Prosweets Cologne 2009: An Appetite For Tasty Dark Treats

The trend toward chocolate with a high cocoa content continues unabated in Germany. Nowadays, high-quality products are available from all the equatorial regions that produce superior varieties of cocoa. Chocolate creations are now available in so many different flavour profiles that only wine can compare to the vast range of tastes on offer. But the taste of the chocolate doesn't depend only on the bean that is used. Nearly all the processing steps, from the harvest right through to the packaged chocolate bar, influence the taste of the fine end product.

Today, four varieties of fine cocoa ensure a practically inexhaustible range of choice chocolate specialities. In the past it was mainly the small European chocolatiers who dominated the market for chocolates that cost more than 4 for a 100-gram chocolate bar. Nowadays there is a growing number of German companies that are conscious of the origin of their most important raw material - cocoa - and are looking for ways to access the production regions in Africa and South America.

The trend of the past few years has been towards chocolate made of cocoa from a specific production region - so-called single-origin chocolate. Good wine can in the best case be traced right back to the vineyard where the vine was planted, and the same is now also true of high-quality chocolate. Consumers are showing an increasing interest in the history of the product, and are willing to pay up to 10 for 100 grams.

The art of authenticity
The chocolatiers in Germany have learned to fulfil this wish. Increasing numbers of manufacturers are addressing the origin of their raw materials. Here, it is not only important for the chocolatier to know the history of the chocolate. Manufacturers' commitment to the production regions is combined with a conscious interest in ensuring a sustainable supply of raw materials. Those who want to make their products distinctive have to safeguard a lasting supply of raw materials in consistent quality. Cocoa powder, cocoa butter and/or cocoa mass are already abundantly available on the European market in every imaginable aroma and shade of colour.

At the high-end segment, however, questions are raised about where product comes from and who supplies it. How do the beans differ? Which basic types combine which characteristics? How do I find "my" bean? The good thing about these questions is that for consumers they open the door to fine dark chocolates from around the world. According to current estimates, in Germany there are now over 200 specialist shops that offer chocolate from chocolatiers across the globe. Increasingly, small manufacturers from the production regions are also trying to push their way into the European market. Their advantage lies in their close proximity to the raw material. However, they often have to put up with long distribution chains.

Differences in manufacturing
Currently there are 14 companies in Germany who are working "from the bean". The rest of the chocolate manufacturers import cocoa powder, cocoa butter or cocoa mass in order to refine them into chocolate bars. The manufacturers have many different ways of doing this. It can be stated with certainty here that there are no generally accepted principles regarding the fineness of the grind of the cocoa and sugar content, the portioning of cocoa butter, the conching times and the ideal cooling temperatures. For years now, chocolate researchers have tried to find out what the best conditions are for the manufacturing of the finest chocolate.

But there are already differences in the standards applied to traditional long-conching, handmade individual manufacturing techniques and to industrial production. If you want to find out everything there is to know about the complete value chain of chocolate manufacturing, including the accompanying production stages, you should come to Cologne at the beginning of February 2009 and visit ProSweets Cologne, which will be taking place parallel to ISM, the International Sweets and Biscuits Fair, from 1st to 4th February. There you'll be able to not only see state-of-the-art production technology, but also find out about the current situation regarding the supply of raw materials - and establish new contacts within the supplier industry.

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