Tag Archives: wine

Wine and Chocolate: Race, Supply Chains, and the Creation of Value

In 2018, a bottle of 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru wine was sold for over five hundred and fifty thousand dollars – an amount that the vast majority of us would be reluctant to spend on a house, let alone one consumer good. Similarly, the most expensive chocolates in the world are not only masterfully crafted but also unique collectors’ items – the To’ak Chocolate 2014-harvest bar, of which only 571 were made; DeLafée of Switzerland’s Gold Chocolate Box, with edible 24-carat gold flakes built-in; and Debauve & Gallais’s Le Livre, arranged in a gold-embossed leather box crafted to resemble a book. However, by stark contrast, the most expensive among these is sold for 440 pounds – nowhere near the incredible value of one bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. By taking a comparative look at the supply chains of both the chocolate and fine wine industries, and the systems of race which govern them, this paper explores how quality and monetary value are created in chocolate and wine, and seeks to understand how this enormous disparity of perceived value may arise.

Creating Craftsmanship in Winemaking

Craftsmanship and quality in wine are determined by a myriad of factors along the supply chain. From characteristics such as the minutiae of the production of grapes in vineyards, to the history of a given winemaker, and even to something as simple as the price of a bottle, wine is eagerly judged by Western audiences for its quality and thus its cultural importance. Wine has the potential to represent sophistication and class, and to hold astounding monetary value; the best-known winemakers capitalize on each of these characteristics to maintain their reputations for the highest quality wines.

The production of wine grapes depends heavily on a tightly controlled agricultural regimen: their quality can be influenced by temperatures throughout the growing season, the amount of precipitation received by the vines, and even the time of ripening and thus of harvest; such information has been painstakingly recorded by vintners across years to catalogue the quality of grapes in each vintage (Chevet et al.). For example, vines are susceptible to water stress – a result of an insufficient water supply – which is intimately connected to the concentration of anthocyanins and phenolics in red wine, the acidity of the fruit, and the incidence of the disease (Goodwin). Each of these features impact not only the flavor and quality of the wine, but also the yield of a given harvest. Then, after the actual production of the grapes the wine must be processed for production and distribution by crushing the grapes and fermenting the must, a process that is labor-intensive and often done by hand (or foot). Additionally, as seen in the case study of the Chilean wine industry, wine distribution requires bottles, barrels, and corks, as well as less tangible input as marketing, advertisement, and label design (Ceroni and Alfaro).

Wines vary vastly in terms of price and quality; bloggers have expounded upon their preferences between boxed wines, which are low-quality, highly standardized in terms of flavor, and apparently excellent for entertaining, with the added enticement of costing as little as fifty-nine cents per glass (Kaminski). From there, wines become more expensive, with price affected by factors such as vintage, age, and rarity. Famous vintners produce classic and traditional wines made from hand-crushed grapes; craft wine makers have established estates in specific locations to lend their wines a complex flavor borne from the ground they were grown in, a concept known as terroir. Interestingly, in a study on Oregon vineyards, it was found that terroir and place of origin of a given wine did not impact its taste as experienced by consumers, nor could it be used as a metric of the agricultural characteristics of a region. However, consumers did valueterroir, associating the area in which a wine was grown with the quality of that wine, not due to inherent agricultural disparities between vineyards, but rather due to the association of a higher price and more valuable experience with certain regions (Cross et al.).

Terroir and the intensely controlled agriculture it requires are two distinctly important qualities affecting the wine supply chain, both of which are capitalized upon by well-known winemakers. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti cites “respect for the soil” and a Pinot Noir with “incomparable genetic heritage” among their tenets for maintaining quality; additionally, the supply of their already-famous wines are restricted by the small size of their estate, located in an area carefully selected for optimum climactic conditions (“Profession of Faith”). Their wines are thus perceived as high-quality due to both their rarity and the inherent advantages of their location. In “A Taste That’s Eternal,” Sotheby’s Serena Sutcliffe speaks with the Drouhin family, one of the sole distributors of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, about the vintages they own (“A Taste That’s Eternal — The Legendary Wines of Robert Drouhin”).

