Nothing revives feelings of authenticity, trust and goodwill like the word “artisan”.
Especially when it is written on the packaging of a chocolate bar or a box of chocolates, consumers are immediately reassured that their money is somehow well-spent and supports a genuine activity.
“Artisan” is a word ADORED by chocolate consumers.
But what do they exactly associate that word with?
If you were a chocolate lover in San Francisco this past weekend, chances are you didn’t miss the Fine Chocolate Industry Association Winter 2016 conference at the Intercontinental Hotel in Financial District. One of the most important events for the US chocolate industry! Passionate chocolate professionals from all over the World got together to discuss the destiny of fine chocolate and open new roads to growth and innovation.
Topics varied from flavor development to financial challenges, customer surveys, cacao quality and other vital discussions for the industry. One of the most popular Table Talks was the one held by Dr. Kristy Leissle, scholar and writer on the politics, economics, culture, and ethics of the global chocolate trade. All the chocolate makers and chocolatiers at the event were eager to hear about her research on a HOT TOPIC that the entire chocolate community had been scratching its head about for a very long time, and they could not believe their ears when she revealed the results!
The main goal of Dr. Leissle’s research was to answer the following question:
“What do consumers think when they see the words Artisan Chocolate?”
She started her speech by kindly reminding the FCIA audience of the historical term of the word Artisan. From a Marxian definition, artisans are skilled workers that have total control over the production of their goods. What mainly defined an artisan in the 19th century were the long years of APPRENTICESHIP the latter had to go through in order to gain the necessary set of skills, and to eventually open his/her own shop. Unfortunately, nowadays this definition can’t be held true for chocolate makers, and this explains why in the chocolate industry we don’t have any practical guidelines to differentiate an artisan chocolate maker from a non-artisan one.
The reason for this is simple, and Dr. Leissle explained it clearly.
If what defined an artisan in 1800 was apprenticeship, today the opportunities for apprenticeships under a teaching Master chocolate maker are pretty much non existent. Aspiring chocolate makers are forced to develop a proper set of skills by themselves. No formal training, no constant supervision, no room for expensive mistakes. Historically it was the Master chocolate maker, under whom apprentices worked, that absorbed the losses of their trials and errors. That opportunity no longer exists. They not only have to teach such a complicated art to themselves, but are also the only one accountable and responsible for the wasted resources associated with the learning process. This is how most of the time they end up starting to sell before being ready, jumping into the market with a most likely immature set of skills and getting expert as they sell.
Since the chocolate industry itself can no longer provide practical guidelines to define artisan chocolate, what should we expect consumers to understand? No doubt that chocolate buyers bombarded every day with the word “artisan” came up with their own conclusions.
Dr. Leissle decided to conduct a survey to find out what consumers think about when they read the words Artisan Chocolate. In 2014 she interviewed the attendees of the educational sections at the renowned Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, Washington. Get ready because the results will surprise you.
THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE.
I have been kindly contacted by Dr. Kristy Leissle and reminded that her research is still under review to get published. We agreed to take down the part that revealed the details of her findings to avoid her hard work to be in danger. In no way I want to take part in the ruin of a 2 year long project.
However, I can’t help expressing my perplexity in finding out that I couldn’t share the words heard from a guest-speaker, during her public speech, at a public event. If there were some details that if shared online could have put in danger the publication of such an important research, I believe that the Fine Chocolate Industry Association conference with 300 paying attendees was not the right place to share them. But I am not familiar with the procedures regarding the publication of a research paper or the rights to report a public speech as long as the all the info are correct and referenced, so I am open to be reprimanded and get informed in the comment section to avoid future misunderstandings.
The rest of the article will be re-uploaded once Dr. Kristy Leissle’s research is officially published.
Thank You Dr. Kristy Leissle and Fine Chocolate Industry Association for such an insightful lecture! (All the ideas presented in this article belong to Dr. Kristy Leissle)
What is YOUR definition of Artisan Chocolate?
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.