Chocolate News - January 2018

— January 2018 Issue’s Free Content —

Walk a Mile Project’s Take on THE “Chocolate is on Track to Go Extinct in 40 Years” