Ellis S. Bacon, PhD       Vice President, South’s Finest Chocolate Factory

 Occasionally we are asked how we make our chocolate.  This question poses an
interesting dilemma for all candymakers (some may prefer chocolatiers).  Do you tell the
truth --- possibly bursting the bubble of mystique surrounding most chocolate factories ---
and run the risk of your answer being totally misunderstood.  Or, do you simply lie and
reinforce the fantasy your customer is happily carrying with them.  You would be amazed at
how much easier it is to make something up.  You’re off the hook and the consumer is often
much happier.  It’s like a friend of mine once said as she was loading up her busload of 6th
grade students after a day in the park --- “If you tell children the truth all the time, they
won’t have anything to look forward to when they grow up.”

 However, I have also observed that candymakers who take the easy route often have
something to hide (even if it is just plain ignorance).  Within the realms of the confectionery
manufacturing industry here are a few comments I have heard, and my own (biased) translation:
 “Our chocolate supply is proprietary information.”

Translation --- “I know our chocolate isn’t that good, but, hey, give the American public
something mediocre and it’ll be the best thing they’ve ever had.”

“We use a special blend that’s secret.”

Translation --- “I’m not going to tell them I mix a good grade of chocolate with the cheapest thing
I can get.  They can’t taste the difference anyway.

 “We create our own chocolate!”

This is the worst!  Translation ---  “Not only will I refuse to let them know I’m extending my chocolate
by mixing, I want them to believe I actually make the stuff!”

 Please, please, be wary of  “chocolates” that don’t even contain any real chocolate.
The confectionery coatings (major ingredients: sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils)
are getting pretty good.  The right person can use them well.  I have taken many samples from trade shows
and did the old “melt and solidify” test to see if they were real chocolate (cocoa butter based).

 So, let’s cut to the chase.  THE TRUTH!    Candymakers, confectioners, chocolatiers, whoever
---- DO NOT MAKE THEIR CHOCOLATE!!!!  We buy the chocolate in bulk.
(Since we are a small company, we usually get only around 2000 pounds at a time.)
We all melt the chocolate and then make candy and confections that are also called “chocolates”.
Unless you are Mars, Hershey, Nestle, Guiridelli ---- that’s life.

 It also makes life a lot easier.  If you don’t know what it takes to make the stuff --- you would be amazed.
Lots of equipment, lots of money, phenomenal quality control to maintain constancy and quality, not to mention
a good smattering of international intrigue.  I actually taught a short lesson using the international flow of cocoa
and chocolate products to illustrate geopolitics.

 As a result there are only a handful of companies that produce chocolate for commercial consumption
(sell to us candymakers).  Some of these are Guittard, Merkens, Wilbur, Van Leer (acquired by Callebaut,
a French corporation operating from  Canada), and Nestle.  Hershey, Mars, Ghirardelli make chocolate
only for their own products.
 Remember, there is a difference in commercial chocolates and those made into candy
bars.  Commercial manufacturers will make 10 or more milk chocolates, and as many dark
or semi-sweet chocolates.  The chocolates produced for candy bars and other miscellaneous
confections are not available to the candymakers.   They are also generally controlled more
by price points than any intrinsic quality of the chocolate.  We as Americans have been
deluged with mediocre to poor chocolates in candy bars (some is getting better).  This has
really influenced our perception of chocolate in general.

The candymaker has a choice in appearance (color), taste, quality, and price.  As in all other industries,
the top of the line chocolates are also the most expensive.  This tends to break down after we (the candymakers)
get hold of it.  Just go to the International Fancy Food Show --- the most expensive chocolates are often the worst.
Good packaging, marginal quality.  So, unfortunately, the consumer often pays dearly for marketing and hype.
A very popular and way too expensive chocolate has some of the most beautiful packaging.  But it is still a
Campbell Soup product.  Most people generally do not eat the box along with the chocolate.

We, the South’s Finest Chocolate Factory, use Peter’s Chocolate.  We have always been proud that we use
the top of the line in Peter’s Chocolates.  The milk chocolate and dark chocolate we use are arguably the finest
chocolates produced in the United States.  Over the 2 decades I have manufactured chocolates, all US chocolate manufacturers I have talked with, use the Peter’s Ultra (milk chocolate) and Burgandy (dark chocolate) as product
standards.  Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle originally developed milk chocolate in the 19th century.  Peter’s Chocolate,
a division of the Swiss based Nestle Corporation, is still the standard by which all domestic chocolate is measured.

So, yes, Dorothy, we do use the finest American chocolates, manufactured by a division of Nestle.
Which, I assume, is almost ready to buy the rest of the world.

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