A key part of our approach to running the awards is maximum fairness and transparency. We aim to achieve this through a number of advisory committees drawn from independent experts and entrants. We also aim to consult with the industry each year on the rules, categories and structure of the awards.
To this end we created an online survey to collect opinions and suggestions. Over 250 industry people completed the survey. We have shaped the rules, categories and structure in response to the questionnaire.
We hope the summary of the results of our industry survey helps you to understand the decisions that have been made regarding the entry and judging processes in the awards and goes towards making the International Chocolate Awards a fair and successful scheme that will help promote the fine chocolate industry worldwide.
Almost 20% of responses said the main objective of the awards should be to “promote fine chocolate and products made with fine chocolate” with encouraging artisan production and helping to create a sustainable market for fine chocolate and cacao also being highlighted. The desire for a focus on fine chocolate was further emphasised, with 83% believing the chocolate entered should have to fulfill a definition of ‘fine’ chocolate.
Regarding added ingredients, it was clear that other than cocoa butter, vegetable fats should not be allowed (94% for bars and 84% for fillings); and 86% believed artificial flavourings should not be allowed in any products (with 63% saying the only added flavour in the definition of plain dark or milk bars should be real/natural vanilla as pods or extracts). Over 80% agreed lecithin should be allowed – be it soy based or other, such as sunflower.
Regarding a minimum percentage of cocoa solids for dark chocolate, the majority said 50-60%, with almost a fifth saying 50% cocoa solids, 22% saying 55% cocoa solids and a quarter saying 60% cocoa solids.
Regarding the minimum percentage for milk chocolate, more than half said 30% or 32% cocoa solids, with the largest vote being for 30% (cocoa solids 31% of responses).
Two-thirds agreed that the use of artificial food colouring should be prohibited, with a similar number of those surveyed agreeing that ‘natural’ flavour enhancers not normally part of the intended main flavour, should not be allowed.
When discussing sugars and sweeteners, 49% said only standard cane or beet sugar should be allowed; 82% said artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol or aspartame should not be allowed and 68% said natural invert sugars and other sugars that extend shelf life are acceptable.
Finally regarding ingredients, 83% believed it should be a requirement to submit a confidential ingredients list for each product entered.
68% of those surveyed believed that it should be a requirement for entries to be available for retail sale, with 38% saying ‘pre-release’ products should not be eligible. The most popular lengths of availability were one month (18%), three months (22%) and six months (19%).
One quarter of the responses said the minimum quantity of a product produced should be one kilo.
When asked “What types of entities or individuals should be allowed to enter the awards?” the majority said small artisan companies and chocolatiers (25%) and larger companies with over three shops/locations (18%).
58% believed there should be no minimum time for which entrants have been trading or producing professional products.
Almost all of those surveyed (97%) agreed that entries should be ‘BY SUBMISSION’ and that while not perfect, this was the only practical approach, the split of those being 54% for ‘by submission, with the option for discretionary random purchase if the judges require it’ and 43% of those saying it should be ‘by submission only’.
58% of those surveyed believed large scale and ‘micro-batch’ small scale chocolate makers should be judged separately, with 66% agreeing that if this is the case, an official definition of the maximum production quantity for an entry to qualify as micro-batch would be required.
An overwhelming majority of those asked agreed with our suggested categories – plain dark, plain milk, ganache based, praline (nut)/gianduja based, fruit-paste based, fondant, caramel and enrobed whole – with only 3% suggesting others. And on the basis of responses, it was clear fruit-based and fondant should be subcategories.
67% believed that the judges should be able to adjust an entry’s ‘Main’ category or entry descriptions if they feel that they have been incorrectly stated, for example if an entry has been described as a truffle, but is more like a square plain ganache.
Definitions of certain terms such as ‘truffle’ and ‘ganache’ can often spark debate, which is why we included the questions in the survey. The largest majority (one third) said a truffle is “ganache based”, and 36% definined ganache as an emulsion of chocolate and any liquid, e.g. water in a water-based ganache.
On the subject of dividing categories according to shelf life, there was no overwhelming opinion either way – 37% said yes, 33% no, with 22% not sure. It was decided this wouldn’t be a practical option for the inaugural awards however it is something that given the varying opinion, may be considered in the future.
Again, no overwhelming majority came out on the subject of other possible categories, with percentages ranging between 11%-17% for suggestions which included “best chocolatier”, “best overall company or chocolatier for a country round”, “best hot chocolate” and “best newcomer” among others. This definitely leaves scope to use some of these categories in the future.
Three-quarters of those surveyed, believed that the quality of chocolate used in either the filling or coating should be a specific consideration on which entries are scored, with 67% agreeing that the entrant be required to state the chocolate used.
When discussing whether samples should be disguised before presenting to judges, the largest majority (35%) believed they should not be, with the judging being structured to ensure that knowing the brand does not create a bias.
More than half (55%) believed the method and quality of packaging and wrapping should not be considered as a judging factor for products meant for storage or shipment.
When asked: “What information should the judges be given for each sample?” the most popular suggestions were: the full description of the product, given by the entrant (25%); the entry description statements given on the form (24%); and a basic flavour description, if applicable (22%).
On the subject of how judges should be arranged and the process carried out, 25% believed the best way would be in small groups tasting the same sample at the same time, while 23% believed individually.
Over 80% believed the judging methodology should include specified technical factors, such as quality of tempering, lack of air pockets, adherence of coating to filling.
When considering whether judging and scoring of national/regional rounds should take account of national or local styles and preferences, 53% agreed it should while 38% disagreed.
93% believed feedback should be given after the awards, with more than half saying it should be by standard statements based on technical factors as suggested above and that it would be helpful to give all entrants their scores.
An overwhelming majority (more than 80%) believed awards should be given at different levels, with 63% agreeing this should be in rank order eg gold, silver, bronze. 85% of the people surveyed believed there should there be an overall/’best of’/champion winner for each award category e.g. ‘best overall ganache’.
A large proportion supported the idea of an award for innovation or new products, 53% and 40% respectively.
Regarding whether value based awards should be given, such as best product within a certain price category, opinion was split, with 44% saying yes and 56% no.
67% of the people surveyed agreed that each national competition should present awards for best in their country should they choose to. Regarding which entries should progress from the national competitions to the Grand Final, 41% said all national winners should go through, 33% all entries above a predetermined mark or statistically relevant point and 17% said it should at the discretion of the Grand Jury.
On the subject of how to deal with misuse of awards, 24% said those who misuse them should have their awards revoked, 27% said they should be barred from future entry and 28% said they should be given a warning for the first offence with escalating penalties.
Grand Final entries
Finally, we asked the industry how Grand Final products should be entered. 59% believed all Grand Final bar entries should be resubmitted to qualify, and 78% all Grand Final filled chocolate entries should be resubmitted. 16% believed the products should be judged purely on their first national round scores and not be re-judged, for both bars and filled chocolates.