Sutcliffe’s reverence as she speaks about the various vintages and the history of these wines lends significant weight to monetary assertions of their quality, as she states that one bottle generally sells for between twenty and thirty thousand dollars. Additionally, the branding on these bottles – from the elaborately calligraphied logo to the homogeneity of design between the wine labels, bottles, barrels, and cases – are indicative of a strict standard that can be perceived visually as well as through taste. This estate thus represents a microcosm of the method by which winemakers strive from quality, and reinforces the idea that this quality comes from the ground up.

Creating Craftsmanship in Artisan Chocolate

The creation of quality chocolate is, similarly, a question of a quality supply line; yet, the chocolate industry is dominated by two vastly different approaches to fine chocolate: craft bean-to-bar chocolate companies and fine chocolatiers. The similarities and disparities between these two, with regard to sourcing beans, refining them, and ultimately presenting a finished product, reveal significant parallels between the ways in which wine and chocolate are judged for quality.

Cacao has three primary varieties: criollo, trinitario, and forastero. Criollo cacao is the variety grown by the Maya and Aztec, while forastero cacao was sourced originally from South America; trinitario is used to refer to a hybrid of these two (Leissle). While these categorizations are genetically meaningless, they are steeped in historical and modern judgments of quality: criollo as the most prized, and forastero as the more plebeian variety. Modern cacao is sourced primarily from the equatorial regions of South America and Africa, particularly from Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Brazil, and Ecuador. Both the genetic origins of modern cacao and the agricultural conditions in which it is grown has a significant impact on taste and flavor of the cacao; for example, heirloom South American cacao has lower tannin levels than most West African cacao, while beans grown at high altitudes show greater fat content; both characteristics significantly impact the flavor of the bean (Stout). Thus, like that of wine grapes, cacao’s environment is strictly controlled in an effort to produce a quality product. Once the bean is grown, it undergoes a long processing chain to become a bar of chocolate. Processes of fermenting, roasting, winnowing, and grinding are dictated by specially designed equipment such as roll mills and longitudinal conches to produce quality chocolate liquor; this liquor is then shaped into bars for distribution (Stout).

At this point in the supply chain, the fine chocolate industry diverges somewhat from that of fine wines. Bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers assert the quality of their chocolate with evidence used by many wine makers – impeccable genetic sourcing, single-origin cacao, and the importance of bringing the flavor of the earth to the product. However, another, more public perception of fine chocolate, with roots in both history and fancy, lies not in such craft chocolate makers but with fine, often European chocolatiers, who have worked to create a culture of artisanal chocolate-based sweets – what we call chocolates or bonbons.

This video by L’Ecole Valrhona, a pastry and chocolate school located in Brooklyn, tagged #finechocolate on Instagram, demonstrates how technique and culinary skill can govern the quality of chocolate: the chef’s mastery of the chablon, a difficult-to-make thin chocolate shell, lends value to the chocolate he produces. Importantly, these characteristics of chocolate’s production, which are based on the maker and not the bean, in some cases also determine its price. Bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers, such as Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, and Godiva, are ranked among the best on the international market (Lande and Lande). However, fine chocolate makers such as Teuscher, Vosges Haut-Chocolat, and Richart produce not only chocolates but chocolate-based products, whose price is justified by their use of chocolate rather than by the chocolate itself (Lande and Lande). For example, Richart sells a wooden chocolate vault with seven drawers and climate gauges for 850 pounds, and Valentine gourmet chocolates (containing only a thin shell of dark chocolate) which sell for 61 pounds per box (Browne). Thus in contrast to the fine wine industry, what can be done with chocolate is just as important as the production of the chocolate itself.

Race in the Wine and Chocolate Industries

There are a number of interesting implications of the differences between wine and chocolate which can and should be tied to the inherent racial dynamics within both industries. First and foremost; vineyards are a white industry while cacao growing is not. The top wine producing nations are Italy, Spain, and France; these nations also produce few grapes overall, an indication that nearly all of the grapes grown in these nations are used for wine (Karlsson). This in turn implies that the majority of wine grapes are grown in these regions, where vineyards are economically able to produce a limited number of grapes for the express purpose of winemaking. By contrast, the top cacao producers are Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia, nations all made up of people of color. To add some additional perspective: while fine wine-producing and grape growing regions consist of the same set of nations, the finest chocolate makers are housed in Switzerland, France, Belgium, and the United States.

