Regularly consuming a little of what you love could have long-term health benefits – even where chocolate is concerned, discovers Rosie Greenaway
In a growing market of green smoothies and acai bowls, one irrefutable fact remains true: our nation’s deep and undying love for chocolate endures.
Dubbed ‘the food of the gods’, chocolate’s seductive charms have long been turned to as a source of comfort, stress relief and mood enhancement. But somewhere along the confectionery conveyor belt, chocolate has taken a departure from the purity of its cacao roots, becoming processed and addictive.
High refined sugar content and poor quality ingredients have invited criticism from nutritionists, and turned chocolate into a sitting duck in the war on obesity. Much of the chocolate on supermarket shelves is riddled with emulsifiers, artificial flavourings and – controversially – palm oil.
In statistics published by the British Heart Foundation in February 2017 it was revealed that 24% of people surveyed admitted to eating chocolate in secret. These results were used in the charity’s Dechox campaign, highlighting levels of addiction and discouraging a culture of gluttony.
But a handful of independent chocolatiers and retailers believe it’s not too late to change the conversation and rewrite our relationship with the nation’s favourite indulgence.
A little of what you fancy
Adam Farag and Mark Claydon, co-founders of Adam’s Chocolates, argue the starting point is to prioritize quality: “Quantity doesn’t need to be a consideration as long as your food contains the right levels of nutrients. Better quality makes you feel better, even with smaller amounts.”
Farag and Claydon proudly eat chocolate every day, not merely as a treat: “It encourages natural energy. Cacao is a key plant to consume to achieve a balanced diet; it is rich in compounds and it contains more micronutrients than any other plant known to man. But it’s important to separate out dairy and refined sugars if you are looking to increase your absorption of these nutrients.”
“The benefits of chocolate are often more about what you don’t include,” says Claydon. The brand recognizes that chocolate consumption provides a golden opportunity to enrich diets and create a positive impact on wellbeing, so its organic cold-pressed chocolate is packed full of the South American superfoods lucuma and maca.
So are we looking at the future face of chocolate? The nutritional credentials of superfoods certainly suggest it’s a beneficial partnership. These nourishing powerhouses blend well with chocolate and are hailed for their health- and immune-boosting properties, providing a hit of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, phytonutrients and proteins that the body needs for optimal health.
Adam’s Chocolates’ key natural sweetener, yacon, also boasts multiple health benefits: it reduces the cacao’s bitterness, aids digestion and encourages weight loss by increasing the body’s metabolism.
Consumers are catching on, says Claydon, and it’s time the industry caught up: “Manufacturers could achieve a lot with a focus on unprocessed ingredients and additives. If consumers can satisfy their chocolate craving with better ingredients, they will now often choose that option over quantity. The rising number of vegetarians and vegans is testament to this, particularly in the younger generations. Consumers are more aware of what they are eating, and they understand the long-term effects it has on their wellbeing. We believe that this trend will only continue to grow.”
When Green & Black’s was founded in 1991, the industry landscape looked vastly different, with little interest in bean-to-bar processes, according to Simon Wright, serial ethical chocolate developer. “No one was particularly interested in where cocoa came from, how much farmers were being paid, or what chemicals were being sprayed on the beans. None of that was important,” he says. But the industry has since blossomed, and with so much information available online, Wright says there’s no excuse for ignorance.
Ethical craft chocolatier Solkiki has also noticed that what matters to today’s consumers is “true quality without exploitation”, and the brand views short-chain, direct trade as imperative for cacao. “It’s about paying skilled workers properly for tending notoriously fickle trees. It’s all about getting the money where it belongs; every single bar makes a tangible difference to farmers,” say founders Iris and Bob Solkiki.
But where ethical trade is concerned, the lines can become blurred. As Wright warns, it’s important to differentiate between Fairtrade and the ‘fairly-traded’ schemes of confectionery giants such a Mondelez, which he says do not guarantee farming income “in the way Fairtrade does”.
Flavour of the month
So traceability and quality are important to today’s consumers; but what else are they craving? One man with his finger firmly on the trend pulse is Alan Martin, owner of Food for Thought, which has branches in Kingston and Guildford. “The best seller in both of our stores is Pana chocolate. Salted Caramel is still flavour of the month for any kind of chocolate. People love that hit of salt,” he says.
Martin believes retailers would be wise to follow The Great British Bake Off. “We watch very closely and mirror the things they’re baking. We try to emulate what they’re doing, but with healthier versions. If stores would get behind the programme, there are healthy profits to be had.”
Interestingly, juxtaposed with the arrival of Green & Black’s new non-organic Velvet Edition range, Martin says that in the retail sector organic continues to dominate: “People are talking organic again; it’s something we’re seeing increase. To be in with a shot, anyone who is bringing out chocolate products must tick the organic boxes.”
A chocolate experience
Introducing Be Chocolat: the family-run, fairly-traded chocolate shop in Brighton, whose products are created at the front of the store, making the experience of buying chocolate as per-sonal as possible.
James Sutton, artisan chocolatier, says the decision to practice his craft in front of customers means they have no room to hide and that the experience feels raw and broken down.
