Guest Columnist
Curtis Vreeland
Vreeland & Associates

What better way to kick off Chocolate Week in the Big Apple last Wednesday then with a chocolaty catwalk? The glitzy parade of models donning Broadway-themed haut couture at the Chocolate Fashion Show Nov. 12 appropriately inaugurated the 14th annual New York Chocolate Show, which featured 65 exhibitors and the Food Fête media event.

Based on the number of companies showcasing raw chocolate at the show, it appears this chocolate subsegment is gaining greater mainstream acceptance.


NibMor featured its products that had received a Best of Press award at the Natural Products Expo East 2011. Davis Chocolate debuted Chocolant Powdered Nibs, a mixture of raw cacao nibs and ground-up baking chocolate packaged in a 100-g. shaker designed for both baking or as a food condiment.

Meanwhile, Gnosis displayed its extensive line of vegan, raw chocolate.

First appearing in 2005, the amount of raw chocolate sold through the natural product channel had increased 81% to $1.3 million last year, reports Packaged Facts’ U.S. Chocolate Market 2010 study. Such growth stems from a small, but growing number of chocolate lovers seeking unrefined (and supposedly more nutritious) chocolate.

Single-origin chocolate continues to retain its market appeal, as evidenced by so many origin products from exhibitors Pralus, Guittard, Grenada Chocolate Co., Amano and Hotel Chocolate.

Amano’s Dos Rios Palet d’Or bar, made with 70% Dominican beans, won a prestigious gold medal at London’s Academy of Chocolate 2011. The Ecuadoran Trade Office also exhibited, featuring Kallari, Pacari and three other producers, and underscoring that country’s importance as a global fine chocolate producer.

For those chocolate lovers who want to experience cacao growing firsthand, exhibitor Lin-Mar Travel Associates has organized a Rainforest Chocolate Tour of Ecuador scheduled for spring, 2012.

Chocolate’s versatility still seems to be limitless. Drawing upon Wisconsin’s vibrant craft beer culture, Madison-based Gail Ambrosius paired local beers with her chocolate to create the Beerific Taster’s Box.

For example, Gail suggests pairing a stout, such as Furthermore’s Three Feet Deep, with her Blueberry truffle.

“The earthiest of the blueberries married well with the smoky qualities of the beer, bringing out the best of both,” the tasting notes declared.

Xocolatti chocolatier Shaineal Shah sought inspiration from his Bombay heritage and family’s precious gems trade to create such east-west flavor combos as mango-paprika, rose hip-pistachio and orange-hazelnut “slates” or bark. His truffles are sold in gorgeous jeweler-style boxes, prompting to call Xocolatti the “Cartier of chocolate shops.”

Chuao Chocolatier displayed its Potato Chips in Chocolate bar, a riff on the salty and sweet taste combo. Lindt introduced a new bar in its Excellence line, Cranberry, a 48% cocoa dark chocolate studded with tangy cranberries and crunchy almond slivers. Meanwhile, Madison Chocolatiers West displayed Dinner in a Box, a chocolate-themed, three-course meal featuring chocolate-dipped provolone, garlic-infused chocolate and other unexpected delicacies.

Also evidenced at the show was the fact that Americans’ deepening love affair with chocolate has spawned an interest in exploring chocolate’s historic roots.

American Heritage Chocolate, a Mars company that sells products following authentic 18th century recipes, now is available in more than 80 historic and living history sites across North America.

“The story is also intriguing,” says Gail Broadbright, Mars’ director of emerging markets. “People love to enjoy chocolate the way George Washington, Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson would have enjoyed it.”

Having covered the show for more than ten years, I can attest to the fact that American artisan chocolate has come a long way.

Innovation and craft continue to expand and improve. The Fine Chocolate Industry Association – a non-profit association founded in 2007 that sponsors educational programs, develops industry standards and bestows excellence awards – has been one of the groups in the forefront of that movement.

Executive Director Mary Jo Stojak notes that the organization has been growing 15% to 30% a year and this year marked the first time the group exhibited at Food Fête. For more information, please check them out at