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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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Chocolate (Price) Fix: Does It Matter?

English: A regular Hershey bar, out of the pac...

English: A regular Hershey bar, out of the package. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent NBC News story reported that Hershey Canada, Mars Canada and Nestl√© Canada have been charged with conspiracy to fix the price of chocolate in that country. Along with these companies, one of Canada’s largest retail and food distributing companies, ITWAL Ltd., has also come under scrutiny for anti-competitive behavior. The charges, which have been leveled at top-tier executives, are serious and carry prison and/or fine penalties.

Here’s the question: does price-fixing north of the border matter? Especially when it involves companies whose products many of us consider beneath us, even in a moment of confectionary desperation?

Yes, it matters.

For one thing, crime committed at any corporate level affects all of us. It affects the price we pay for what we need and want.

It’s an affront to anyone who actually obeys the law, and figures any high-flying executive making a seven-figure salary ought to be doing the same thing.

It makes your eyes roll to the back of your head when the company spokesperson says something like “we plan to vigorously defend ourselves against these charges” while stating on their website that the price-fixing allegations go back to 2007, all the while knowing that one of the companies involved is already cooperating with authorities in order to get lenient treatment in court.

It’s petty to artificially play with the price of chocolate. It’s not like the good stuff isn’t already pricey enough. You’re not fooling any of us by raising the price of the cheap crap, anyway. True connoisseurs know better.

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And speaking of the good stuff: two bars I found in Toronto. Neither Canadian, but you’ll love them anyway:

Valrhona El Pedregal Porcelana 64%: The name of this bar sounds impressive, pedigreed and regal. And it smells the same way even before you open it. This is an Oh, My! bar. Period. Floral, fruit, wine and cocoa are all balanced perfectly. This is the bar that makes other bars jealous.

Valrhona Ampamakia 64%: A single plantation bar that’s singular in its excellence. What it lacks in the floral and wine notes of El Pedregal, it makes up for in cocoa. Considering that both are 64%, this one is sweeter, with more bitter notes and a slight lemon ting.

 

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