Is Japan the new Heaven for craft chocolate makers?
The annual Salon du Chocolat in Paris ended this past Tuesday. Chocolate companies from all over the world reunited at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center for 5 days of intense interaction with an eager public of chocolate lovers.
500 participants between chocolatiers, pastry makers, confectioners and cocoa-producing countries delighted the audience of chocoholics with conferences, workshops and an infinite choice of chocolate treats.
The majority of the chocolate companies at the event were well-known in the industry. From the giant Nestlé to the French maker Francois Pralus, chocolate lovers had the chance to interact with their favorite brands and discover the latest product releases.
The booths were spacious and carefully styled.
Infinite lines of chocolate bonbons were stretched as far as the eye could see. Chocolate bars wore the most colorful packages. Dressed up and smiling, also the staff behind the counters was part of the attentive design.
Some of the most beautiful arrangements and displays belonged to chocolate companies from Japan.
Japanese chocolatiers revealed all their splendor at the Salon du Chocolat. But what shined more than the design of their booths was the originality of their creations.
Their chocolate bars and bonbons had nothing to do with the ones sold at the European and American stands. Unique in shapes, flavors and textures, no foreign country could compete against these treasures.
What made them so special was their delicacy.
Extremely thin layers of chocolate let ganaches express their full potential. The ganaches themselves always had a silky texture that made them disappear quickly in the mouth. Even hard inclusions like nuts were powdered in a textural harmony with the rest of the ingredients. Tasters had little time to catch all the flavors. This is what made these Asian creations so special.
The most popular Japanese flavors seen at the Salon du Chocolat were Matcha, Sesame, Yuzu, Miso and Sakè. Both included in chocolate bars or part of delicate ganaches, these flavors showed the loyalty to the traditional Japanese cuisine.
Among these confectionery masters, a Japanese bean-to-bar maker stood out with its immense variety of chocolate bars: Vanilla Beans.
All the way from the Kunagawa Prefecture, Vanilla Beans was already known to some Western chocolate consumers. In fact, their bars managed to reach fancy chocolate stores around the world like 2Beans in New York City.
The packaging with Japanese kanji attract adventurous consumers that want to try peculiar flavors such as Yuzu, Wasabi, Miso and Sakè. Their range of products also includes Single Origin bars from several cacao producing countries.
However, Vanilla Beans is only one of the craft chocolate companies belonging to the flourishing Japanese bean-to-bar movement. Brands like Green Bean To Bar and Minimal are getting Japanese consumers closer to craft chocolate made from the beans.
As the appreciation for an artisanal approach to chocolate increases, the number of Japanese entrepreneurs ready to jump into this new business rises proportionally.
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The team from Cocoatown, company leader in the manufacturing of machines for bean-to-bar production, confirms that their base of Japanese customers is growing larger. More and more orders from this wealthy country are flowing in, usually with a large budget at hand.
This curiosity for chocolate crafted from the beans turned Japan into a lucrative market for foreign makers. Countless are the bean-to-bar chocolate companies that ship their products to this nation.
From Danish chocolatier Peter Svenningsen to renowned Akesson’s from Madagascar, high-quality products find great opportunities in the Japanese market. Some chocolate makers go as far as to open stores in loco. San Francisco based Dandelion Chocolate is the most recent example.
Also national giants like Meiji took advantage of the bean-to-bar success.
The multimillionaire chocolate manufacturer launched this year a new range of chocolate labelled “bean-to-bar”. Taking advantage of a language typical of craft chocolate, Meiji managed to market these bars as high-end products. Japanese chocolate lovers went crazy for these new releases, and showed their enthusiasm all over Instagram.
Japanese chocolate makers have a huge advantage compared to their competitors: the internal demand for fine chocolate is very high.
Chocolate makers based in Japan find themselves already surrounded by customers with a high purchasing power. They don’t have to deal with the hustle of exporting to survive. A HUGE advantage compared to countries like Ecuador where producers make amazing bean-to-bar chocolate, but then need to sell it elsewhere.
Attention to details, exotic flavors, great designs and high internal demand give Japanese craft bean-to-bar companies a big advantage in such a competitive market.
It is only a matter of time before we see more of their handmade creations around the world.
Have YOU tried bean-to-bar chocolate made in Japan?
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.