Global win for Pacific chocolates

Chocolates made from Pacific-origin cocoa were among the winning bars at the 11th Academy of Chocolate International Awards 2019.

Announced in London last month, the results were especially rewarding for a Vanuatu producer who made his debut at the awards and scooped a double-bronze win. The wins included:

  • A bronze medal for Firetree Chocolate Limited’s Vanuatu 76% bar in the Dark Bean to Bar under 90% category;
  • Silver medal for Fabric Chocolate’s Solomon Islands bar in the Dark Bean to Bar under 90% category;
  • Bronze medal for Gaston Chocolat’s Coconut and Dark 60% bar in the Tree to Bar Flavoured category; and
  • Bronze medal for Gaston Chocolat’s Dark 70% Caramelised Nangae Nuts & Sea Salt bar in the Tree to Bar Flavoured category.
Picture Source: Gaston Chocolat/Imgrum

A record-breaking number of entries were reportedly received for this year’s awards which featured producers from Hong Kong, India, Serbia, Slovakia, Thailand and Vanuatu for the very first time – alongside products from more established chocolate-making countries. More than 1,500 entries from producers in 46 nations were received, making this year the most successful in the history of the awards. Smaller, artisanal producers were well-represented, with the Bean to Bar category seeing the largest rise in entries, closely followed by Tree to Bar submissions.

Academy of Chocolate Awards are one of the two most regarded awards in chocolate making with the International Chocolate Awards. Founded in 2005 by five of Britain’s leading chocolate professionals, the Academy of Chocolate campaigns for better chocolate and promotes awareness of the difference between fine chocolate and mass-produced chocolate confectionery. Academy members meet to taste, discuss, demonstrate and debate issues regarding sourcing, transparency and the journey from bean to bar.

Source: Academy of Chocolate/Twitter

Based in Port Vila, Vanuatu, Gaston Chocolat commenced commercial operations as a craft chocolate maker in 2017. In the wake of their double win at this year’s event, Gaston Chocolat director Olivier Fernandez said they were grateful to the cocoa farmers who had trusted them with the quality program they developed to improve the quality of cocoa for the production of niche chocolate.

“We are grateful for the support from all local stakeholders, the (Vanuatu) Department of Industry, the Vanuatu Cocoa Association, our clients and friends, and of course our families for their ongoing support. We will keep working hard towards the best quality with the aim to make a name for Vanuatu cocoa and chocolate overseas,” he said.

Gaston Chocolat director Olivier Fernandez, left, celebrates the news of their win with his team. To the right is David Cram, manager of Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Ltd which works to improve the cocoa value chain and livelihoods of cocoa growers in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Picture: Courtesy of Olivier Fernandez

The PHAMA Plus Program (previously known as PHAMA) works with cocoa exporters in Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to improve the quality of cocoa for export. Supported by the Australian and New Zealand governments, the program works with cocoa growers to address quality issues at farm level.

In 2016 and 2017, PHAMA initiated trade visits between craft chocolate makers in Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand, and cocoa growers and exporters in the Pacific. The program also helped set up solar dryers for cocoa farmers in a bid to rid cocoa beans of the smoke taint that denied farmers a premium price for the cocoa they produced. This support helped boost the quality and price of Pacific cocoa to craft chocolate makers. PHAMA Plus continues to support cocoa industries in the Pacific.

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