If there is another thing as enjoyable as eating chocolate, it is talking about chocolate. As I don't know much about real chocolate, I had to choose second option first. So, I wanted to make an interview with an expert chocolate blogger about chocolate and chocolate business. Sharon Terenzi from The Chocolate Journalist generously accepted my interview request and gave great answers on my questions. I really enjoyed this interview and I hope you will also enjoy it. Happy reading!
You write about chocolate and chocolate business on your blog, the Chocolate Journalist. It is surely one of the most enjoyable topics on the earth. Therefore, I will not ask "why chocolate?" Instead, I am more interested to know about where you want to go from here, what you aim for and what your future plans are. By the way, "The Chocolate Journalist" could be a good name for a chocolate brand. What do you think?
I love this question! If you take a look at my blog TheChocolateJournalist.com you will notice that the two biggest sections are ChocoCulture, where I write informative articles to spread awareness among chocolate consumers, and ChocoMarketing, where I give pieces of advice and insights to chocolate companies on how they should go about selling their products and using their Social Media accounts. I have to admit that ChocoMarketing is the section I enjoy writing the most. Marketing has been a big passion of mine since I was 17 and I have a lot of fun putting myself in the customer's mind and try identifying the best way I'd like to be advertised and served. Since I really want artisan chocolatiers and chocolate makers to be successful, I can picture myself in the future being a Marketing and Social Media consultant for small chocolate companies that don't have enough time or resources to think about the best online and offline strategies. I already had a couple of brands contacting me for help, so it won't be long before the service is available. At the same time writing is my healthy drug (after chocolate), and I want to keep on writing regularly on my blog until I am 90 and arthritis takes over. Spreading the word on fine chocolate and informing chocolate consumers on my blog and my Social Media accounts (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) is something that gives me extreme satisfaction, so I could never give up sharing the findings of my chocolate research.
Regarding the possibility of The Chocolate Journalist becoming a chocolate brand, I get asked this question on a daily basis, and my answer is always the same: NEVER! Not only it is so much headache to produce chocolate, but nowadays the market is getting saturated with competitors. From sourcing the best beans, to transportation, to choosing the right machines, then packaging, marketing, distribution... I'd rather be on the other side of the deal and pay to sustain passionate chocolatiers that know what they are doing.
We eat things which are labeled as chocolate, but in fact, they are purely composed of artificial flavors, preservatives, and so many other chemicals. Hence, I don't mind to ask a seemingly simple question: What is genuine chocolate?
Genuine chocolate is when you can recognize the taste of cacao. Truth is that many chocolate consumers have never tasted chocolate. We have been fed high amounts of sugar, butter, milk and vegetable oils instead, and tricked to believe that THAT was how chocolate tasted like. Last week I had a friend of mine trying a fine bean-to-bar chocolate for the first time in her life. She found it so flavorful that she asked me what kind of additional ingredients were in it, where in fact it was only cocoa mass, sugar and cocoa butter. This is because in 25 years she had never tried the taste of real chocolate and didn't know that chocolate could have a distinctive flavor given just by the cocoa beans and how they got processed. This is what I want to change. People need to know what genuine chocolate tastes like, and this is why I feed fine bean-to-bar chocolate to every human being gravitating around me.
You are a big fun and supporter of artisan bean-to-bar chocolate. In this way, I think, you inevitably position yourself against some industry giants who offer chocolate in name only. What do you feel about it?
Totally! As I wrote in one of my latest articles: "I am damn sure that artisan chocolatiers and chocolate makers will one day take over the market, forcing giants like Hershey's, Mars and Nestlè to fall back on the ceramic pot industry for the sake of the environment and the health of us all." I never believed in corporations. In order to become a multi-million dollar company there is always some inevitable compromise to be made, either it be about the quality of the products offered, the working conditions of the employees, environmental or social ethics. Bean-to-bar chocolate that is made on a smaller scale has a very high chance not to be compromised in any sense. It is well known in the industry that artisan chocolate makers are not in it for the money. Producing chocolate from the beans is a very expensive and laborious activity, and profit margins are very little. Only the passion for what you are doing and the care to give your customers the best product can get you going in the bean-to-bar industry. It is this integrity I want to promote, and not some kind of money-oriented corporation that wants to sell you sugar, butter and milk for chocolate.
I wish to see artisan chocolate shops in different regions, even on every big street of Istanbul. But, the situation is opposite. I am not sure if there is a single shop here where I can find premium quality chocolates made in different countries of the world. How is the situation in USA? In one of your blog posts, you say that artisan bean-to-bar chocolate is a booming market. Do you think that it will be a growing trend?
You can't take awareness back. Once you know something, you can't act like you are still clueless. This is why I believe in the growing power of bean-to-bar chocolate and artisan chocolate in general. Consumers are caring more and more about their health because they are seeing their beloved falling victims of cancer, heart disease and other illnesses brought by the chemicals and processed foods we have all been ingesting for decades. As a chubby teenager myself, I was probably the only 12 year old inside the supermarket looking at the labels and ingredients list like an adult. People nowadays are obsessed with reading labels to see what they are putting in their bodies. So when they come across a bean-to-bar chocolate and they read 3 simple ingredients (cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter), and are then delighted by a super flavorful smooth chocolate, they cannot but be enthusiastic about it. Since 2012 chocolate makers have been popping up like mushrooms in the USA, and I believe there are all the premises for this trend to be embraced overseas as well. But this will only go at the same pace as consumers awareness goes. In every country there is a different level of "food" awareness, therefore trends can widely vary from place to place. I believe that Istanbul has the potential to become a fertile field for artisan chocolate once mistrusting big brands, reading labels and researching healthy ingredients will be a daily routine for its citizens.
Thank you very much for sharing your opinions with us.
Absolutely my pleasure. Thank you for giving me the chance to spread the word on fine chocolate with very stimulating questions. Look forward to hearing in the near future of great chocolatiers and chocolate makers MADE IN ISTANBUL!