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The evolution of Australian chocolate

Posted on : 15 March 2017

Words: Jodie Van Der Velden

With the Easter holiday celebration just weeks away, there’s no doubt chocolate consumption in Australia will spike. Chocolate eggs, said to be an ancient symbol of new life and resurrection and celebration of spring returning, have been associated with this religious holiday since the early 19th century in Europe. With chocolate on everyone’s minds and palates at this time of year, it’s timely to reflect on all things chocolate and where Australia sits in the chocolate world.

The Australian chocolate industry has experienced a rapid evolution over the last decade, with Australian artisan chocolatiers producing as beautiful chocolate products as those found in the luxurious chocolateries of Europe. At the 2013 World Chocolate Masters competition, Australia won third place ahead of Italy (first place) and Netherlands (second place) as well as winning Best Architect of the world - globe. These results clearly highlight the quality of training and innovation found here in Australia.

Contemporary Australian trends in chocolate are very much in line with current global trends. Consumers are continually becoming more discerning through increased health awareness and education. Whilst there are certainly still consumers that are satisfied with mass manufactured low grade chocolate products, there is a rapidly growing consumer group that is concerned with the ethics and sustainability behind growing and harvesting cacao, and the manufacturing of chocolate.  

Consumers are now interested in single origin and single plantation chocolates. These products are made from cacao beans grown in a single location or plantation and contain individual flavour profiles drawn from the cacao bean, rather than the addition of flavours.  As the health benefits of chocolate are continually revealed, astute consumers are very conscious of artificial ingredients. There is a growing trend to choose quality over quantity, with consumers turning towards high-quality dark chocolate rather than milk and white chocolates which contain a high sugar, low cacao content.

Favourable consumer attitudes towards higher quality chocolate products have caused a decline in demand for some mass manufactured lower grade chocolate products.  This trend has resulted in more opportunities for boutique artisan chocolatiers to contribute to the market.  Consumers have become more daring than ever before and are trying, and loving, unique flavour combinations, such   as chilli and mango, lime and basil, saffron, and balsamic vinegar.

The Sydney Royal Chocolate Competition is an ideal showcase for Australia’s chocolatiers. In my role as Chief Chocolate Judge, I’ve witnessed greater emphasis being placed upon innovation and the use of high quality natural ingredients from producers. 

To see beautifully crafted, innovative chocolate products that have been executed with outstanding technical expertise and skill, being rewarded with Sydney Royal Gold Medals is a very rewarding experience in itself.  These awards are invaluable to the winner in acknowledging their outstanding product and encouraging further innovation to lead the Australian chocolate industry into the future. 

About Jodie Van Der Velden

Jodie Van Der Velden is the Chair of Judges for the 2016 Callebaut Sydney Royal Show and has been Chief Judge of Sydney Royal Chocolate competitions since 2012. Ms Van Der Velden has 10 years’ experience as a professional chocolatier. Her passion for the craft has been rewarded through myriad accolades. Considerable time spent in cacao plantations all over the world, working to understand the raw product in its natural state, has contributed in no small part to Ms Van Der Velden’s superior palate and the success of Josophan’s Fine Chocolates, which she founded in 2005.