UK awards reflect growing consumer demand for fine chocolate

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chocolate

The UK consumer palate continues to move towards fine chocolate, evident in the mushrooming popularity of the UK's academy of chocolate awards that clocked-up an increasing number of entries from bean-to-bar players.

Founded in 2005 to promote greater awareness of fine chocolate, and to campaign for improvements in the quality of chocolate offered to consumers, the academy recognises excellence in chocolate through its annual awards scheme.

The number of entries for the award categories, that span 'best chocolate makers bar’ to 'best packaging' and ‘best organic’ categories, have snowballed year on year, suggesting that the market is growing in pace with an increase in consumer demand.

"I've seen a change in the last six years,"​ said Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, a director at the UK's academy of culinary arts and a founding member of the chocolate academy.

"At that time people Green and Blacks was growing in popularity, now, in addition, there is a whole array of fine chocolate manufacturers, which is fantastic,"​ she commented to

The awards attracted a 'record number of entries with over 400 products' and a 50:50 split between UK and non-UK entrants.

And while at liberty to enter the academy awards, none of the chocolate industry's big players, such as Green & Blacks, placed an entry.

Italian chocolate Amedei topped the 'bean to bar' category and winning the Golden Bean award for their No 9 Blend.

US newcomer Amano won gold in the same category, "hugely impressing the judges"​. The Utah-based firm kicked-off its activities only recently, in 2006, and uses 'vintage European equipment and techniques' to make its artisanal chocolate.

"At every turn, we choose quality over quantity and develop our chocolate so that it has a robust flavour profile with both high and low notes," ​said the US chocolatier.

Originality in packaging rewarded

For the first time, the academy ran a 'best packaging' category. Key criteria for the new category included "design originality and suitability of boxes and containers for approximately 200g to 250g quantities of chocolate,"​ explained Sara Jayne Stanes.

US chocolatier Tcho clinched the gold award for its six bar gift box, with silver awarded to the UK's Rococo firm for its 'round' box, while Italian chocolate makers La Molina hooked the bronze award for 'The cretti book'.

Managing the price spiral

Set against tightening consumer budgets, "chocolate makers are swallowing the prices for the moment, and are not passing the rises on,"​ commented Stanes.

Prices for cocoa are pinching the chocolate industry, on 16 February the London futures market pinned up prices of £1916.33 a tonne, barely dipping from the high of £2,000 (€2133) etched up in late January.

Bullish factors that contributed to the price rises include a reduction in grindings in key cocoa producing countries such as Ivory Coast, which feeds about 37 per cent - between 1.2 to 1.4 million tonnes of beans - of the globe's cocoa use.

Tighter global supplies for cocoa led the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) to recently place its global cocoa deficit forecast to 77,000 MT, based on a cut in its 2007-08 global cocoa crop forecast to 3.65 million tonnes.

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