Yesterday I stopped by the Olympia National Hall in Hammersmith for The London Chocolate Show, where I was treated to a tasting event by Lauden Chocolate. The event is hosted by Salon du Chocolat, which holds similar weekends in cities all over the world, including Tokyo, Lima, Moscow, Milan and Lyon. Part educational and part delicious, the convention brings together a collection of chocolatiers under one roof to provide demonstrations, tasting events, competitions and even a chocolate fashion show!
Expected to be worth US$131.7bn by 2019, the chocolate industry is largely made up of the major corporations, such as Nestlé, Mondelēz and Mars, who own most of the supermarket chocolate brands we’re used to. In recent years we have seen a number of interesting innovations in the sector – particularly concoctions that combine two of your favourite brands. However, companies have also been responding to consumer demands for healthier products and responsibly-sourced ingredients, leading to a wave of dark chocolate-based products with fair-trade certification that cater to the most discerning of consumers.
These trends often start not with the largest organisations but with the most nimble and agile brands – often the smallest ones – who are most able to experiment. Having opened a store in London last year on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, the MAST Brothers chocolate brand is one that, despite some controversy, has performed well in London, maintaining its storefront in a neighbourhood known for high turnover. Founded in Brooklyn by the eponymous brothers, the company is one of the many small, founder-led artisanal brands creating ‘single-source’ chocolate – or minimally-processed bars that can trace their cocoa beans back to a single farm from places such as Papua New Guinea. Beautifully wrapped in designed papers and lauded by places such as New York’s Eleven Madison Park, the bars are a true luxury – and priced accordingly, with a 100 gram bar hovering at around £7.
Throughout the development of the ‘foodie’ movement, chocolate has proven itself as one of the categories with a low barrier to entry, allowing a large number of small brands to enter the space, each with their own take on the category. Founded in Austria, Antidote Chocolate approaches chocolate as part of a healthy lifestyle, spiking its raw Ecuadorian cacao bars with antioxidant, antidepressant and anti-stress ingredients. With flavours such as coffee & cardamom, rose salt & lavender and banana & cayenne, these chocolates are not only healthy (if I can call them that!), but also intriguing. Many of these brands, including Dark Sugars, another local favourite here in London, are the trendsetters in the chocolate industry, developing interesting concepts that provide a degree of luxury in the confectionery world.
It was great to see what these smaller companies that have the space and the flexibility to be innovative in their approach to the chocolate, be it with unusual ingredients, manufacturing processes or raw cacao sources, are coming up with.