Who — you ask — comes up with these headlines? Actually, I do. And no, I’m not going crazy because the Sweets & Snacks Expo is nearly upon us and I’m rushing to finish articles for next month’s issue.
Actually, the above is true, but come on, I’ve done this before. What inspired me to come up with this rather strange, some might say silly, headline stems from two emails I received the other day.
First, a press release touting the debut of Hudsonville Ice Cream (Holland, Mich.) in Chicago revealed a survey about the residents’ affinity for ice cream in the Windy City. Amongst various findings, it noted that one out of 10 polled agreed that cows need to be chilled when they are milked for ice cream.
So just when you think you’ve heard it all, the ability of the human race to be — let’s be gracious and say misinformed — exceeds expectations. And realize that this survey reached 504 people, with a plus or minus 5 percent error factor. That means almost 50 people believed that only refrigerated cows can produce ice cream!
Which brings me to a more serious subject, consumers and their knowledge of chocolate. Those of us who work in and with the industry sometimes forget that the outside world doesn’t necessarily know what we know, particularly when it comes to chocolate.
And that’s where the second email comes in, which was generated by the Brazilian Cocoa, Chocolates, Peanuts, Candies and Byproducts Industry Association (ABICAB), the group representing the Brazilian confectionery and chocolates industry and works to support both innovation and sustainable practices within the sector.
In ABICAB's email, it proudly referenced a presentation by Brazilian chocolate maker Samantha Aquim from Chocolate Q at the 4th World Cocoa Conference in Berlin, Germany, last month.
I’ve interviewed Aquim — she was featured in our July 2015 issue — who’s as passionate about cocoa and chocolate as anyone I’ve met during the past 17 years.
Invited by the ICCO to speak at a seminar whose theme was “What is the secret of producing the best chocolate?”, Aquim asserted the importance of explaining where and how cocoa is grown to those in attendance.
The École Lenôtre chef and chocolatier alum spoke about her company’s mission to raise consumer awareness and called attention to the true origins of cocoa. According to Aquim, some European sectors insist on associating the image of the product to milk, forgetting about the fruit from which chocolate originates. That is why, she notes, it is fundamental that we rescue the identity of cocoa from popular belief.
“I educate my clients by showing them the natural habitat and flavor of cacao, replacing the popular belief about the European cows and milk, which have dominated the sector, bringing chocolate back to where it belongs to, its birthplace, the tropical forests and its incredible flavors,” she told the audience.
She stressed that it’s essential that consumers also understand the social responsibility of the international chocolate industry.
“People only think about the cow and forget about the plant from which chocolate originates, as well as the producers, who are more often than not low-paid,” she said. “It is fundamental that when eating a bar of chocolate consumers have in mind that the product is made in the real world, by real people, a detail which is rarely featured in the big budget marketing campaigns of the large chocolate industry.”
During her presentation, she stressed the importance of respect for cacao producers and the care taken in the cultivation of the fruit, which is the raw material of chocolate. Aquim emphasized how Chocolate Q differentiates itself through sustainability and social responsibility.
“My cacao is produced in the Brazilian forest, in accordance with the ‘Cabruca’ system,” she said, referring to this sustainable method, which promotes biodiversity.
Implemented and established in Bahia, a traditional farming state, Cabruca adheres to an agricultural system that has cacao trees growing in the shade of the tropical Atlantic Forest. The cacao tree cohabitates with other native species, because in order to grow properly, it requires 70 percent shade and 30 percent sun. Moreover, the Cabruca system mandates that — in regions where deforestation has occurred — the producer must plant native trees together with the cacao.
“I may be a small brand of chocolate from Brazil, but I’m already changing and inspiring change in the world of chocolate,” Aquim said.
That she is. And it’s something we all need to be doing, telling consumers the wonderful story about how cocoa is grown, harvested and processed to become chocolate. Moreover, it’s not just about the bean. It’s about the people tending the plants.
As one cocoa worker in Bahia told Aquim after tasting her chocolate: “This is my cocoa, this is the flavor of my life.”
It’s ours too.