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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(Repost with spelling correction. I will reply to the new post later)

We all may have varying opinions on what will qualify as an award.

I stated at the outset a number of factors important to me and people I have spoken to.

If you are of the view that 100 tasters averaged out are better than one taster I would be interested to know how you arrive at that conclusion and how this is possible to carry out in the real world under satisfactory circumstaces.

Hi Clay, I don't see any complicated issues here:

World Chocolate Awards is exactly what is says on the tin: awards for chocolates from all over the world.

A person needs to criticise chocolate to be a chocolate critic; you need to have children to be a father/mother; you need to wash cars to be a car valeter; you need to make a sign to be a sign maker; you need to make chocolate to be a chocolatier; you need to award chocolate to be a chocolate award.

Once someone does any of those things then the public get to decide their opinion about how well that car is washed; how good a sign is; if the criticism is interesting; or if the awards are of interest.

 

Now with regards to being independent then I would agree this is a quality that is less self-evident: qualifying/clarification of those qualities and what they are intended to mean is essential. This is what I highlighted in my initial points about an ideal award.

The World Chocolate Awards are different from all of the other awards that I am aware of: It is independent, does not use donated chocolate, and is on the side of the consumer.

Facts, such as my agents and I not being related to, or paid by, any of the chocolate makers will be clarified in the book and on the website, but if more detail is required then I will not hesitate to help.

To clarify what agent means, it is somebody who is assisting me: who has on my behalf received and forwarded chocolates to me, without tipping off a chocolate maker that the chocolates are for an award.

 

Ian,

In your book are you attempting to list the "best" chocolates or your "favorites"?  To me there's quite a difference between those 2 aims.

Hi Lowe

Excuse the delay, I have been away.

This has got to be one of the most interesting points raised.

The award is for the best.

For an example if a chocolate is intended by to be a light milk chocolate with pieces of hazelnut in it, then the question has to be asked is it the best "light milk chocolate with pieces of hazelnut."

For eg.  the taster should not give more favour one with Brazil nuts because Brazil nuts are their favourite.

[Quote by Ian]

The award is for the best.

For an example if a chocolate is intended by to be a light milk chocolate with pieces of hazelnut in it, then the question has to be asked is it the best "light milk chocolate with pieces of hazelnut."

So how many categories of chocolate bars do you give awards for?  And how do you decide when to split award categories?  Using your example, is "Milk chocolate with hazelnut" a distinct category that gets an award?  What about bars with dark chocolate and hazelnuts-- is that another category?  And is "Dark chocolate with almonds" still another category?

I hope I don't sound critical, because I'm really just trying to understand your methodology based on what you've explained so far.  

It must have been a wonderful project to taste over 1000 bars and compare them!  Can give a few more specifics about how many months you spent on this, and how many bars you tasted per day?  Because I review chocolate I'd also like to know more about your process.  I always find new things that I can learn from from others.  Did you make any attempt to control and standardize as many of the variables as possible?  By this I'm referring to the sample sizes, the temperature of the chocolate tested, the time of day, the number of chocolates per day, the time since last eating, refreshing the pallette... 

This is fascinating to me, and I sincerely hope that your book helps to educate more people about fine chocolate that they might enjoy!  That can only be good for everybody!

Hi Lowe. My delay in replying is due to my workload but I will always reply as soon as possible. Again thank you for highlighting interesting and important points that we can discuss. 

I have always been lucky enough to be travelling or living abroad during and since my childhood (lived in Spain, Belgium, Italy, France, England, Peru, Honduras) I have had a fascination to discover explore and form an opinion about chocolates and other food. This evolved to become more and more formal and here we are!
CATEGORIES
The principal category is the rating: none, one, two or three stars.
The ingredients in a flavoured chocolate are made clear to the reader so it's self-evident when a chocolate is, for example, an excellent chocolate with minute hazelnut pieces. Inventing categories for each variation of ingredients is therefore unnecessary and would become a distraction from the purpose of the awards. Rather like those silly movies that show the Eiffel Tower, then in captions "Paris" then - agonisingly - in captions "France." We already knew. We could see evidently.
The same is done for organic, fair trade, ect. If a chocolate has one of these qualities it will be shown in the body of text or in the images on the page. The awards are given only for taste. However the information about farming methods, ethical practices etc. is evident for the consumer to see and use as they wish.
Only for ease of use and order, types of chocolates are presented in the book in sections dedicated to milk chocolates, white chocolates, flavoured chocolates.
An interesting topic is how do you categorise dark and light milk chocolate. Just where is that line?! Is there a line?  I will leave this to be answered in the book as I think it has not been done before in the way that it will be presented.
In my experience when I see many divisions and categories, as a consumer, alarm bells ring. It usually means there is an intention to generate "winners" and as many of them as possible. 
In these cases chocolates are "winners" simply because they are the best (or least worst!) one of a few entered into that competition, where by default there will always be a winner.

