Once again it's here. This year, the Chocolate Show came in a good shape and less noise but with very strong cocoa flavors and consumers with a demanding palate. I spent nearly three half-days on the floor trying to taste with a plain mouth and an objective mind -no personal preferences or positive press affecting.
I personally identified two major trends: those of the US market and that of the Europe which is primarily represented by France and Belgium. Chocolate in the US market has become organic, raw, vegan and gluten-free to satisfy those who are diabetic, suffer from the celiac disease or just look for healthier options. Representatives of that trend is Gnosis Chocolates, Nibmor and Sweet Riot - all offering the raw and gluten free varieties.
I tasted them all and although I like the raw-ness, I feel that it may well be overwhelming for some consumers. Blending raw cocoa beans with dense nuts, fruits, superfoods and herbs is a "healthy" option and not a bad idea but keep an eye on the calories as well. Rawness does not come calorie-free, so do have a look at the ingredients. A look at Nibmor's nutrition facts says that a serving size of 31 g has 120 calories, 70 of which is fat, wit 4g of saturated fat.
On the other hand, France came with its awesome chocolate creations, not only a delight in the palate but also a visible pleasure. France, the number one country in pastry creations and chocolate according to world ratings, seems not to care for health. Therefore, you see the bonbons, ganaches, macaroons, truffles and pralines. Christophe Roussel tells me that in France chocolate makers work with "associations" in texture: crunchy-ness and softness are two of the trends he sees in his country and believes that the American market will soon make a shift from tablets to more sophisticated forms of chocolate.
Carolina Gavet, the marketing manager of Valrhona, shows me their newest Christmas boxes with bonbons and square truffles, an obvious innovation. When I asked her about the trends in the US, she tells me that American consumers are far more educated about chocolate now: they seem to know how it is made, where the beans come from and the difference between the high end chocolate and the mass production. They also started to appreciate the dark chocolate as well. "So far Americans liked the milk chocolate because they like sugar a lot," she says "but now they eat dark because it's more chocolate and is healthier."
Mary Chocolate, the Japanese chocolate store exhibiting this year, came with new forms of chocolate. They mainly use ingredients and foods found in Japan as for example sesame, wasabi and sake something that American consumers seem to appreciate. Their newly chocolate covered rice cracker is a hit on the floor - I can't say the same for the spicy version of it. Masakazu Takada, the overseas sales and development manager says that there is no recession in chocolate consumption in Japan. The market is growing fast and Japanese like their chocolates.
Francisco Vivar, the Pacari chocolate spokesperson thinks that chocolate should give happiness not only to the consumer but to the entire chain: the producer, importer, exporter, sales person etc. That's why Pacari's values is sustainability and eco-friendliness. Organic, vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free is also a trend for them so Pacari has all of the above. Vivar also tells me that in Ecuador they now keep the best cocoa beans for themselves and for their local production (in the past they sent the best beans to France, Belgium and Switzerland) as they want to produce the best chocolate in Ecuador. Pacari with Kallari and Antidote chocolates came in the show with the support of the Trade Office of Ecuador.
What was new for me? Not more bacon and spicy chocolate this year, as it was the trend last year. But I tried the 100% from Pacari and Pralus. I can't say it was a dessert -for this I will opt for some macaroons- but it was intense and bitter enough to remind me of an espresso!