getting fresh: Clips from kölschlandFor those of you who have never been to the International Sweets & Biscuits Fair (ISM), in Cologne, the world’s largest gathering of confectionery and snack producers in the world, I heartily advise a visit.
And although the end of January/beginning of February typically doesn’t deliver the greatest weather for sightseeing, there are plenty of manufacturers and suppliers to visit in the halls of Koelnmesse to warrant the expense. It’s really a confectionery kaleidoscope.
In addition, for those beer lovers in the group, there’s the attraction of sipping freshly drawn kölsch, the local brew, served in 0.2 liter narrow glasses, to whet one’s appetite after a long day at the fair. Served only in Cologne and nearby suburbs, the distinct brew goes down in the most pleasant of swallows, making my annual pilgrimage even more special.
But this column isn’t a travelogue about Cologne and its beer; rather, I wanted to chat briefly about ISM’s “Organic Avenue” and Lars Frederiksen, a passionate chocolatier dedicated to making organic chocolates.
First, however, let me toss out some stats about this year’s ISM, which reflect a bit on the global recession we’re encountering. According to Koelnmesse, 32,500 buyers from 150 countries attended. In addition, 1,593 companies exhibited, representing nearly every possible sweet/snack available from all four corners of the globe.
Despite such numbers, it appeared that both attendance and exhibitor participation were down slightly from last year, a direct result of many companies cutting back on expenses because of economic uncertainties.
Naturally, the absence of Haribo, the world’s largest gummi bear manufacturer and a long-time supporter of the fair, as well as Wrigley Europe, merely re-emphasized the anxiety about a world recession and how it was affecting confectionery sales.
In the end, their absence proved a boon to the organic movement, the empty booth space providing plenty of room for the Organic Avenue exhibit -- a space where several organic confectionery and snack producers could showcase their items in a “prime time” venue. As it so happens, Organic Avenue proved to be a major thoroughfare for me as I zipped back and forth from our booth at the American pavilion to check on magazine distribution and messages.
It was during one of those strolls that I opted to visit Lars Frederiksen, managing director of Woodshade Organics, a small Danish chocolate company dedicated to handmade, high-premium products.
Founded in 1983, Woodshade Organics (www.molle-skovly.dk) was poised to go out of business when Lars Frederiksen opted to get out of foodservice and into chocolate in 2001. Reportedly one of the first companies in the world to dedicate itself to producing organic chocolates – remember, this goes back almost 25 years -- Woodshade Organics produces a broad range of pralines, chocolate bars, energy bars, panned and enrobed items and marzipan in its 4,300-sq.-meter facility in Knebel, Denmark.
Fredericksen, together with his wife and a handful of employees, work diligently at turning out some of the best chocolate and confectionery sweets possible.
Asked whether the current recession has affected his business, the silver-haired chocolatier shook his head, no.
“Our typical customer is mid-income and educated,” he explained. “We primarily sell our products through specialty shops, even wine shops. All of our items are made by hand and we offer better quality.”
In the end, quality -- perhaps more so in tougher times -- sells.
Now, I’m not saying this economy isn’t having an impact on confectioners throughout the world. It is and will continue to do so. But, then, so will higher ingredient, labor and overhead costs.
And similarly to what happened at ISM this year, where a couple of heavy hitters opted out of the annual fair, the show played on. And, actually, according to many candy companies exhibiting there, quite successfully.
So, too, with the confectionery industry. Despite a slowdown in revenues and, unfortunately, ongoing consolidation, people will continue eating and demanding sweets. And although organic’s double-digit gains have moderated a bit, customers are acutely aware of the quality associated with organic confections, i.e., Woodshade Organics.
Still, it’s up to confectioners to re-emphasize that association, be it through special promotions, packaging, added value or emphasis on personal indulgence. I’ll end this week’s wisdom with a quote taken from Woodshade Organics’ brochure.
“For who can deny that when the taste buds are seeking excitement, drama and sweet satisfaction, it is neither the potato nor the cranberry to which we turn. It is chocolate.” -- Lorna J. Sass, American historian and writer.