The World Chocolate Awards rates the chocolates on a star system depending how excellent they taste, which (unlike the cases mentioned above) is not affected by how bad or good the other chocolates tested are. There does not have to be a three star chocolate in the whole awards unless there is a near perfect chocolate.

TASTING

Tasting chocolate is done in before breakfast in the morning when it is the maximum number of hours since eating and using flavoured cleaning products in the mouth. Room temperature water is drank first.
Size and temperature of the chocolate are standardised to the greatest extent possible. If more than one chocolate is tasted then room temperature water is used vigorously to clear the mouth. A toothbrush that has never been used with toothpaste is used. I do not smoke or drink alcohol ever. 

I do like your view on this and I am on the other end of selling chocolate and have tasted many bars a long the way. For me it is either I like a bar or don't but also chocolate has gotten very complicated these days and I try to make things simple for myself and to also have fun a long the way. There are so many new bars coming out and also at times the old standards do change in taste or for me my taste buds have changed over time.

There are just many ways to look at all of this now.

Hi Adrienne

I agreee, particularly regarding dark chocolate. But it is an amazing time to have so many on offer to try and discover. It makes things a lot more exciting and fun than a stagnant marketplace.

As you say it is possible to find it complicated, but the World Chocolate Awards will inform people of the amazing variety there in a way that is enjoyable and different. It must be an enjoyable experience and  provide quality information in a fun and easy presentation. There will be interesting facts and hundreds of colour photos to make it an enjoyable read as well as substance.

This sounds like it will be a very interesting read and informative. Since new chocolate will be coming out and more and more people out there are making chocolate, my suggestion would be to set parameters of what chocolate you will and will not test, so that way this isn't a one time thing. I think since this is designed for the consumer in mind, you should only taste chocolates that are easily obtainable to the public, IE they ship worldwide. I would be disappointed to see your number one choice is only available by flying to europe and going to some obscure town and buying the chocolate from their shop, or if the best chocolate hasn't been in production for 2 years and is now gone.

Just a suggestion is all. It's your book.

Hi Jeff

Thank you for your points. I'll respond to them one by one below. If you have any other questions or suggestions please do not hesitate.

 

Since new chocolate will be coming out: the World Chocolate Awards book will be published on a 2-3 year basis. This is an appropriate time span for the rate at which the marketplace changes significantly for milk, flavoured, flavoured drinking and the other types of chocolate we are including.  An annual award would see a very high number of repetitions compared to a very low number of new entries. It also requires time to do due diligence to sourcing and testing chocolates from all over the world. Finally, no matter how often information on any subject is published there will always be new information coming forth the next day. So the best way to deal with this is to keep right up to date until the moment of publishing. In the case of a chocolate going out of production, the recognition of the chocolatier for making exceptional chocolate, of something that they have already achieved, is significant. The reader can become familiar perhaps with a new brand, see what the chocolatier is capable of, read interesting infromation about them and look at their range.

Set parameters of what chocolate you will and will not test: This will be clarified when the main website opens and in the book. But in brief for the World Chocolate Awards only tests chocolates do not use substitutes for real vanilla, or for cocoa butter.

 

Chocolates that are easily obtainable to the public: The objective is to rate as many of the finest chocolates in the world as we possibly can, based soley on their taste. This is a unique concept and a level playing field for all chocolatiers no mater how big or small, no matter their marketing budget, skill at securing distribution, or how they package their chocolate. As a result of the World Chocolate Awards book recognising and honouring those chocolatiers who craft the world's best tasting chocolates, demand for them may increase, which will give us all a better chance of being able to obtain them. I believe that a large percentage of the public have not even heard of many of the best chocolatiers, who have little chance to expand distribution without an increase in demand coming first. It is a chicken and egg scenario that our book will help to resolve. What is easily obtainable is also subjective: it depends on where we live, where we travel, where our relatives live, how effectively we use the internet and how resourceful a person is.

 

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