Consumers are not to be blamed.
In the search for high-quality chocolate, professionals in the industry have many tools at their disposal to sail around the sea of brands offered. Those who pay their bills with chocolate have a fairly easy life recognizing good chocolate when they see it.
But what about the average uninformed consumer?
A set of objective instructions has yet to be written.
Unfortunately, truly good chocolate can only be recognized by the five senses together with a lot of experience. This becomes a problem when consumers find themselves in front of a shelf with a dozen chocolate brands. Unless they have already tried a bar or heard about it, making a wise choice won’t be easy for them.
Sometimes they are moved by the price. Sometimes a pretty packaging can win them over. Other times exotic names of origin will do the trick.
While looking for objective signs of quality, many chocolate lovers make the same mistake: rely on certifications that little have to do with quality.
Unless they are true aficionados that spend their day reading about chocolate, consumers feel lost and disoriented. This is why they are not to be blamed when they decide to trust certification labels.
Certifications are a third-party stamp of approval for respecting specific protocols and rules during production. While consumers eagerly look for these labels on the packaging of their favorite goods, these certifications are instead subject of critiques and accusations by professionals in the industry.
In the trade of fine cacao, the Organic certification is often considered useless.
An Organic certification is supposed to cover the chocolate from farm to table. It tells us that no synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides and genetically modified organisms have been used in the production of the cacao. At least 95% or even more of the content of the chocolate is organic.
When it comes to fine cacao, this certification is unnecessary.
It’s common knowledge among fine chocolate professionals that fine cacao is organic by default. Cocoa farmers are among the poorest people in the World. They manage to survive on a maximum of $2 a day. Unless they are under the control of big chocolate manufacturers that can provide them with pesticides and chemical herbicides, they are too poor to afford them. Their extreme conditions don’t allow them the purchase of genetically modified fertilizers even if they wanted to.
Here is where the current obsession for organic food becomes a PROBLEM for the farmers.
Having to get an Organic certification means paying fees, dealing with complicated bureaucracy, responding to higher powers, complying with protocols that are standard for every country and don’t take into consideration the peculiarities of the terroir. But if farmers don’t get an Organic certification, this will prevent their access to international or even national markets.
Consumers’s concerns for safety foods and environmentally friendly production have driven a high demand for Organic certified chocolate. Chocolate makers and chocolatiers look for Organic certified cacao to satisfy this demand and raise their sales.
An Organic certification has now become a marketing tool more than a label for quality.
On the side of the farmer, this is a nightmare.
Farmers living on $2 a day are forced to take on high expenses that will probably erode their already low profits, while their crop is ALREADY organic by default.
The Organic stamp of approval is not only critiqued for being unnecessary in the fine chocolate industry.
Widespread skepticism comes from the fact that an Organic certification is paid for by the requester. Every year there are controls to be passed and fees to be paid in return. The likelihood of the certifiers being biased while examining the clients that pay them is objectively high. Many could be the requirements overlooked when the controller is paid by the controlled.
Moreover, an Organic certification is in NO WAY synonymous with quality.
Many craft chocolate makers that source their beans at origin confirm that there is some terrible organic certified cacao. To make up the quality of the cacao beans, much more is required than the use of non-gmo fertilizers. From the genetics of the cacao to the right harvesting and fermenting techniques, many more are the factors involved in the quality of the cacao.
When consumers are looking for quality, an Organic sticker alone won’t do.
The end suggestion is not to avoid chocolate bars with an Organic certified sticker on. Many cocoa farmers and chocolate brands feel the pressure of getting Organic certified to meet consumers’ demand and be competitive on the market. If they have the money to do so, they might be making the right choice.
The aim here is to not let slip through the hands of consumers those fine chocolates that don’t carry such desired sticker. Countless craft chocolate companies see their makers going to the places of origin to make sure they are getting organic and high-quality cacao, with no need for certifications heavy on the farmers.
Do YOU look at the Organic certification when shopping for fine 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