The types of labor abuses in both industries reveal that they exist within a system of production which ultimately uses the labor of black and brown people at the stages of production which do not create either monetary value or quality, and white labor at the stages which do. A good case study are the agrimafias of Italian vineyards, which employ and then exploit undocumented immigrant labor; an estimated third of all agricultural employment in Italy is thus illegal (Seifert and Valente). The majority of these immigrants are refugees of color from the fallout of the Arab Spring, while these agrimafias are owned and employed by white, natively Italian winemakers; the industry shows a clear systemic employment of underpaid workers of color at the agricultural stage of production –the stage at which the profit margins are lowest (Marcus). Similarly, cocoa has a long history of slave labor and forced labor supplied by displaced African slaves; even today, illegal systems of sharecropping and tax evasion in cacao-growing regions such as Brazil mean that worker exploitation and child labor are prevalent in cocoa production (Leissle; Picolotto et al.).

While both industries show a racial disparity between the workers in agricultural production and those further down the supply chain where quality is created, the branch of the chocolate industry focused on culinary excellence with chocolate exacerbates that disparity in particular. The very image of fine chocolate in the public eye involves extensive tempering and specialization; chocolate is not a fine food alone but must be incorporated into pralines, ganaches, and truffles – all recipes created by white cooks (Terrio). Holding a food which is historically Central and South American to standards of quality invented by white Europeans is a racist and colonial ideal; it invalidates the value of chocolate itself and instead instills value through its modification by whiteness. By contrast, wine, already a white product, is valued only for its terroir and vintage – both factors associated intrinsically with the Western European regions in which it is produced.

This principle can be noted in the ways in which chocolate and wine are advertised. Compare the following two advertisements:

Both of these advertisements play on the idea of the displacement of taste – that a taste can belong to a region, and be exported from that region to the consumer. Yet, the original taste of a French wine is implied to be diluted, to lose its gravity, when exported to an American consumer; however, the “exotic” flavors behind chocolate are implied to be packaged and enhanced for the express purpose of pleasing a similar consumer. This is not an isolated case; from the Conguitos of Spain to the Italian Nougatine, chocolate in advertising is linked closely with blackness and caricatures of blackness; chocolate thus becomes a colonial commodity despite the post-colonial world in which we live (Hackenesch).

Conclusion

By comparing the salient features of the fine wine and fine chocolate industries, the systems of race which govern both become clear. Chocolate, as a fundamentally black and brown good, is disproportionately affected within these systems; its exoticism is packaged for white audiences, and subject to white improvement to create quality and to appeal to the white palate. While these systemic factors of race may not be the only ones to explain why one bottle of wine can be sold at a standard of twenty thousand dollars, while equally fine and more difficult-to-grow chocolate can be sold for just 1% of the same value after added white refinement, they present a strong case by which we may examine how Western customers perceive value in the goods they consume.

Bibliography

“A Taste That’s Eternal — The Legendary Wines of Robert Drouhin.” Masterworks: Expert Voices, 15 Aug. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTCXsU_mN-c.

Browne, Valerie. “The World’s Most Expensive Chocolate.” INews, 13 Apr. 2017, https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/food-and-drink/worlds-expensive-chocolate/.

Ceroni, Jose, and Rodrigo Alfaro. “Information Gathering and Classification for Collaborative Logistics Decision Making.” Supply Chain Management – New Perspectives, edited by Sanda Renko, InTech Open, 2011, DOI: 10.5772/23170.

Chevet, Jean-Michel, et al. “Climate, Grapevine Phenology, Wine Production, and Prices: Pauillac (1800-2009).” American Economic Review, vol. 101, no. 3, 2011, pp. 142–46, doi:10.1257/aer.101.3.142.

Cross, Robin, et al. “What Is the Value of Terroir?” American Economic Review, vol. 101, no. 3, 2011, pp. 152–56, doi:10.1257/aer.101.3.152.

