The Chocolate Life

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I'd like to let my fellow members of the Chocolate Life Community know about the project I have been working on for a long time now, since it is shortly to be finished.

I'm an avid consumer of chocolate. Many times the mention of winning an award has tempted me to buy a chocolate just to see... but over the years I began to learn from my experiences and was provoked by them to look into these chocolate awards. As a consumer I didn't like what I found at all.

In my opinion the public’s good faith has often been abused by chocolate makers and by public relation companies to gain an advantage in the marketplace.

In my opinion, as a consumer, the ideal chocolate awards are fully independent of chocolate brands and their agents. They should represent the interest of the chocolate buyer, who wants to know about and eat fantastic chocolate! I do not wish to be the "target" of a thinly disguised marketing excercise that takes advantage of my confidence in official looking awards.

Awards should be on the side of the consumer to assist them in finding the best chocolates for themselves. Awards should be trustworthy and clearly not working for the chocolate industry directly.

Michelin does exactly this with its guide book. It works for the consumer, but in doing so it  liberates the best chefs to focus on the quality of what they offer and not the quality of their marketing.

It is unlikley that a three star or one star restaurant will need to spend any money or time on marketing! Because the industry - generally - recognises the award. And in doing so they take advantage of a free, more ethical and more respectable marketing machine. 

In some similar way I hope that the World Chocolate awards can help to improve the focus of everyone onto chocolate flavour if it becomes well known enough.

This levels the playing field too, so that the small chocolatier and the big brand compete more equally, on quality, rather than marketing clout. And they both can make significant savings in business costs. Perhaps chocolatiers might use some of that extra money to make chocolates more affordable for the consumer (fair trade should not stop at the delivery door of the chocolate manufacturer)  invest in improving production or experimentation.

I believe that the public has a right to know the following facts when it is being offered a chocolate bar with an award on the packaging:

 

1         Was the winner judged against two or two hundred competitors?

 

2         Can I see a list of everyone who entered? Did every entry receive an award?

 

3         Have the organisers or judges received money, foreign trips, hospitality, free products or any kind of benefits from the winners?

 

4         Are the organisers or judges connected to the winners by friendship, family or business?

 

5         Was the award given only for the chocolate’s taste, or did its packaging, colour, a bubble, appearance and moulding count too?

 

6         Does a gold award mean that the product was the best one in its category, or were multiple gold awards given with the same title?

 

7         How many chocolates did the judges taste within what period of time? In other words did the judges have a reasonable amount of time to taste with a clear palate?

 

8         Was the award judged blind? Is the word blind being used by the award body to mean that the judges could not identify the chocolate visually, or that they only took the chocolate out of its wrapper, therefore its moulding marks ect. were visible? In other words they are bending the use of the word "blind" to a meaningless marketing term.

 

9       How do I know that the chocolate that won the award is the same as the bar in the shops? It is perfectly possible for a chocolatier to donate a specially made superior batch of chocolate in order to win an award and gain the prestige over the honest one who takes random bars to be tasted in the competition.

 

10     Why are there annual awards for an industry who's product range does not change dramatically each year? 

 

11     Why are there all these weird and wonderful extra awards for things other than the actual taste of the chocolate? 

 

Unfortunately the answers to these questions may not be as you may expect. In some cases you may not be permitted to get an answer. “I am unable to give you this information…” reads a reply to me from one of the most well known award bodies. Another: “we never release the non-winners to anyone.”

It’s not wrong for chocolate makers and their agents to organise an award between themselves, but when they place their chocolate bar on the shelf next to another chocolate that doesn’t participate in this type of promotion, then it is only fair to the consumer and to the other chocolate makers that it is made clear exactly the award means. 

In response to these facts, the World Chocolate Awards are designed to represent only the interests of the public and not the chocolate makers, to inspire the public’s confidence and set the highest standards for chocolate awards by being the leader in: independence, transparency, knowledge; consumer advice, number of chocolates judged, and number of countries included. No free chocolate bars are accepted and bars are bought anonymously. We are not limited to trying one chunk, nor is there any pressure to judge one, let alone one hundred, chocolates in one day. Often on more than one bar is tried. There is no time limit, or limit of chocolate.

I welcome any comments and suggestions. Sorry to be so serious - chocolate is one of the most fun things on the planet - but this is the catalyst for a significant award that - if people recognise it - will bring about a fresh new focus on appreciating flavour and not marketing. 

I am confident the World Chocolate Awards can help to restore integrity and respect for the consumer, plus liberate the chocolatier to concentrate on making excellent chocolate. And enable a more ethical relationship between the chocolatiers and chocolate eaters. Fairer trade for consumers!

Bon appetit to all my fellow chocolate lovers!

Ian Whitaker

www.facebook.com/worldchocolateawards

www.worldchocolateawards.com

Hardback book coming soon to amazon

Tags: award, awards, best, chocolate, chocolates, world, worlds

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Replies to This Discussion

I guess that the World Chocolate Awards are different from the International Chocolate Awards.  a href="http://www.internationalchocolateawards.com/">http://www.internationalchocolateawards.com/>  Is that right?

Yes they are completley different.

You did an excellent job summarizing the pitfalls of other awards that have been done in the past.