“It’s stripping everything back. They get to see what they’re eating and control it as well. We’re honest with people: we don’t add anything to make it last or taste a certain way, or to get you hooked. We want everything to be as pure and as natural as possible,” he says.
A strong believer in zero waste and quality over quantity, Sutton favours “slow chocolate” methods of cacao production, using Java plantations where the process takes 72 hours – one of the longest times possible.
Organic Hot Chocolate with Maca
A lusciously rich and creamy Organic hot chocolate combining the taste of organic raw cacao with the energising properties of organic maca and caramel tones of organic lucuma. Indulge your taste buds with this deeply warming and guilt free energy drink that is naturally sweetened with banana flakes. This delicious Organic drink is perfect any time of day loaded with antioxidants whilst providing key nutrients such as essential minerals, flavonoids to help you detoxify, beautify and find your balance. Available in Wholefoods Market, Planet Organic and local health stores. RRP £5.99 for 180g
Chocolate Tasting Set – Fairtrade
Divine chocolate is made using the ‘best of the best’ Fairtrade certified cocoa, grown with pride in Ghana by Kuapa Kokoo, co-operative of 85,000 cocoa farmers who own 44% of the Divine company. Co-ownership ensures the farmers receive a share of the profits they help to create, and also enables them to gain greater insight into their industry. Divine Chocolate only uses the highest quality, Fairtrade certified ingredients which are carefully sourced from growing communities around the world, including sugar grown by Fairtrade co-operatives in Malawi and vanilla from Madagascar.
Divine Chocolate Tasting Set (£6 RRP) This gorgeous gift set has 12 cute little bars in six delicious Divine flavours to suit every taste, with intense 85% Dark Chocolate, classic 70% Dark Chocolate, fruity Dark Chocolate with Raspberries, smooth Milk Chocolate, sweet and salty Milk Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt or creamy White Chocolate with Strawberries. The luxurious packaging features tasting notes and a flavour wheel for instant chocolate tasting expertise, and includes information about the cocoa farmers who co-own Divine chocolate and share in the profits they help to create.
Essential Organic Chocolate Spreads
Essential Organic Chocolate Spreads are made from cocoa produced sustainably in Ghana. The beans are harvested and processed without the use of slave or child labour and no GMOs or artificial additives are used. Approved by the Fairtrade Foundation, ensuring farmers and their workers paid a fair wage, there are three delicious vegetarian-friendly spreads, all packaged in distinctive designs that reflect the passion behind the brand. Dark Chocolate spread is lusciously smooth and Vegan Society Accredited. Hazelnut Chocolate is a classic combination of hazelnuts (10%) and milk chocolate. Duo Swirl Chocolate is an indulgent vortex of milk and hazelnut chocolate.
Organic Traditions Organic Cacao Nibs
Organic Traditions Organic Cacao Nibs are EcoCert certified organic, and sustainably grown and harvested in Peru. Cacao nibs are a source of Potassium and Iron, as well as being high in fibre. Cacao nibs can be eaten alone, used in baking, desserts, on top of yogurt, berries or in any other recipe. Add 1-2 tablespoons of Cacao nibs or beans to your favourite smoothie recipe to create a nourishing, antioxidant rich smoothie or combine with other Organic Traditions superfoods to create a delicious and nutritious trail mix. Raw and vegan.
Ombar is deliciously indulgent, creamy chocolate made from raw cacao. Why raw? Because cacao is incredible, and we like to keep it that way! Most chocolate is made by roasting cacao at a high heat, which reduces its natural goodness. Our cacao goes through a low-temp process, so it stays choc-full of the nutrients and rich flavours that nature intended. All we add are a few premium, ethically-sourced natural ingredients. Made with live cultures and free of refined sugar and dairy, Ombar is chocolate you can feel good about.
So free chocolate
So free puts the enjoyment back into free from with style with their ethically made great tasting Organic thin chocolate bars.
So you have an intolerance. So you have an allergy. So you avoid animal ingredients. So you want certified cocoa. So you want to enjoy chocolate again. So what. You deserve So free. No milk, no nuts, gluten free. Helping you lead your life without apologies. So free chocolate is lovingly made in Kent using 100% renewable energy. So free takes free from to a completely new level by offering a chocolate as desirable as mainstream.
Biona Organic Chocolate Spreads
Indulge with Biona Organic Milk Chocolate & Hazelnut Spread made with milk, cocoa and toasted hazelnuts for a sweet and creamy flavour, or Biona Organic Dark Chocolate Spread, combining rich cocoa with a hint of bourbon vanilla for a mouth-watering vegan alternative. These deliciously smooth and velvety spreads are palm oil free and perfect on toast, topped on slices of banana or mixed into cake icing.
So free chocolate
“cutting out sugar wasn’t easy, cutting out chocolate wasn’t an option.” At last, a chocolate without sugar added that meets your expectations of desire, quality and enjoyment allowing you to lead your life as you wish without apologies. So free from Plamil, the first chocolate to be certified by Sugarwise.
So free takes what is often called “sugar free” chocolate to a completely new level by offering a chocolate as desirable as mainstream. So free chocolate is lovingly made in Kent using 100% renewable energy. The cocoa is grown under the UTZ sustainability scheme.