Goodwin, Ian. “Managing Water Stress in Grape Vines in Greater Victoria.” Agriculture Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Nov. 2002, p. AG1074.

Hackenesch, Silke. “Advertising Chocolate, Consuming Race? On the Peculiar Relationship of Chocolate  Advertising, German Colonialism, and Blackness.” Food & History, vol. 12, no. 1, 2015, pp. 97–114.

Kaminski, Lisa. “We Tried 5 Popular Brands to Find The Best Boxed Wine.” Taste of Home, 29 Aug. 2018, https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/best-boxed-wines/.

Karlsson, Per. “The World’s Grape Production 2000-2012.” BK Wine Magazine, June 2013, https://www.bkwine.com/features/winemaking-viticulture/global-grape-production-2000-2012/.

Lande, Nathaniel, and Andrew Lande. “The 10 Best Chocolatiers in the World.” National Geographic, 28 Dec. 2012, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/intelligent-travel/2012/12/28/the-10-best-chocolatiers-in-the-world/.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Marcus, David. “The Wine Workers We Don’t See.” The Street, 14 Oct. 2018, https://www.thestreet.com/lifestyle/food-drink/the-wine-workers-we-don-t-see-14743573.

Picolotto, Andre, et al. “COCOA SUPPLY CHAIN ADVANCES AND CHALLENGES TOWARD THE PROMOTION OF DECENT WORK: A Situational Analysis.” International Labor Organization, 2018, https://drive.google.com/file/d/12UwXzZ9yKu24bQQ5Noz2VVMNeuU5ibqS/view.

“Profession of Faith.” Domaine de La Romanee-Conti, 2019, http://m.romanee-conti.fr/profession-de-foi.php.

Seifert, Stefan, and Marica Valente. An Offer That You Can’t Refuse? Agrimafias and Migrant Labor on Vineyards in Southern Italy. DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, 2018, https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp1735.

Stout, Robbie. Ritual Chocolate. Cambridge, MA.

Terrio, Susan. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. University of California Press, 2000.

Selling Terroir: Case Studies

it’s 10 pm. do you know where your chocolate came from?

Compared to other popular luxury food products – wine, coffee, cheese – most consumers know little about the origin of the chocolate they eat. Often, chocolate is referred to by its place of production rather than its place of origin; there is an assumption of quality inherent in saying that a chocolate confection was made in Belgium, Switzerland, or France. Chocolate is different than wine and cheese in this way. Many vineyards bottle their own wines, using grapes that were grown, crushed, fermented, and aged at the same geographic location.

The team at Naggiar Vineyards in Grass Valley, CA, explain their vine-to-wine approach to winemaking. [i]

A bottle of wine has a self-contained sense of place, and that sense of place is typically featured prominently on the label for the consumer. This guide to reading a French wine label illustrates just how much information about origin and production is typically packed onto a wine label, made readily available for consumers [ii].

reading-a-french-wine-label-terms-folly

Few chocolate companies attempt to control the entire means of production, from cacao bean to chocolate bar, in the way that many vineyards follow their grapes from vine to bottle. Most cacao is grown in East African countries and in South and Latin America. These countries often lack a strong industrial tradition or the economic strength and stability to rapidly transform their trade patterns; thus, much of the cacao is shipped to the United States and several European nations, where it is turned into chocolate (Presilla). Regulations in the chocolate industry are lax or non-existent, and the geographic path that a particular chocolate bar has undertaken is rarely made clear to the consumer, if it is even clear to the manufacturer (Nesto). Thus a gap exists between the geographic origins and genetic history of a chocolate bar and the consumer; this creates a problem that Deshpandé refers to as the provenance paradox.

Cacao originates, genetically, from Latin America, and yet when most people think of chocolate and the makers of the best chocolate in the world, Europe is far more likely to spring to mind than Ecuador. Consumers believe that the best chocolate in the world comes from Europe, and they are generally willing to pay more for it. As a result, South American chocolate companies, even if they are using superior beans and producing superior chocolate, struggle to price their product competitively for a global market. These lower prices in turn lead consumers to believe that the product is less valuable, and the South American chocolate companies are unable to develop a reputation based on the quality of their chocolate (Deshpandé).

