The Academy of Chocolate is an independent membership body, based in the UK, that promotes real chocolate.
As with previous years, increased consumer awareness of the origin, craft and sustainability of fine chocolate was reflected in the number of entries by smaller producers.
Chocolatiers and chocolate makers are able to enter multiple products across five categories – bars, filled chocolates, drinking chocolate, chocolate spreads and brand awareness.
With the increase in ‘Tree to Bar’ submissions, the academy has expanded this area to include separate categories for dark, milk and white bars.
More than 100 judges will make up the panel, including well known chocolatiers, food writers and bloggers such as Yolande Stanley, Keith Hurdman, Luke Frost and multiple Gold-award winner Vata Edari.
Judging sessions take place at Westminster Kingsway College in London over a 16-week period between February and May 2020.
Products will be marked on appearance, depth of aroma and flavour, length and complexity, to determine the gold, silver, and bronze winners in each category.
Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in July next year, including the famous Golden Bean award, which recognises the achievement of a producer controlling the entire process from roasting the bean to the finished bar.
The ceremony will also witness the announcement of the Golden BonBon award, which was introduced in 2017 in response to the quality and creativity increasingly achieved in the popular filled chocolates category.
The Academy launched a Brand Awareness Award last year which celebrates the pleasure of enjoying chocolate as a complete moment by moment experience, from attractive functional packaging to enjoyable mouthfeel. This will also be announced as a one of the major winners at the ceremony.
The awards also seek to identify rising stars both in the UK and internationally.
Launched in 2005, the prestigious Academy of Chocolate awards have gone from strength to strength mirroring the growth of the fine chocolate market.
In the first year, there were 12 entries. In 2019, that figure had grown to a record-breaking 1,600 submissions from 45 countries.
“We are delighted to launch our 12th awards this year. In 2005, I could barely dream that the artisan chocolate world would have flourished and identified so many talented chocolatiers and chocolate makers from across the world,” said Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, chairman, Academy of Chocolate.
“The close relationships of the chocolate makers and the cocoa growers have helped both to understand each other’s needs and challenges, resulting in ongoing experimentation and products with complexity and character not previously tasted.”
Cecilia Tessieri from Amedei won the ‘Golden Bean’ award at the inaugural event in 2005.
At the time, Amedei was relatively unknown to the global chocolate market. But since winning the top prize at the inaugural awards, it has become one of the industry’s most highly regarded bean to bar chocolate companies.
“Winning was very emotional for me and unexpected,” said Tessieri. “It was very early in our journey as a business, and we hadn’t done anything like this before so winning made the family and all of our employees very proud.”
The company won the best ‘Bean to Bar Chocolate Makers bar’ with its Chuao and Porcelana bars, with the former winning the Golden Bean.
Since winning the award, the company has grown its business and markets its products in more than 30 countries in the world. Tessieri believes there is a greater appreciation of fine chocolate since the business launched.
“Awareness of great quality chocolates has encouraged us to develop new products. This has really changed over the years. We’ve used our awards to help communicate our message about chocolate and help people enjoy better products,” added Tessieri.
But the impact on the sector hasn’t been limited to good chocolate. As one of the first women to run a successful and award-winning business in the chocolate world, Tessieri has set an example to others and acted as an inspiration to many.
“I am very proud to be one of the first women to change perception in the chocolate world. I have dedicated myself to selecting seeds and then processing them in the most efficient and quality-based manner. It’s great to see so many more women doing this now,” she said.