Bean to bar: the craft movement changing the way chocolate is made

To celebrate Chocolate Week, Food Spark talks to the director of Real Food Festival, Fabio Diu, about the trends influencing the category and the move away from sweetness.

12 October 2018
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A line-up of bean-to-bar makers from around the world are converging on London, ready to showcase the growing trend for craft products this Chocolate Week, which runs October 15-21.

Organised by Canopy Market and chocolate club Cocoa Runners, the event will run from October 19-21 and include a programme that dives into the world of artisan choccies, as makers present their newest bars, demonstrate wine and coffee pairings, and discuss the chocolate revolution through talks and panels.

Held at West Handyside Canopy in Kings Cross, chocolatiers will include New York’s Fruition, whose bars are made with unique methods, including bourbon barrel ageing; Fjak, an organic Norwegian outfit that uses local Nordic botanicals to flavour its chocolate; and Friis-Holm, a Danish chocolatier who sources his cacao beans from Central America, focusing on single-varietal bars and cacao fermentation.

There’s also Scandanavia’s Svenningsen, who crafts water-ganache chocolates entirely from chocolate and water, and Ruket, an Italian bean-to-bar maker devoted to ethical cacao, using beans sourced everywhere from Haiti to Vietnam.

Food Spark speaks to Fabio Diu, director of the Real Food Festival who runs the Canopy Market, about the innovations keeping chocolate sales sweet.

What trends are influencing chocolate development and production?

I think they are the same trends which have driven the craft coffee movement really; a single-minded dedication to quality and desire to showcase the purity of the beans – standards which also go hand-in hand with a commitment to ethical sourcing, transparency and provenance. These are all values that chime with today’s more demanding and conscientious consumers.

Most craft chocolate-makers are buying straight from origin, which as well as allowing them to pay the growers a fair price also means they have much more control. They can select the best quality chocolate beans and create really interesting and diverse ranges of bars made from single-origin beans, with some makers going as far as producing chocolate bars from one single growing area or estate and seeking rare, heritage, heirloom varieties to make their chocolate.

Some chocolatiers are also producing their chocolate at origin so that the added value of production remains in the local economy and chocolate can be made with super fresh beans, rather than beans that are months or even years old by the time they reach them.

Why do you think there has been a huge increase in interest in chocolate? Why are provenance, quality and craftmenship influencing this?

People are just much more aware of the social, environmental and health implications of how we produce food these days and they are turning away from mass-produced, highly processed foods in favour of independent, artisan production, which is generally better quality, more ethical and sustainable.

Everyone loves chocolate (that hit of theobromine, caffeine, fat and sugar is hard to resist!) so it was only a matter of time until it had its moment, and the difference between bean-to-bar chocolate and industrially produced chocolate ‘confectionery’ is massive. Once you try ‘real’ chocolate, you really can’t go back. It’s a whole new world of taste discovery and there are an ever-growing number of really amazing chocolatiers out there.

What do you think consumers are looking for from their chocolate?

Well chocolate ‘confectionery’ is mostly sugar and flavourings, with a very low percentage of cacao, which makes for a pretty flat, boring flavour that really is mostly just sweet.

Craft chocolate gives so much more as makers turn this on its head and put cacao centre stage, bringing out the full complexity and natural flavours of the cacao bean. Added to which the provenance and values attached to the chocolate-making process allow consumers to feel more connected to the product. They know where the beans are from and how it has been produced and the whole experience is just much more satisfying, rewarding and, most importantly, enjoyable.

How does chocolate sit within the trend for healthy eating at the moment?

Well there is a lot of misinformation and confusion on what constitutes a healthy diet. But if we are talking about the general positive trend of avoiding ultra-processed foods in favour of ‘real’ food, then craft chocolate absolutely sits within that.

Craft chocolate is all about natural ingredients and has an extremely low sugar content compared to commercial, mass-produced chocolate, and although it might sound counterintuitive, chocolate also has a lot of proven health benefits too; it has lots of minerals, improves insulin sensitivity and has been shown to be good for circulation, the heart and brain. It could be the next super food!

Tell us about the international chocolatiers coming to the show.

We are collaborating with Cocoa Runners to bring some of the UK’s best chocolatiers from all over the country, such as Pump Street Chocolate, Duffy’s and Dormouse, we are really excited to have some incredible international makers joining us too.

We have some true pioneers in the craft chocolate movement such as the Grenada Chocolate Co, which was founded in 1999 by Mott Green, who produced the very first ‘Tree to Bar’ chocolate this century through a growers and makers co-operative in the middle of Grenada’s rainforest. There’s also Original Beans, who have been making craft chocolate since 2008 and are bringing their Arhauco Businchari 82%, the first cacao made according to ancient Arhuaco tribal traditions.

Fruition are also coming over all the way from the Catskill Mountains of New York, and a few Scandinavians such as Fjak Chocolate, who are Norway’s first bean-to-bar chocolate-makers, which are all made with local Nordic ingredients in their little factory in the Hardangerfjord.

Also coming along are Friis Holm, a well-known chef with a couple of restaurants and a bakery who has caught the chocolate bug, and Svalbaroi, an award-winning Danish maker who first got inspired by London’s very own Paul A. Young.

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