At odds with the overwhelming faith of consumers in European-made chocolate is the understanding among practically all chocolate makers that different genetic strands of cacao produce different quality beans. The light, delicate flavors of Criollo beans are generally favored over more hardy Amelonados and other Forasteros (Presilla). Just as different grape varietals produce different flavor notes in wine, the differing chemical profiles of varying cacao trees can create chocolate that is earthy, nutty, fruity, or creamy, with notes of honey, coffee, oak, or tobacco. The various flavor notes in cacao are determined by myriad factors that differ from growing region to growing region; the French term terroir describes this regional variation. Terroir encompasses and complicates “raw materials, their growing conditions, production processes, and the moment of product appreciation” (Nesto). All these factors – regional genetic variation, soil quality, growing environment and climate, different harvesting practices – contribute to the “sense of place” realized in the final product.

Fine chocolate makers have an incentive to produce chocolate with a taste that consumers will enjoy, and as such, have always paid attention to where their cacao originated. That information is not always communicated to consumers, though; it would be very unusual for the origin of the cacao beans used in a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar, for example, to be published on the label – or anywhere. Several case studies will demonstrate different approaches by contemporary chocolate companies and institutions to emphasize terroir in their chocolate products, and will explore the ways that this focus can be constructive – or problematic.

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A selection of chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier [iii].
case 1. chuao chocolatier & spicy maya chocolate

Cacao originates from Latin America, but few consumers are aware of this history. More believe, or assume, that chocolate is of European origin, as most chocolate available on the market is from European manufacturers. Chuao Chocolatier, based in Southern California, has taken multiple steps to attempt to strengthen the associations between chocolate and Latin America.

The company itself is named after the cacao-producing region of Chuao in central Venezuela. Chuao Chocolatier’s website reports that the founders’ decision in naming the company “was a reflection of their commitment to both high quality and their Venezuelan family heritage. Chocolate is part of their roots, as their ancestors once ran a small family farm that was an important part of the criollo cacao plantation industry” [iv]. The decision to name the company after this particular region is interestingly misleading: none of the cacao used in their chocolate bars is actually from Chuao. The Chuao region has an exclusive trade relationship with Amedei, an Italian chocolate company, under which no cacao from the Chuao cooperative can be sold to any other chocolatier [v]. Founder Michael Antonorsi asserts that Chuao’s chocolate “is a 60 percent mix of Latin American cacaos with the core hailing from Venezuela,” combining “a wide array of unique criollo, trinitario, and forastero beans” (Denis).

The use of Chuao in the company’s name – and marked in large letters on every chocolate bar – clearly implies that the chocolate is from Chuao, and while Antonorsi may indeed use some Venezuelan cacao in his creations, it is not Chuao cacao. The choice of name might have positive implications, such as emphasizing the associations between chocolate and Venezuela in the minds of consumers. It might also have negative implications: consumers cannot develop a sense of taste for a particular region’s cacao if they are incorrectly informed as to what they are tasting. This prevents the development of consumer understanding of terroir.

spicy_maya_master_final_bar_flat_sharpened_
Image from Chuao’s Spicy Maya Bar packaging [vi].
A second notable decision made by Chuao Chocolatier is the naming and development of their Spicy Maya line of chocolate. The Chuao website describes the Spicy Maya flavor as “a modern twist on the Mayan’s [sic] ancient drinking chocolate recipe, infused with cinnamon, pasilla chile and cayenne pepper” [vii]. The Spicy Maya bar is very far from any substance that Mayan women would have prepared using cacao. Mayans typically consumed chocolate in liquid form; chocolate beverages were often gruel-like drinks prepared by dissolving a ground cacao-and-corn paste in warm water (Presilla). They did use chile and cayenne as flavoring, but also flavors such as honey, vanilla, ear flower, and allspice (Presilla). Does the name “Spicy Maya” mislead in the same way as the company’s name?

