Welcome to the site and the blog section where I'll be recording the evolution of the project and sharing some great stories from contributors along the way. I call this section "Currently Charting" because we'll always have uncharted waters to map out and things to talk about. Undoubtedly, we'll get lost. But that's the best part!
Before some bold statements below, I'd like to explain why I map. I started this project to encourage all the individuals within the craft chocolate and specialty cacao industries to come together for a common goal. The google doc we're working on is at the heart of it (join and contribute to it!), and with input from various cross-sections, it has the potential to be something great. Beyond that, visibility is the biggest hurdle for many individuals in the craft chocolate community. See below:
In all of the factory tours and tasting courses I've given and at all the trade shows and conferences I've been to, the elephant in the room is always danced around. We tend to shy away from outright shaming the big, cheap companies. I've done it myself. It's nicer to show someone toward the light and ignore the dark side of traditionally cheap chocolate. I grew up with it as we all did. But it's time someone said it unapologetically:
Despite all the progress we've made in industry exposure, innovative market organizations, and community groups, craft chocolate is still only about 5% of the entire market. Craft beer miraculously doubled their market presence from about 5% to 10% in less than 4 years. Mega beverage monopoly AB-In Bev took notice and is buying out the small guys. As Clay Gordon of the Chocolate Life noted in the ever relevant Bloomberg piece, craft chocolate has the ability to push the envelope too.
Plus, we have a huge advantage! Big cacao is weaker than we think. Their supply chains are rife with ethical turmoil and endless roundabouts of questioning. Their sugar percentage is causing alarms amongst consumer groups left and right, and they're ill-equipped for competing with our designs, stories, and especially flavour. The only thing they have is size. They may have even gaslighted consumers into buying more chocolate from them
Will the world run out of chocolate by 2020?!? I don't know. You tell me Kelly Anne Conway!
I, for one, believe there's no better time to start a movement than now. Craft chocolate is smart enough and well established enough to push the needle another 5%. Some of us have checked our sources, at least minimally, and it's led to great improvements.
Sounds a bit like David & Goliath, right? It just means we need to innovate; think like big, cheap chocolate does. For starters, we can focus time on cutting their margins during the holidays. Raise consumer awareness and target their desires away from a Russel Stover Valentines Day box and toward some of your creations. Offer something exclusively for Halloween. Buy an easter egg mold and charge accordingly for your time. Play the healthy dark chocolate card left and right.
Most importantly, if we don't increase transparency within the craft chocolate and cacao community we're building now. Publish your own sourcing report, even if it's just 1 page. Big cacao could copy big beer's playbook. Imagine, for a minute, one of the corporate reps from Cargill or Nestle pay a visit to the co-op you currently source your specialty cacao from. What would that mean? And then who trusts who? Would you still have your share of cacao from the source you've worked with? What insurances and agreements do you have in place?
Not to sound too radical (if I haven't already), but archaic systems of chocolate will be our demise if we don't start pushing the envelope further. Climate change is not only going to leave West African cacao in a worse state than it already is, it's knocking at the doorstep of every cacao farmer in the world.
So, what can we do? How can we solve such a huge problem? You're only one person. I'm only one person, rambling about cacao, saying crazy hostile things like #fuckcheapchocolate.
For starters- transparency and visibility. Let's create a digital, live, crowdsourced team roster for a social change. It's not about who has the finest cacao in the world to make the best, most award winning bar with. That won't keep the system going. This project is about working together (preferably checking any pretentious baggage with you at the door).
So, break off a piece. Melt a bit. Let's chart these waters together. And if you agree at all, join me in saying #fuckcheapchocolate... because craft chocolate is deserves better.
Disagree? Want to add something? Think I'm crazy?
Comment below and check out what's on in our google doc.