It’s a new year! New life. New resolutions. New me. New you. New everything.
Well, sort of …. Or not really.
Unfortunately for you and for me there is no long-lasting and sustainable change that can happen overnight. “In 2016 I will be a great writer!” I told myself on December 31, 2015. And here you find me taking 30 minutes to write a tiny introduction to this article and checking spelling every 10 words like the Italian immigrant that I am. We have to realize that every activity is an art. Writing is an art, selling is an art, networking is an art, but also working out, planning, learning a new language, developing confidence, breaking a routine is an art. And every art requires hours of commitment and consistency that cannot be acquired in the switch between 11:59pm and 00.00am. Keeping it real, getting armed with a lot of patience and trusting the long-term results should be the premises behind all our New Year’s resolutions. BUT I have good news for you: there is something that you can learn TODAY without hours of practice!
If you are a true chocolate lover, your New Year’s resolutions should include being a better chocolate buyer and consumer. I am saying this because I made A LOT of mistakes in 2015 in regards to purchasing chocolate, and for this new year I am committed to make better choices and spend my money wisely. And I care that you do it too.
Good news is that you can start making better chocolate choices right after the 10 minutes it will take you to read through the 9 tips I prepared for you below.
These are 9 tips I want to give you and myself to be better chocolate consumers in 2016:
- Don’t be fooled by certifications – especially Fairtrade and Organic. They mean pretty much nothing on a chocolate product. Regarding Fairtrade, I had my fare share of disappointment when I found out about the big scam behind the scenes (and I wrote about it in one of my most read articles that you can find HERE). For USDA Organic or any kind of organic certification, you’d better be aware that the majority of fine cacao is organic by default. Cocoa farmers are too poor anyway to afford synthetic and chemical pesticides. I don’t even care about the Gluten Free certification either. Left aside that the majority of those who believe they are gluten intolerant are not, chocolate is once again Gluten Free by default. True that who gets certified confirms that there is no risk of gluten contamination because gluten doesn’t even touch the laboratory where chocolate is made, but this is once again a true concern for a very tiny portion of the population. These 3 certifications add little to no value to the quality and ethics of a chocolate bar.
- Read the ingredients list – and aim for the best. Paying attention to the label is an incredibly good habit that you should start incorporating in 2016 whenever you buy chocolate. It clearly tells you what companies care to give you a high-quality product good for your body and what companies care to cut costs using processed junk that is harmful for your body but great for their wallet. If you need some insights on how to go about reading chocolate’s labels, keep reading HERE.
- Trust the price – most of the times. I still firmly believe in the “you get what you pay for” guideline. Want incredibly flavorful chocolate made with fine cacao and the most natural ingredients? You won’t find it for $3 a bar. So don’t be a drag and stop complaining that fine chocolate bars are priced between $9 and $12. That is THE BEST chocolate you can find on the market. Isn’t it the most affordable luxury item money can buy? And if you are looking for 10 indisputable good reasons to spend that money on fine chocolate, you can find them HERE.
- Don’t get scared by uncommon flavors – because you never know, they might just become your favorite flavors! In 2015 I tried many things in my chocolate: turmeric, curry, ginger, potato chip, lavender, chili. I also wrote an article about it (HERE). Now I can’t give up the adrenaline of trying out the weirdest combinations. Plain dark chocolate where you can taste the authentic flavor given by the cacao beans will always be my favorite, but I assure you that getting out of your comfort zone is a lot of fun!
- Go beyond the packaging – because marketing can get you good. Even though packaging is a great strategy for chocolate companies to be noticed in a crowded market (and HERE is what I learned about it), in 2015 Mast Brothers have proved that a well-designed packaging can hide an awfully tasting bar. On the other hand, I can think of at least 3 chocolate bars that I tried in 2015 with a very unattractive packaging, but that tasted amazing. Sometimes great chocolate makers and chocolatiers don’t have so much time to dedicate to the making of a trendy packaging. So run the risk once in a while and get over the book’s cover.
- Explore local options – and you may find hidden treasures. Have you ever tried googling “artisan chocolate in (your neighborhood)“? Small chocolatiers and chocolate makers may not have the resources to advertise their stores with ads all around town. It is usually the word of mouth that keeps them in business. If you are proactive, this year might just be the year that makes you discover a chocolate factory two blocks away from your house. It happened to me. I kept buying Fine&Raw chocolate from distributors in Manhattan just to find out months later that their laboratory was 3 streets away from my apartment. Trust me, becoming friends with a local chocolatier is a sweet deal!
- Don’t treat chocolate like some kind of medicine – that will solve your health problems. In 2015 we have been bombarded with articles about chocolate helping with cardiovascular problems, heart diseases, kidney malfunctions, stomach aches, mental problems, weight loss, stress and much more. Chocolate consumers need to start realizing that 1) processed cacao beans are stripped of the majority of their health-promoting properties, and 2) chocolate will never be a shortcut for an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, dehydration, sleep deprivation and excessive stress. Take chocolate for what it is: a pleasure.
- Start noticing the origin – especially in bean-to-bar chocolate. Have fun writing down on a piece of paper the origin of the fine chocolate you try. This will give you an idea of where artisan chocolate makers source their beans, and you will get to know the places of fine cacao. As the time passes by, you will start noticing the distinctive flavors from each country, so you will start comparing brands that source from the same origin and realize which one you like the most. Doesn’t it sound like an exciting hobby? And be reassured that it will help your geography at the same time.
- Research companies – and get to know the recipient of your money. Why would you stop to a nice packaging and a tasty product when you can actually discover the story, the faces, the core values, the initiatives and the projects of your favorite brands? I find it so much more satisfying whenever I purchase a bar knowing a little bit of the company I am supporting. Especially artisan chocolatiers and chocolate makers love to be transparent with their customers and share their journey on their websites and Social Media accounts. Don’t miss the chance to be an aware chocolate buyer.
In 2016 be a wise consumer, and enjoy delicious and ethical fine chocolate.
Which one of these tips will YOU put into practice in 2016?
I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.