What are the International Chocolate Awards?
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The International Chocolate Awards are a series of independently organized events that are held annually with the aim of recognizing and celebrating the best in fine chocolate from around the world. The events are held on two levels: regional and global. The regional rounds are held in participating countries, after which qualifying participants are grouped together and judged in the world finals.

Winning a medal at the awards is considered among the highest honors in the pastry world, despite the organization being less than a decade old. The World Chocolate Awards were established in 2012 by a number of independent partners that are based in the US, Italy, and the UK. The awards were created to serve as a benchmark for the industry and to provide a stage for artisanal and independent producers on a global scale. The competition is judged by a jury that consists of a number of industry experts, including the organization’s own permanent Grand Jury members, and F&B professionals from various backgrounds, such as pastry chefs, sommeliers, food bloggers, journalists, et al.

There are several categories in the awards, including single-origin bars, flavored bars, filled chocolates, and more. Each category is judged based on flavor, texture, and overall quality. The judges also consider the use of ethically sourced ingredients, sustainability, and innovation in chocolate-making techniques.

Offerings that have the highest scores on a 100-point scale are awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals. Winners will be allowed to use a special logo on their winning products in the retail space, meant to indicate their success at the competition. The past few years have seen several bean-to-bar brands submit entries across the board, which is a welcome change in an industry that was saturated with European offerings. These unique takes on chocolate, often featuring endemic or niche ingredients, have proven their worth in the industry, beating out western offerings that were substantially more complex and/or expensive. This was made abundantly clear at last year's ceremony, when none of the 35 gold medals awarded at the 2021 World Chocolate Awards went to European houses, which were long considered to be the gold standard in the chocolate industry.

This change can be attributed to recent trends within the industry. The gourmands of today prefer products that focus on the cocoa itself as opposed to those that showcase technique or ingenuity. This trend is a result of high-quality single-origin chocolate becoming more accessible in recent years, thanks to the efforts of farmers in developing countries who have broadened their visions to cultivate and process high-quality cocoa in addition to the commodity-grade cocoa that makes up the majority of their income.

Many of these farmers have also started making chocolates of their own, thereby taking control of the entire process, from bean to bar. India is the latest to join in on this trend. Anuttama, an Indian chocolatier based in Puttur, Karnataka, makes a range of chocolates featuring both single-origin cacao and authentic Indian flavors. The label produces its own cacao, grown on their farms, with a focus on making chocolate that is completely natural, sans alkali or emulsifiers. The brand’s spicy tang flavor was awarded a bronze medal this year with an 85-point aggregate, making it one of the best offerings in the flavored dark chocolate category. This delectable combination of 62% dark chocolate flavored with jaggery and ginger can be purchased from the brand’s website for INR 200 for a 50-gram bar.

The brand wasn't the only one to bring home laurels this year. Paul and Mike have long been credited with spearheading the artisanal chocolate revolution on Indian soil by being one of the first labels to sell bean-to-bar chocolates in the country, made with cacao sourced from cooperatives across the country. The brand made headlines this year by winning medals in three categories, bagging one gold and two bronzes. The label achieved this feat by placing an emphasis on homegrown produce this year, such as peppers, pineapple, salted capers, and coffee beans. These chocolates are slated to be released over the course of the next year. The company’s winners from the previous years, such as the dark chocolate with Sichuan pepper and orange peel and the milk chocolate with alphonso mango, both retail for INR 250. These bars are available on both popular e-commerce platforms and in stores across the country.

Numerous winners at both the Asia-Pacific and World Finals stages of the competition used cacao beans from the subcontinent, elevating it to the same level as the world's finest chocolate-producing nations like Ghana and Ecuador, thereby cementing the country's reputation as one of the best in the world.