Specialty Food Magazine

Summer 2020

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1256204

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Page 56 of 91

little bit more money for a premium product," he says. "They also have a gifting culture, so it has a lot of things going for it. We're very excited about being part of that market." Minimalist Approach Dandelion focuses on two-ingredient chocolate, using nothing but cacao beans and sugar, rather than seeking to incorporate other flavors into its bars through inclusions such as nuts. The company also does a "100 percent" bar that contains nothing but ground cacao. "We're more on the 'purist' side of things," says Masonis. Elaine Read, co-founder of Atlanta-based Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate, says dark chocolate bars, with 85 percent and 100 percent cacao, have been strong sellers at her company, even though they are not as popular as the bean-to-bar maker's sweeter offerings. "The people who are looking for a good and tasty, very dark chocolate become brand-loyal when they find a very dark bar that has more flavor character than your typical, just bitter dark chocolate," she says. All of Xocolatl's base chocolates (other than the 100 percent variety) are made with just two ingredients: cacao and organic cane sugar. Its flavor inclusion bars use only whole foods as flavorings, such as ground peppermint leaves, freeze-dried raspberries, and real organic vanilla, rather than vanillin. Artisanal makers pride themselves on showcasing the subtle differences between the cacao that they source for each batch of bars. Different harvests from the same region can yield different flavors year to year, much like the grapes used to make wine. "There's a terroir, and there's a genetics component … and they're looking at how it's dried and how it's processed; how it's handled all the way through," says Guyton. New York-based Beyond Good by Madécasse, which sources chocolate directly from farmers in Madagascar, prides itself on the heritage of its cacao. "Madagascar has one of the most flavorful types of cocoa beans in the world in terms of genetics," says Tim McCollum, founder and CEO of Beyond Good. The cacao there includes a significant genetic contribution of criollo cacao, thought to be the original cacao grown on the planet, he says. The company recently expanded its sourcing to include Uganda as well, using a contract factory in Italy. In Madagascar, the company built the nation's first chocolate factory, creating a streamlined supply chain, McCollum says. Much of the specialty cacao used by high-end chocolate makers is sourced from Central America and the Amazon region, which is the birthplace of cacao, Guyton points out, although makers are also increasingly finding interesting varieties in other places, such as Madagascar and other parts of Africa. Ben Vanegtern, co-owner of Puna Chocolate Co., based in Hilo, Hawaii, says he has seen strong consumer interest in region-specific chocolate bars. The company, which operates three retail stores— two in Hawaii and one in Wauconda, Illinois—not only makes its own chocolate, but also grows it, together with a co-op of other farmers, on Hawaii's Big Island. "Differentiating between the districts [of Hawaii] is a big thing we are leaning on right now," Consumers Learn Value of Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Specialty chocolate makers have learned that experiential retailing can help consumers understand the value of their products. Todd Masonis, CEO and co-founder of Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco, says consumers need to understand why the company's bars cost $10 apiece. "It's hard to just look at all the bars on the store shelf, and say, 'Oh I'm going to spend money on this bar' without even tasting it," he says. Offering samples, telling the story behind the chocolate's origins, and hosting classes and factory tours all help Dandelion convince customers to pay a premium for the company's bars, Masonis says. "Those things go a long way in helping people form an emotional bond," he says. "Direct consumer experiential retail is the wave of the future." Elaine Read, co-founder of Atlanta-based Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate, says the direct sourcing that Xocolatl and other bean-to-bar makers and retailers practice adds considerable costs to production. "It is neither easy nor cheap to source directly," she says, citing global travel to meet with growers, overcoming language barriers to form relationships, and sourcing in small quantities, among other challenges. "Going through a broker or just purchasing beans from a commodity supplier online would be easier and cheaper, but ultimately not in line with our mission as a small craft company," she says. "We work through the cost challenges by budgeting and pricing our chocolate accordingly." Once consumers understand the efforts around sourcing and craftsmanship that artisan makers put into their bars, they realize they are actually getting a bargain, Masonis says. "Chocolate is an affordable luxury," he says. "You can buy one of the best bars of chocolate in the world and it's probably not going to be more than $12 or maybe $15, whereas, you can't say that about the world's best bottle of wine or even some specialty craft beer." PHOTO: PUNA CHOCOLATE PHOTO: ERIC WOLFINGER 46 SPECIALTY FOOD SPECIALTYFOOD.COM CATEGORY EDUCATION

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