Last week I wrote up a post about how the Netherlands is focusing more on its role in making the cocoa supply chain more sustainable. Through a series of national commitments, they aim to ensure that the cocoa that enters the Netherlands, which is substantial, is paying farmers a living wage and is deforestation and child labour free.
I hope this translates into individual chocolate makers also providing more transparency into where they are sourcing their beans and the stories behind the ingredients they use. At the moment, I found many craft chocolate makers I visited in Amsterdam provided very little information about this, which is surprising given that Dutch consumers put an important emphasis on sustainability when they purchase products, including chocolate.
Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of craft chocolate makers in The Netherlands, perhaps unsurprising given how much cocoa goes through its port. One example is Urban Cocoa, founded by chocolatier Hans Mekking in 2013. They have two locations. The first is a small factory where you can watch how they produce their bars using a mix of cacao from around the world, including some single origins and even single estate bars. I instead visited their little shop downtown where you can enjoy hot chocolates, ice-cream and a range of chocolate-based treats.
While they state that they try to be as transparent as possible in the origin of their ingredients, no further details are provided to their customers (online or in store) which is a shame. They definitely have fun with their flavours including bars made with milk chocolate with smoked almonds and another made with dark chocolate and caramel sea salt dark, all beautifully packaged. There is even one made with Trinidad scorpion chilis, one of the hottest chilis in the world. The hot chocolate was nice, quite thick and decadent, and a surprisingly simple dark chocolate, especially considering all the innovative flavoured bars lining the walls.
Verdict: From a branding perspective, transparency and sharing you story helps you grab and connect (and keep) your customer. I loved what Urban Cacao was doing, and what many other chocolate makers in The Netherlands are doing but I hope they too start to share more about the stories behind their ingredients, and why that matters. Urban Cacao, Rozengracht 200, Amsterdam, Netherlands www.urbancacao.com