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Trouble brewing in British chocolate

Two recent announcements from the confectionery business, one from each side of the Atlantic, don’t represent any kind of surprise as much as they invoke a laugh or two.

The first is that the formula for the insanely popular Cadbury Creme Egg will change…sort of. The eggs will still use Cadbury chocolate, but not the dairy milk chocolate that has been part of the formula since their “hatching” in 1971. Mondelez International, a spinoff company of Kraft Foods (the parent company of Cadbury) announced this change last month, along with the tidbit that the number of Creme Eggs sold in the . multipak will decrease from six to five, while the price remains the same. The changes only affect Creme Eggs sold in the United Kingdom; U.S. consumers will see no change.

The other change will affect U.S. candy consumers, at least those who love their British sweets. The Hershey Co. has reached a settlement with Let’s Buy British, a top importer of British products, to stop importing British candy bars into the U.S. Hershey claims the reason for this is that too many of the British products looks similar to American products, which constitutes a patent infringement and also confuses Americans as to which product is which.  The owner of a New York City tea shop which carries a number of British imports had this to say on their Facebook page:

“May we politely suggest that if you think Toffee Crisps look like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups your eyesight is a much bigger problem than your chocolate bar confusion.

The change to the Cadbury Creme Egg hits at the heart of tradition. Love them or loathe them, almost 300 million of them are sold between the U.S. and the U.K alone at Easter time. Why anyone would mess with wild success in the interest of making (or saving) a little more money (Kraft Foods’ net income in 2013 was $2.7 billion) seems completely unreasonable, yet totally expected in this money-driven, quality-be-damned-and-compromised world.

And as for The Hershey Co. thinking Americans would be misled and confused by packaging; well, they could be right. We might be misled into realizing that the good stuff is what’s coming across the pond after all, not the watered-down, sub-par pseudo-chocolate they keep cranking out. So if you want to make your voice heard, just #BoycottHershey on social media. Or sign the petition.

And enjoy some of the good stuff I’ve had lately:

Soma 69% Peruvian: I stashed this one from my Canada trip, and even after long storage, it was still good. A compote of plums, raisins and berries makes this, along with all the other Soma bars, worth the ticket to Toronto. O Canada, you should be proud of this company.

Vanini 86%: Made in Italy from Amazonian beans, the inner wrapper has a long and detailed history of the cacao’s origins and uses. And speaking of uses, this is a good one. This cacao dates its earliest use to the Mayo Chinchipe culture, around 3,500 B.C. It’s a rich, dark, woody bar with shades of tobacco.

Pergale 72%: Sounds Italian, but it’s from Lithuania. It’s a fun bar; soft and chewy, with a flavor of berries and orange. It’s a little too sweet to consume in any quantity, but nice when you need a quick fix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Is Chocolate Like Ham And Champagne?

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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Chocolate good for you; the EFSA says so

Callebaut cherry chocolate bar

Callebaut cherry chocolate bar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An article in last week’s Wall Street Journal online mentioned one of the good guys of the chocolate world, and a recent accomplishment for him. Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut AG, one of the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers, recently received the blessing of the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) to stake the claim that the flavanols found in dark chocolate are good for blood circulation.

While a final decision on the issue will come from the European Commission sometime next year, the declaration is a good, but not surprising sign for anyone who loves their daily dark dose. And perhaps even better, Callebaut (European) customers who use their chocolate in such products as cereal bars and beverages could also, by extension make the same health claim. Callebaut did almost two dozen studies over the last seven years, perfecting a process to preserve the majority of flavanols, rather than use a more conventional process that destroys them. The company’s hard work paid off, making them the first chocolate manufacturer in the EU to be allowed to use the health claim.

There is an economic side to all this, of course. According to Euromonitor, the sales of food and beverages in the health/wellness category is slated to be somewhere around $691 billion by 2015, up from $601 billion in 2010. Of course, some cynics would say that all this is just pushing the junk food envelope even more. Add dark chocolate to cookies and suddenly they become good for you? No one is suggesting that the addition of dark chocolate or cocoa means going through an entire bag or package with complete impunity at a single sitting. You still have the fat, calorie and sugar component to consider, dark chocolate or not. All this news does is add a little more fuel to the discussion fire, and provides one more reason for those of us who were going to indulge in our daily fix anyway to go ahead and do so.

And speaking of fixes, the NYC stash is finally starting to get whittled down. Here’s a few more samples:

  • Snake and Butterfly 67% Venezuelan: A California-based company, this was exactly four little squares, 1.75 ounces of chocolate in the entire bar. And it’s not enough. But ten times the amount would not be enough. It’s labeled as “Organic Live Chocolate.” Whatever it means, it’s good. Sharp, tangy, butter-deep flavor.
  • TCHO Madagascar Organic 67% Citrus: This San Francisco-based company offers another small bar with a long story on the package on how the beans are grown, harvested and roasted. The citrus is light but present from beginning to end, and this is honestly one of the few organic bars I can handle.
  • Pacari Ecuadorian 72%: The good news: it’s kosher, USDA-certified organic. Not so good: grainy, chalky and pretty much in line with most organics I’ve had.
 
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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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