How many chocolates were included in your book?  Is it only about bars or a wider range of chocolate products?  How long did it take you to taste all of your entrants?  I assume that you provide all of the answers for questions 1-11 that you asked above.  Are those answers about your methodology included in your book?

Thanks for the insight.

What kinds of products did you have in mind?

There are other products besides bars, but bars are the main focus. I will release more details of this when the awards book is about to be published.

The book lists perhaps more than one thousand bars. The book contains a list of all the chocolates tasted. Including those that did not qualify for an award.

Tasting all entrants has taken around three years. Most of the qualifying chocolates have been tasted on many different occasions and more than one or two bars. In many cases I have had more than 5 or 10 of each over this period. This allows you to know them much more intimatley and allow for different moods, tastebud conditions and so forth. It is very useful to have had that experience in otder to be able to describe their "personalities" to others. All chocolates in the book have been paid for and we have receipts for them all.

I shall take great care to answer all the 11 questions and a further few important ones in the World Chocolate Awards book. These awards are truly independent and on the side of the consumer. They are not organised by an agent of a chocolate company.

Ian -

One really important series of questions to answer before the book comes out. (And when will that be?)

Who are the judges? Who is "we?" How were they selected and recruited? Who selected them? How many were there?

There are many more, of course, but - having thrown down the gauntlet on this one - everything you are saying is open to scrutiny, and this is a very knowledgable community.

:: Clay

How is vintage considered, if it took three years some of these chocolates will have changed in taste, single origin and blends? Some will not be available from small producers and for flavoured chocolates from the likes of Coppeneur, their lines change rapidly, year to year almost. I do appreciate the logistical problems involved in producing a book and tasting that many chocolates though.

Hi Tom

Coppenuer is a very good example of one I have had to completley update recently.

All one can do it the very best possible with the resources availible. I would rather let everyone make up their own mind about how effective I have been, but I aim to please. I hope it will be apparent I have made a great deal of effort!

Regarding taste: it would be reasonable to say that no two bars taste exactly the same even on the same day, ditto for one I keep for a year later. The reasons for this range from our mood to the conditions in the mouth, our health, the variation in batches, memories, what flavours we conciously or subconciously decide to focus on and so on. And therefore it is also reasonable to say that the more occasions you try a chocolate on, the fuller picture you can build of the character.

A chocolate may become unavailible for a time or forever, this is beyond our control. Perhaps the celebration of that chocolate will help the chocolatier to go on to produce more of it, or similarly fine creations and provoke the public to take and interest in a talented chocolater.

It does seem that you have given it a great deal of thought.

It is unwise for anyone to stand on a pedestal and assert that they have special tastebuds.

We all are most happy with our own perception of taste. It is a subjective thing as you know.

I am a human being who tastes chocolate. Nobody requires any further qualification in order to talk about the flavours and excellence of chocolates, write, sing, or do whatever they like on the topic.

The real selector is the public who has the option to read, watch or listen to someone else's opinion from the sources availible.

What a person can do is give their opinion. They can state their perception of flavour and so on. Your question seems to be implying there are people who should be looked at as superior to others and I do not share that opinion: anyone who takes the time to really taste what is in their mouth has a valid opinion about taste.

I have judged the chocolates. "We" means my agents, people who have assisted me in purchasing chocolates posting them across the globe. The word "we" is also used in English writing instead of I.

Maybe some people will judge it important that I and my agents are independent and find the World Chocolate Awards book more interesting because of that.

Ian,

Am I correct that you're responding to Clay's question about the judges?  Knowing who the judges are is definitely a key component to any award.  Are you the sole "judge" who determines these awards?  And for transparency how many "agents" do you have?  Since the word "agent" has several meanings please clarify what your agents do.  Are they literary agents since this is a book?  Did the agents do more than buy chocolate?  

If you tasted over 1000 bars and the average cost is $7/bar then the ~$7000 invested is quite a chunk of cash to invest in chocolate.  But what could be more fun?  How many bars did your agents buy for you?  And where can I get some these agents to buy me chocolate too? ;>)

Not sure exactly what qualifies these as "awards" then, based on your description. Sounds more like the guide to French chocolates produced by the Club des Croqueurs de Chocolats, but with only one taster, maybe? You are the sole taster and judge - and your agents helped you source the chocolates?

Ian:

It's not a question, of "we all may have" it's "there are."

The issue of the makeup of the panel whose judgments are the basis of awarding the ... ahh ... awards is always of interest to people. If the judge is you, I think people will want to know your bona fides. Especially because these are being billed as "The World Chocolate Awards."

I have this concern with many people who rate chocolate (and everything else for that matter) have no background or training in sensory analysis. I spent a lot of time thinking about this issue - over the course of several years - before I started publishing my ratings and reviews on chocophile.com back in mid-2001. I had no formal training so I need justification for my hubris in anointing myself a chocolate "critic."

The Club has its own biases, which are obvious when you know what to look for. I don't know that 100 is better than 1 - I'd need to know the makeup of the 100, or the 1.

But the question is not about me - it's about you. I am content to wait until the book comes out and not judge until I have a chance to see the explanation of the methodology and how the awards are presented. Until then it's just a matter of gathering some background so I don't try to make the deep dive into the book cold.

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