that people will flock to our door because of the exposure at their event. The truth is, it doesn't work. I know, because we track EVERY customer that makes a purchase in our store. We tried a couple of events, and it doesn't work. People at the event are for the most part paying attention to other things than the "sponsors".
Having said that, Choklat has a very specific mandate to give back to the community. In fact it's our intent to donate One Million Dollars to local grass roots organizations over the next 24 months through the sales of our product.
The initiative, called "A Million Smiles" clearly outlines how we give back to the community. At the same time, we cover our costs, make a small margin, and get our product out in front of hundreds of thousands of people. Check it out if you like. It's at http://MillionSmiles.SoChoklat.com
As you will see, there is no need to give product away (or "sample" or whatever people want to call it). You and I aren't in business to do that.
I ask for a number of reasons... the first and foremost, to determine the taste of the chocolatier. If they use a chocolate that I don't like, I prolly won't like their products. It's not about good or bad, just a matter of taste. It is the same with say, movie critics, if they don't like and dislike the same movies that I do historically, why should I care what they say about new releases?
Also it is interesting for pricing. Why should I pay the same price for a plain truffle made with Peter's as one made from Cluizel? I shouldn't, though god knows people have and will continue to try and trick me.
I am proactive with the couverture that I use, I'm proud of my selection, I believe that it communicates my taste and the overall quality of my product. If someone wants to argue that Valrhona is better, they can go buy a Valrhona product, makes no difference to me. I don't understand why other chocolatiers are not proud of their selections.
I don't see anything wrong with asking and telling. Purdy's Chocolate here in Canada is quite large, and openly discloses that they use Barry Callebaut couverture. Disclosing it certainly hasn't hurt their business - at least as far as I can tell.
As far as who you're sleeping with, well.... If you're not proud of who you're sleeping with, you probably shouldn't be sleeping with them! I would guess this analogy would work well in the chocolate world too.
By the way Gwen, just "who" ARE you sleeping with? LOL JUST KIDDING!
What about asking what chip is in a laptop? Sure it is apparent, after you've paid for it.
For me, if I come across ChocolatierX 2000 miles away and I look through their website, if I see that they use El Rey chocolate I might buy less than if they used Santander... both chocolates are good, but I tend to prefer Santander, so I'd think that such a chocolatier would have more in common with my taste. Also, it lets me know how fair the price is.
Sure I could buy the stuff and pay Domori prices for Hershey special dark quality and be mad after the fact, but why not just know up front? Capitalism only works with perfect conumser knowledge, othrewise we get stuff like Noka.