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Academy of chocolate awards controversy

Hi everyone,

First blog and a hot potato one!!!

Some of you, chocolatiers in the US, may be considering entering the above awards in the UK.
Well, we have participated successfully to them for the last 3 years but this year
made the unpopular decision not to as we feel that the Academy has to address a number of issues
to run these awards professionally.

If you want to read more, check out our reasons and suggestions at
http://www.artisanduchocolat.com/ArtisanduChocolatSite/cm/Plainchocolateblog.htm
Or read below

Gerard Coleman,
Director
Artisan du chocolat

This year we are not participating to the annual Chocolate Academy Awards. This may be an unpopular decision and a mildly commercially suicidal one but we make chocolates, not politics. And politics has come in the way of celebrating fine chocolate. The Academy has done much to raise the profile of fine chocolate in the UK but needs now to seriously address several issues if it is to represent this growing industry professionally.

The Academy membership should be open and enlarged in order to remain impartial and to limit the potential conflicts of interest.


We would like to call for an independent body with no commercial interest in chocolate to be formed and oversee the organisation of the awards.In recent years, most of the award winners were also members of the Academy. This could raise question of personal preferment and partiality. While we hope this is not the case, it is important that the Academy substantiates its position by putting in place the right people and processes to ensure that the Awards are truly representative of the industry as a whole and are truly impartial. For example, is it acceptable that one of the key organisers of the awards is also be the PR person of some of the brands participating?

Clarity and transparency need to be achieved in all stages of the awards from sample collection (to avoid "special" batches being created only for the awards), to aggregating scores into awards, to deciding for awards not based on scores and creating new awards.

In addition we think fewer awards would be beneficial to avoid dilution of their impact and confusion. Last year more than 100 awards were given.How many do you remember? There should be fewer awards categories, fewer awards given in each category and a smaller geographic spread of the participants. Wouldn't it be better to judge UK products perfectly rather than take on the world?

Finally, we encourage the Academy in continuing to enforce clear guidelines as how the awards should be referred to by the winning brands. Should we mention some overjoyed winners in the past who extended their awards to "World awards" or did not to mention what their awards was for?

Overall we cannot continue to participate until the Academy addresses the above issues professionally. We know there are several other chocolatiers who share our point of view but prefer to remain silent for commercial reasons. We prefer to say exactly what we think regardless of commercial and political caution. That's what this plain chocolate blog is about.

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Comment by Clay Gordon on February 15, 2009 at 1:31pm
Please note that there is another blog post on this same topic.
Comment by Robert Shea on February 5, 2009 at 5:23am
Gerard, you make some excellent points in your post. We decided to enter this year, primarily just because we wanted unbiased feedback.

I think the AoC has the potential of being an excellent consumer and vendor tool, but the organization does not give the appearance of impariatiality (despite the fact that everyone I've spoken to there has been very, very friendly to me). Awards events in the US are much more sneaky, that is you must do considerable digging to discover that specific vendors are behind the event and judging (with the AoC you can quickly and easily tell that Amedei is a sponsor of the AoCA and that all the major award winners are members).

A applaud your decision to not enter and more so to vocalize why. I hope the AoC at least considers your statements... all of them, not just those related to conflicts of interest, very carefully.

Personally, instead of a medal system, I'd love to see a point system with a narrative, like one might find in a wine guide or seventypercent.com. This would correct the issue of too many awards.

Anyhow, I applaud you. (How would I go about getting my hands on one of your Tonka bars here in the US?)

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