The founders of Chuao Chocolatier have made decisions in the way they named their company and their products that appropriate associations with Mayan and Latin American culture. These appropriative acts may not be harmful to the long-gone Ancient Maya, but they have the potential to mislead consumers into buying a product that is not quite what it appears.

case 2. república del cacao

Several chocolatiers have focused production on “single-origin” or “exclusive-derivation” chocolates, which are made entirely from cacao grown in the same region (Presilla). These chocolates typically still contain a blend of various genetic strains, as many types of cacao trees usually grow together; what distinguishes single-origin chocolates from one another “is a matter of the local soil and environment bringing out inherent genetic characteristics, as well as the way in which particular styles of drying and fermentation have distinct effects on overall flavor and aroma” (Presilla). The flavor and nuances brought out by a particular region’s climate and production practices will register in the taste of the chocolate.

República del Cacao is a chocolate company that grew out of the desire to protect a particular variety of cacao: Cacao Arriba, a Fine Aroma Cocoa from Ecuador [viii]. Their website explains that they are working to search for new and forgotten varieties of cacao from across South and Central America. The company also researches traditional production methods, and claims to “care for the traditions of Fine Aroma Cocoa, as well as its culture and inheritance” [ix]. Explicitly, República is concerned with retracing cacao to its origins:

“Cocoa was born in our continent and here is where chocolate should be at its best. We take pride in our local staff, their efforts and the place we have chosen to open our new factory, Quito-Ecuador, just a few miles away from the ancient birthplace of cocoa… República del Cacao is in fact the first major chocolatier to bring chocolate production back to where it rightfully belongs.” [x]

Unlike Chuao, República’s name does not refer to one particular cacao-producing village; instead, the name implies a republic made up of many united chocolate-producing regions, without losing the focus on chocolate’s Latin American origins.

how-to-taste-dark-chocolate
A selection of several República del Cacao chocolate bars [xi].
República produces several single-origin chocolate bars from different cocoa provinces, primarily Ecuadorian and Peruvian. Each bar has the province from which the cacao was harvested clearly marked on the packaging, as well as a notice that it was harvested and produced in Ecuador. República manages, in its marketing and packaging, to emphasize terroir and the geographic origin of each particular bar of chocolate without hinging on cultural appropriation or untruthful associations with Ancient Mayan chocolate recipes. While Chuao Chocolatier references the Chuao region primarily as a marketing ploy, República uses single-origin denominations to reference particular flavor profiles, and allows consumers to develop their own understanding of terroir.

case 3. appellations of origin: chuao, venezuela

Appellations of origin recognize a product as being from a specific geographic location and directly connect the product to the terroir of that region and the “human factors of work, creativity, and specific knowledge that are to be found” there [xii]. Marking the products of a region with the appellation of origin of that region allows producers there to protect and acknowledge regional history and characteristics.

Appellations, or denominations, of origin are generally taken far more seriously for wine and cheese and a few other food items than for cacao. Though many contemporary chocolate companies label their products with the region of origin, it is uncommon for a region to be protected under copyright law from other companies wishing to sell cacao labeled with its name. Champagne, for example, can only legally be used in the packaging and marketing materials for sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region; Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese can only be labelled as such if it is indeed from the Province of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena, or Mantua (Olmsted).

The only region that has such protection for cacao is the Chuao region in Venezuela, mentioned earlier as the namesake of Southern California’s Chuao Chocolatier. After the growers’ cooperative in Chuao, Venezuela reached the agreement with Amedei Chocolatier wherein Amedei asserted “exclusive rights to use the Chuao name,” the cooperative also filed an application for recognition of Chuao as an appellation of origin under Venezuelan law (Presilla; WIPO). Recognition was granted, and the Chuao name became protected under Venzuelan law. The name “Chuao” is legally restricted to use only on cacao beans and cocoa products from that geographic region. This, in theory, would generate higher demand for Chuao cacao, allowing growers from Chuao to demand higher prices for their beans and allowing local buyers to benefit from their relationships to the plantation.

