No matter if I buy a chocolate bar or someone is so kind to give one to me as a gift, I always categorize it in My special folder with indications regarding the price, the size, the place of purchase, the type of seller, and the peculiarities on the package. It is one of my favorite activities in the world. Sometimes I have to be rude and ask who gave me the chocolate to tell me where they bought it and how much they paid for it! It is an ungraceful thing, I am aware of that, but I have to do it in order not to leave blank spaces in my archive. This way I can analyze the chocolate in depth and collect as much info as I can regarding both the product and the company. What I also include in my sheet is the cut out of both the front of the packaging and the ingredients list. And this last one is what I treasure the most.
As a chocoholic, you always want to be aware of the content of your chocolate. Don’t ever rely solely on the image that the company gives of itself. A very fine hand crafted chocolate can have some ingredients that you didn’t think would be there. And an industrial one can surprise you with very natural ingredients. The only way to cast any doubt is to properly read the ingredients list.
Here is how I do it:
– the order matters. Not everybody knows that the ingredients are listed based on their quantity in the product. The first in order of appearance is the main ingredient. The ones that follow represent smaller percentages of the product as you keep on reading, so that the last ingredient is the one with less quantity of itself in the product. For a dark chocolate, the first ingredient should always be COCOA MASS, or cocoa solids (different names for the same thing). For milk and white chocolates don’t get scared if you see sugar as the first ingredient. It’s ok, that is what they are mostly made of. Allow yourself instead to get shivers all over your body if you ever see sugar as the main ingredient of a dark chocolate, and trust me, I SAW IT! Therefore, LOOK AT THE ORDER.
– pay attention to the parenthesis. This really makes me mad! They are not even close to fool me with this, and I don’t want you to get fooled either. Look at these two ingredients lists (taken from My secret folder) of two milk chocolate bars from two different companies:
The left one doesn’t have any parenthesis, except the one to better describe the type of emulsifier. Every ingredient is listed clearly, and you are made aware equally of both the good and the bad. The second one instead has two parenthesis. If you had to skip them, as we don’t always take our time to read inside the parenthesis, you would be presented with just Milk chocolate and Peanut Butter. Now, there are probably around 1347 different ways to make milk chocolate, and just as many ways to make peanut butter. So they are telling me NOTHING about the chocolate bar I am looking at. But only a fanatic label-reader like me and few others would go on and pause on what’s in the parenthesis. Most customers would not take this next step, and would be content with milk chocolate and peanut butter. Companies are forced to list every ingredient they put in their products, but with this trick they manage to hide in the shadow those ingredients that they are not proud of. Moreover, the order of the ingredients is all messed up with the use of the parenthesis, and there is no way you can figure out for example where the palm oil would be in a properly listed label. Therefore, READ INSIDE THE PARENTHESIS.
– size is all. Only for this matter, less is better. You don’t want to put in your body something with a 5 lines long ingredients list. And trust me, chocolate companies after money can get really creative! Artificial flavors, lactose, cornstarch, PGPR, corn syrup, condensed this, hydrogenated that…. all stuff you don’t want in your body. I prefer buying dark chocolate that has no more than 4/5 ingredients, and milk or white chocolate that doesn’t cross the line of 10. Therefore, COUNT THE INGREDIENTS.
TO SUM UP: always take that extra minute to properly go through the ingredients list before purchasing. It feels good to be aware of your chocolate!
Have you been an aware chocolate consumer? Anything else you look at in a chocolate ingredients list? Speak out!
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.