The 25th Salon du Chocolat celebrated its heritage and reputation as the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate and cocoa with a gala opening on Tuesday evening in Paris, France, in front of VIP dignitaries from the cocoa sector and a concert by French pop duo Calema, António and Fradique, who are also natives of São Tomé and Principe – aka ‘Cocoa Island’.
Co-founder Sylvie Douce has been involved in chocolate-themed events since 1987, but it wasn’t until 1994 that she discussed the idea of a larger show with partner Francois Jeantet and opened the very first Salon du Chocolat in October 1995, which attracted 40 chocolate professionals and 40,000 visitors.
This year, the Salon du Chocolat hosts 230 exhibitors from over 60 countries in a consumer-facing event that also attracts buyers and professionals from the international market and over 100,000 visitors.
The concept quickly became a global phenomenon and there are now Salon du Chocolat shows in major cities including New York, Tokyo, London, Beirut, Shanghai and Moscow.
But it is Paris, its spiritual home, which attracts most attention, making it a sell-out every year, especially at the weekend when consumers flock to the Pavillion at Paris-Porte de Versailles, looking for a festival of flavours from around the world and new chocolate experiences.
“The success of the Salon du Chocolat is a force for good, for everyone around the world. It may well be the magic potion for the 21st century – the only one that everyone still agrees on,” said Douce.
As well as the chocolate, the Salon hosts a chocolate-inspired fashion show on a daily basis and is home to the International Cocoa Awards, which showcases the finest producers from around the world. The Chocosphere discussion area is also an important element of the Salon, providing an industry voice on a range of topics directly to an audience of consumers.
Clark Guittard from US chocolatier Guittard said it is an important event on the calendar as it not only attracts thousands of consumers but buyers from around the world. He said his company had already received interest from the Middle East and UK on the opening morning.
Hot topics reported from the floor this year include organic and sustainable packaging, as the cocoa industry continues to grapple with sustainability in the supply chain.
Douce and Jeantet see the Salon du Chocolat as an important player in promoting sustainability in the cocoa sector and enabling cocoa growers to provide an income for their families and pass down their expertise from generation to generation.
“For us, it is very important that Salon du Chocolat is a link between producer countries and the chocolate maker,” Douce told ConfectioneryNews.
Producer countries like Côte d'Ivoire and São Tomé have had a presence at the Salon since the beginning, Douce said, and it now attracts delegations from all the big cocoa growing countries including Ghana, Brazil and Colombia.
Regarding sustainability, Jeantet said it is also an important part of the show and this year in Paris, there is an area dedicated to ‘Origen Cocoa’ including growers from the Amazon cocoa belt.
Jeantet said he also takes an active interest in bio-diversity on cocoa farms and he is the founder of the International Cocoa Awards, which recognizes sustainable practices from the beginning of the supply chain.
The Salon du Chocolat held an event in Peru earlier this year and Jeantet said, “it was fabulous to see a Pervuvian cacao producer taste chocolate for the first time and marvel at what had been done with his harvest”.
Jeantet added it is important that issues like child labor are discussed openly as it creates more understanding at consumer level.
This year, the Salon is devoting more space to pastry chefs to present masterclasses in their craft.
The Salon du Chocolat continues to grow every year, said Douce. “I am proud that, with Francois, we created this event, and then we fell in love with the chocolate maker and pastry chefs. We help them attract a wider audience in a creative environment, and we also fell in love with the cocoa grower and we created a link with not only people from the industry at any level, but with consumers of all ages and backgrounds.”