This further complicates the story of Chuao Chocolatier. The Chuao name is protected under intellectual property law; because their chocolate is not composed solely of cacao from the Chuao region, Chuao Chocolatier is in violation of this law. The legal recognition of Chuao as an appellation of origin, in theory, is meant to handle exactly this sort of situation. The growers’ cooperative at Chuao could take legal action toward Chuao Chocolatier, and therefore regain control of the associations consumers draw to the name Chuao.

hcp-process-detail

case 4. heirloom cacao

The mission of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund is to “identify and preserve fine flavor (“heirloom”) cacao varieties for the conservation of biological diversity and the empowerment of farming communities” [xiii]. The goal of the HCP is to protect the natural varieties of Theobroma cacao that are diminishing in the wild in the face of environmental change, deforestation, and economic upheaval.

The recognition of the great genetic diversity of cacao is important, and serves a different goal than those discussed so far. Individual chocolate companies, however wholehearted their goals, are generally still working in their own best interests. The HCP was founded by a group of chocolate enthusiasts and scientists in order to serve the interests of the entire cacao-chocolate industry, and to preserve the genetic diversity of cacao for future generations of environmentalists – and chocolate consumers.

There are, perhaps, some unintended consequences to the denominations offered by the HCP, however. As with the denominations offered through Fair Trade or UTZ or Rainforest Alliance, the HCP denomination can be pricy. Having the denomination may allow growers to achieve higher market prices, but it only helps those growers who can afford the cost of application. Additionally, the denomination has resulted in a boom in American and European chocolate companies that offer wildly expensive “heirloom chocolate bars” [xiv].  The companies that benefit from the denomination are not the small chocolate companies who work locally near growers; instead, those companies become pushed out of the market by larger firms and European companies that can afford to pay a higher premium once a cacao variety is classified as “heirloom.”

so?

Many contemporary chocolate companies are adopting new approaches to marketing that emphasizes terroir. If chocolate can reach a place like that of wine or cheese in our society’s culinary consciousness, where the origin of the product is of equal or greater importance than the way it is prepared, the benefits for growers and small buyers will be myriad. Ideally, more companies will model their marketing and advertising endeavors after companies like República del Cacao, with a focus on appellations of origin and elevating multiple regions to popularity. And the more efforts that can be taken by others in the cacao-to-chocolate industry to emphasize terroir, the better – but care must be taken to ensure those efforts benefit the growers and companies that need it most.

works cited

Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2007[1996]). The true history of chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson.

Denis, N. P. (2011). Chuao Chocolatier. Specialty Food. Web. Accessed 4 May 2016.

Deshpandé, R. (2010). Why you aren’t eating venezuelan chocolate. Harvard Business Review, 88(12), 25–28.

Nesto, B. (2010). Discovering terroir in the world of chocolate. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, 10(1), 131–135.

Olmsted, L. (2012). Most Parmesan cheeses in America are fake, here’s why. Forbes. Web. Accessed 4 May 2016.

Presilla, M. E. (2009). The new taste of chocolate: a cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. Random House LLC.

Wells, P. (2006). The World’s Best Chocolate. Food & Wine. Web. Accessed 4 May 2016.

World Intellectual Property Organization (N. D.). Branding matters: the success of Chuao cocoa bean. WIPO Case Studies. Web. Accessed 4 May 2o16.

media & references

[i] http://naggiarvineyards.com/

[ii] http://winefolly.com/review/french-wine-labels-and-terms/

[iii] http://www.montecitoshopping.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/IMG_1438.jpg

[iv] http://chuaochocolatier.com/about/

[v] http://www.wipo.int/ipadvantage/en/details.jsp?id=2618

[vi] http://chuaochocolatier.com/spicy-maya.html

[vii] http://chuaochocolatier.com/about/

[viii] http://www.republicadelcacao.com/how-it-started/

[ix] http://www.republicadelcacao.com/the-expansion/

[x] http://www.republicadelcacao.com/ecuadorian-chocolatiers/

[xi] http://2qn4774cz98e17p2h549htbt.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/how-to-taste-dark-chocolate.jpg

[xii] http://www.republicadelcacao.com/appellation-of-origin/

[xiii] http://hcpcacao.org/

[xiv] https://www.c-spot.com/shop/chocolate/heirloom-chocolate-series