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When Is Chocolate Like Ham And Champagne?

31 Jul
An assortment of Belgian chocolates

An assortment of Belgian chocolates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When is chocolate in the same class as pork and Laurent-Perrier?

When the Belgians say it is – maybe.

It seems that Belgian chocolate makers, fearful of copycats diluting and cheapening their exquisite product, want to seek the protection of the European Union to ensure that the chocolates they create, package and sell are known throughout the world as the Belgian chocolates.

This trademarking idea is not unlike that used in Italy for Parma ham, or in France for Champagne. Those products must be created and packaged in those regions in order to be labeled as such. So the Belgians, who can boast of 200 chocolate makers and 2,000 chocolate stores and museums in a country of eleven million people, want to corner the market on the exclusivity of their product so that consumers know what they are actually getting.

Problems have certainly arisen in the fake fine chocolate world, particularly in economically emerging Asian countries. Knock-off boxes containing inferior “Belgian” product are constantly turning up, keeping the copyright attorneys and trade organizations busy. A “Belgian Chocolate Code” has been in existence since 2008, modeled on one introduced by the Swiss chocolate industry in the 1970s, but the Belgian code is a practical one discussing ingredients, end vs. finished product and labeling. It carries no legal ramifications for anyone who violates it. Manufacturers, exporters and trade representatives think the code is a great idea and support it, but what good is it if no one has to really respect it? Is it because no one really wants to stir the chocolate pot, causing themselves too much trouble? Or is it just too much hassle to go after a competitor who makes an inferior product?

What do you think – is it worth the effort to protect and trademark the best so consumers know what they’re really getting?

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And speaking of what you’re getting, two more from my Toronto stash:

  • Dolfin Noir 88% Dark: Yes, it certainly is that. Dark and almost too bitter to eat. But not quite. Woody undertones with almost no sugar, it’s a baking chocolate, yet it’s rich enough to eat and enjoy in small amounts.
  • Irresistibles 72% (Switzerland): The Swiss can do better than this. Dark, but too sweet and reminiscent of a Hershey’s Extra Dark bar. You might want to break this into bits and use it up in a chocolate chip cookie recipe.
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2 responses to “When Is Chocolate Like Ham And Champagne?

  1. KK

    August 1, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    As I’ve learned, Belgian chocolate doesn’t mean a thing quality wise. Yes, we Belgians did pledge we’ll only use cacao butter and no substitutes, which does make a difference in comparison to other foreign bulk”chocolates”. But other than that, all the Belgian producers of bars and pralines (also called chocolates abroad) are using the same product made by Callebaut or Belcolade.

    There are some exceptions ( for instance Hilde Devolder in Ghent and Geert Vercruysse in Kortrijk), who produce inspired pralines using true fine origin chocolates. But in a whole, Belgian Chocolate isn’t a brand or signature of quality!

     
    • nancymn

      August 1, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      Thanks for the insight, KK. And I’m thinking, based on the information I’ve seen, that the Belgian chocolate makers want to change that and make the product at least sound more exclusive. And you have a good point. I’ve had some great Belgian product, and some I never want to eat again!

       

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