The Chocolate Life

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Clay mentioned to me that there has been a lot of activity from Australia on TheChocolateLife lately and asked about chocolate festivals in Australia. I mentioned that we do have one the ‘Chocolate Rush Festival’(www.chocolaterush.com.au). Did anyone go? Did they like the event? It looked like it would have been pretty good.

 

My next question is for the bean to bar guys out there Cicada, Zokoko, Nui, Haighs, Daintree Estates, did any of you guys exhibit or attend? Would you think about it for 2012, perhaps even run some of the ‘education events’ and get the Australian people up to speed with good chocolate?

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I went to Chocolate Rush and have been 3 of the past 4 years. In my opinion, the general level of the festival has gone down progressively with time. There were not many exhibitors this year (maybe 10-15 stalls) and I didn't see any of our bean to bar manufacturers. Most of the stalls were bon bon/confection makers rather than pure chocolate makers. There were quite a few non-chocolate stalls as well to offer a balance (still foodie orientated) which was good. I don't make these comments to be negative, just realistic.

 

I do actually find it surprising. I would have thought with all the bean to bar makers popping up in the country, there should have been plenty of reasons for them to have stalls (there were certainly plenty of people about each time I have gone) and there are many, many other great bon bon/confection makers around Melbourne that weren't represented. It's a pity because the idea is good and I would have thought there was enough public support for it to be viable, but there just didn't seem to be enough interest from the actual producers at the event. I wonder if it's because the first few years of these sort of festivals might actually cost chocolate producers to be there as the name/brand of the festival is slowly built up? At the end of the day though, I paid $30 to get in and was out again in about 30 minutes (and I have a huge interest in chocolate and had people in the stalls to talk with). I probably wont go next year if it's held again unless the pre-marketing shows a significant pickup in actual chocolate producers attendance (either bean to bar or bon bon/confection makers).

 

There is also a chocolate festival held in NSW. I think it was at the Hunter Valley Gardens (which would be a great location). Has anyone attended there?

I'm the importer for Australia of a Tuscan bean to bar chocolate maker, I'll try to give you my answer.  The problem is that a festival like that (or the Good Food and Wine show, ad example) has an expensive ticket for the visitors, and when people spend $30 just for the ticket all they want is usually grab as much samples and free stuff as possible.

Having a proper stall is very expensive, and the promotion in terms of business to business is almost zero.

Well I must say that i had a very poor experience when i was importing skimboards and we did one of the trade shows on the Gold Coast. They did have one day for business to business but the turn out was extremely poor, so bad that most of the exhibitors left on the morning of the last day. I just thought that it was that particular show though. Never did another one, cost us a fortune for the stall.

Shame

couldn't agree more, the rise of farmers markets is more interactive and cost effective. For both the stall holder and educating the public with the bonus of making a few bucks. All for a $30-80 investment + time

More for completeness, this is the other Chocolate Festival I was referring to

http://www.hvg.com.au/events/events-listing/details/19

Chocolate Fest 2011 was held at the Hunter Valley Gardens (which would be a great location I'm guessing from what I know about the gardens). I didn't attend this festival though and haven't heard any feedback from anyone at this stage.

 

Looking at this from the perspective of someone who goes to a lot of these things, the challenge is not that the idea of a chocolate show/festival is bad, but that the model for existing chocolate shows/festivals doesn't work. Organizers are looking to put them together like trade shows when there's probably a much better way to think about it.

One main "problem" is that organizers rent expensive conference centers. There's no reason that a stand has to cost $2-3000 for 8 square meters or that admission has to cost $25-30 per person - high admission costs lead to "grazing" behavior - people looking to get free samples at least equal in value (in their minds) to the price of admission.

Also - there are enough people in the chocolate business in Oz that starting out thinking of this as an annual gathering among yourselves to build the industry isn't a bad place to start ... and then invite the public in to share the fruits of your labor.

Or something. Shows are hard, and most "festivals" are actually 'consumer trade shows.' Even the organizers of the Salon du Chocolat don't get it right all the time. The model that works fabulously well for them in Paris does not work in New York City.

Just some thoughts - and a challenge to the group - to think outside the box.

i went it was great  see my blog  & face book page www.lauraloveschocolate.com 

 

Tom

I was about to go, but unfortunately due to ill health had to pull out at the last minute.  My friend Kirsten Tibbles of Savourschool in Melbourne did go and said it was a great event.  I am currently, albeit on a small scale making my own chocolate for my ice cream and will most likely be attending next years event.

Bean to Cream, I like it. I make awesome ice-cream from my chocolate also, nothing beats it! Good to see another maker on here.

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