Endangered Species launches charitable chocolate foundationIndianapolis-based chocolate maker Endangered Species Chocolate has launched a new charitable arm: the Endangered Species Chocolate Foundation. Its mission? “Empowering individuals to create solutions that sustain species, habitat and humanity.”
The foundation will make charitable donations in three ways: by providing grants to nonprofits that meet the requirements of the company’s 10% Give Back application process (in 2009, it will work with Ocean Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation); by funding and providing volunteers for on-the-ground projects focused on creating solutions that sustain species, habitat and humanity in areas where Endangered Species cacao is grown (these locations currently include the Ivory Coast and Peru); and by aiding cacao farmers in the company’s farming communities during times of crisis.
Since its inception in 1993, Endangered Species Chocolate has donated 10% of its net profits to help support species, habitat and humanity. On April 21, 2009, the company will hold its first fundraising event, including tours of the chocolate factory and an opportunity to meet the president of the Naranjillo Cacao Cooperative in Lima, Peru.
For more information, visit www.chocolatebar.com.
Americans continue to keep kosherKosher foods continue to flourish, according to a recent study by Mintel Group of Chicago. A consumer survey of adults who keep kosher reveals their reasons for doing so: quality (62%), general healthfulness (51%) and food safety (34%).
These results contrast sharply with the 14% of respondents who say they purchase kosher foods as a means of following kosher religious rules. And just 10% of those surveyed buy kosher for other religious reasons/eating restrictions.
Mintel also reports that the kosher food market is strong and growing in the United States. Sales of kosher foods totaled $12.5 billion in 2008, a 64% increase since 2003.
For more information, visit www.mintel.com.
Plush offers eco-friendly packagingThere’s a new chocolatier in town: Long Compton, U.K.-based Plush Chocolates. As of December, 2008, the Fair Trade company is up and running, and producing an abundance of new products. Offerings include Fair Trade English and Belgian chocolate collections in Plantic eco-friendly packaging. Plantic trays are made from non-GM high amylase corn starch and feature a renewable resource content of around 85%. They are biodegradable, home-compostable, and compostable to both European and American standards. In addition, the trays offer anti-static and odor barrier solutions. For more information, visit www.plushchocolates.co.uk.
Chocolatier's Workshop, part 2Cargill has announced its plans to host a second Chocolatier’s Workshop in Lititz, Pa., May 4-6. The three-day seminar is designed to teach confectioners and chocolatiers interested in starting their own businesses not only how to make confections, but how to be successful in their new businesses, as well.
The Chocolatier’s Workshop will educate attendees about determining product mix, selecting and purchasing equipment, and branding and packaging product, along with marketing, advertising and promoting their products. The third day of the seminar will give chocolatiers hands-on experience in making confections. The Chocolatier’s Workshop will be taught by Cargill specialists and industry experts.
For more information, visit www.cargill.com.
sweet of the week: Original Beans chocolate barsCommitted to enhancing eco-productivity, increasing biodiversity and eliminating waste, Original Beans has created single origin chocolate bars. The bars come in three varieties: Esmeraldas Milk with Fleur de Sel (49% Ecuadorian Arriba milk chocolate, 50-hour conch), Cru Virunga (70% Virunga Congo beans, 20-hour conch) and Beni Wild Harvest (68% Beni beans from Bolivia). The bars can be traced back to the exact fields where they were produced, using a lot number printed on each wrapper. Consumers can visit www.originalbeans.com and enter in those numbers to see where their chocolate bars originated. Additionally, each bar purchased enables Original Beans to plant a tree and directly supports conservation in each of the regions the cocoa is grown. The suggested retail price is $9 per bar.
Steph Says …If you weren't able to attend the For the Love of Chocolate annual gala hosted by The French Pastry School in Chicago on Saturday, Feb. 7, catch up on the event by clicking on Bernie’s Blog and reading "Steph Says ..." at www.candyindustry.com.
Editor’s Note: To those who voted online for the 2009 Kettle Awards, Candy Industry asks that you resubmit your ballot due to a technical glitch that has been corrected. Click here to resubmit your vote. We apologize for the inconvenience.