Right in time for the autumn season we had a chat with chocolate specialist Alexander Kuhlmann who educated me about the benefits of high-quality, delicious tasting chocolate like iChoc that comes with a good sustainable course.
IRMA: How do you recognize a good quality chocolate, whether vegan or not?
ALEXANDER KUHLMANN: In my view, a good chocolate has a modest list of ingredients and is made without the help of artificial aromas, emulsifiers (like soy lecithin) and other questionable additives. It has a well-balanced level of ingredients, not more sugar than needed and is made of well-selected, organically grown cocoa. And last but not least it is made with the know-how of an experienced product developer, who knows about the perfect mixing ratio.
IRMA: Enjoying a premium-quality chocolate is not only a trend but more and more a lifestyle. From dark chocolate to superfood cacao, the variety is big. Can you tell us what the next ideas and trends will be in consuming good chocolate?
ALEXANDER KUHLMANN: It is great to see all the different approaches, which have developed over the last couple of years. Food has gained a new level of importance in the life of many especially young people. Vegan products are hip at the moment, as well as gluten-free food and sugar alternatives. I think the new need for “fit food” – food with certain health benefits – will establish and bring us a vast variety of products over the next years. That also goes for chocolates with a special additional benefit.
IRMA: What are the benefits of organic chocolate? Please tell us three main differences between organic and regular chocolate.
ALEXANDER KUHLMANN: First: Sustainability. Organic chocolate is cultivated without the use of any agro-chemicals – insecticides and pesticides. That saves the health of both flora and fauna in the cocoa origins. Thus you have a completely natural product and don’t have to fear possible contaminations with toxic substances.
Second: Nativeness. Because it is forbidden to crop organic cocoa in monocultures, it is guaranteed that there is no clearance of rain forest areas to cultivate the cocoa. Organic cocoa is grown in mixed genuine organic systems containing a variety of plants, animals and creatures, which live in the soil.
Third: The farmers. It is vitally important for them to be able to dispense with agro-chemicals, for two reasons: first, they are not exposing themselves and their environment to any potential health hazards; and second, they are able to remain financially independent. By dispensing with sprays and artificial fertilisers they can save a great deal of money.
IRMA: The packaging is not only sustainable but also comes with a new material, the natureflex packaging. What are the benefits if chocolate is wrapped this way?
ALEXANDER KUHLMANN: It is a great sustainable alternative to plastic or aluminium foil with a same good barrier protection against mineral oil, aroma and water vapour – ensuring the chocolate remains in premium condition. NatureFlex film is made from renewable and compostable cellulose (wood pulp). We have put a lot of value on this. Organic ingredients, fair wages for the supplier and packaging from renewable resources are intrinsically linked with iChoc alongside production in a strictly vegan way.
IRMA: Is chocolate the new superfood? Can you explain why you are using the claim RICE CHOC? What kind of milk substitutes are used?
ALEXANDER KUHLMANN: If you use plant-based milk alternatives for the production of a milk-like chocolate, you are not allowed to call it chocolate anymore. German bureaucracy. That’s why we created the artificial term “Rice Choc,” referring to both main components rice drink and cocoa.
I don’t think that chocolate is a new kind of superfood. But people nowadays are more aware of the ingredients and the general quality of a chocolate and more and more people understand that a good chocolate can not cost less the 1 Euro. That is simply not possible. In the category of candies, you can call a good chocolate – with organic ingredients, a fair cocoa content and a rational level of sugar – definitely a high-class sweet, far away from the common junk-food, if you like.
IRMA: What are the healthy benefits of the milk-substitute-free EXPEDITION edition Sunny Almonds and Jungle Bite and why are they packaged smaller than the regular iChoc chocolates?
ALEXANDER KUHLMANN: The iChoc EXPEDITION series is meant for those, who like it natural and healthy. Both bars contain a higher level of cocoa, healthy ingredients like tigernuts and – with coconut blossom sugar – a precious natural sugar alternative. Premium raw materials, which affect the price. That’s why we decided to do a smaller 50g bar to keep the sales price on a fair level.
Chocolates with sugar alternatives have become an important part of our range in the last years. We will still put emphasize on the development of these categories in the future.
IRMA: The new iChoc chocolate got the award of best confectionary at the roundtable for the foodtrade SWEETIE 2016. Are you planning any iChoc flavours that are more herbal or salty?
ALEXANDER KUHLMANN: We are definitely planning new delicious flavours. We already have some interesting ideas in mind. Unfortunately no herbal or salty ones at the moment. So sorry! 😉
IRMA: How is iChoc engaged in any social areas and incorporates sustainability in their everyday work?
ALEXANDER KUHLMANN: We invest in farmers in the Dominican Republic by buying their cocoa and educating them in eco-friendly farming practices in a bid to preserve nature by not using pesticides and chemical products. All farmers are conjoint in farmer cooperatives, which cultivate cocoa on the highest organic standard. By paying prices above the world market price for cocoa, we help to create a higher standard of living for the famers and afford them to invest in their own development. This also includes social standards, such as education for the farmers` children.
Although child labour is not a big problem in Latin America (as it is in African cocoa countries), it is our aim to prevent child labour through specific cocoa procurement methods and by maintaining a close relationship with the farmers at the cocoa source. Under the banner of our other organic brand VIVANI, we are involved in several prevention projects in Haiti, where child slavery is at it’s most prevalent in the whole of Latin America.
This post was made possible with the kind support of iChoc and Vivani.