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Makers versus Melters – The Intricacies of the Chocolate World

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In the chocolate world there is a bit of a split between those who make chocolate and those who don't. The Americans describe it as 'makers versus melters'. 

Within the makers sphere you've got the big industrial companies and the smaller craft producers, who are often referred to as bean-to-bar makers – the only large maker in New Zealand is Whittakers and there are five smaller craft makers. 

The melters, on the other hand, buy in their chocolate in bulk and use it to produce their products. At the more industrial end of this scale the melters buy plain (unsweetened and partially refined) chocolate mass or liquour and add their own ingredients and finish the refining process before making bars and other products. At the more artisan end of the scale they buy finished couveture (white, milk, and dark of various percentages and origins) and perhaps add flavours and make bars, or use it to coat their own truffles, and pralines. Generally this bulk chocolate is made in big factories, with the best being very good and the worst not worth eating. There are a lot of artisan melters - perhaps more politely called artisan chocolatiers - in New Zealand and most of them use Barry Callebaut chocolate.

The inaugural NZ Chocolate Awards have recently been announced. Awards have become quite the phenomena of the times, with a plethora of them in the food and beverage industries from the well-established to the newly minted. There's no doubt that consumers take note of who wins what and a medal sticker is good for morale and always good for sales. Kathie and Nic from Marvellous Marketing deserve their own medal for taking the plunge and setting up the NZ Chocolate Awards. Organising the process, selecting judges, collecting samples, and managing the judging process is no mean feat especially the first time around.

Next year it would be good to see the Awards split into two categories to recognise the difference between the chocolate makers and the artisan chocolatiers. This year there was only one category for bean-to-bar chocolate (plain bars) and so in the inclusion bar section most of the bars were made with the same base chocolate and just a range of different flavours. 

To use an analogy from the world of ceramics, this is like comparing a machine made dish that has been individually painted and fired, with a one-off dish that's been thrown on the potter's wheel or hand built. The machine-made dish will always be more perfectly made, but will not have the character of the hand-made. Ten people could decorate a machine-made dish and they will all look different, but the medal will go to the best painter, not the best potter.

OCHO was delighted to receive gold, silver and bronze medals in the Chocolate Awards for our Salted Caramel, Beekeeper and Solomons 70% Cacao bars respectively. We also received a special award for the best packaging, which we were especially happy about and think it is well-deserved recognition of the talent of our Dunedin-based designer Luke Johnston of BrandAid.