Thursday, December 2, 2010

Food: Controversy in Chocolate

I'm not going to bother about whether dark chocolate is good for you or not. I prefer to think that all chocolate is good for you if taken in moderation.

I'm not going to talk about whether there is too much sugar and confection in our diets. Of course there are. I wouldn't have it any other way.

What I am going to talk about is how chocolate seems to invite controversy. Not for nutritious or dietary reasons though but for purely economic reasons. Let me give two examples.

The first is an ongoing controversy about a hedge fund, Armajaro, that is trying to corner the market for chocolate by buying vast quantities of it. This has been covered by, among others, The Spectator, The New York Times, and even various blogs.

The results are predictable. Chocolate and chocolate products will be more expensive. Chocolate bars and other retail treats will either weight less, cost more, or end up with lower amounts of cocoa products in them. Or some combination of all three. This is already happening and, if Armajaro can corner and influence the market, will continue. So get ready to shell out more money for your chocolate.

The second controversy is a bit older and is over how much chocolate can be worth. The chocolate in particular is not your typical candy bar chocolate but high end high quality chocolate. Just how much is it worth?

And more importantly... how do you know what you're buying is worth what you pay for it?

Back in 2006 on a blog called DallasFood there was a 10 part expose on one of the most expensive brands of chocolate on the market. Noka is a company that sells expensive chocolate. Very expensive chocolate. At the time they could even be called the most expensive chocolates available in the world.

The questions at hand were: Why is their chocolate so expensive? What makes it special and unique? And most importantly: Is it worth the price?

Sadly, 4 years later, the site has none of the content it had at the time. The 10 part expose is no longer online in it's original location. Like so many things on the web it was not long lived and hasn't survived. Various discussions about the controversy are still online.

A post on Metafiler was entitled Nice margins. The author of the expose posted a synopsis on Chowhound that started not just one long thread on the subject but at least two. One blogger, Robert Synnott, posted about the expose and quickly noticed one commenter that seemed to have been commenting, and defending Noka, on several sites. The Consumerist covered the expose. All in all a good time was had by all.

The best synopsis is on the Straight Dope's forums entitled The emperor's new chocolate which covers the expose, the PR flack, and more.

All in all a wonderful synopsis. However it's only a synopsis.

Luckily even if sites come and go and even if things are no longer online at their original location the internet has a bit of a memory. The original ten part post exposing what Noka was doing and how they were taking good chocolate that was going for $10-$15 per pound, making their own pieces and putting them in fancy boxes to be resold for up to $2000 a pound is available at the internet's Wayback Machine at

The first part, with links to all the other parts of the expose, can be found here.


Agence said...

Good article. For more background, we've been following Armajaro's dealings on Facebook since July - it's become a tangled web of dodgy smuggling, political intervention and outright greed. URL:

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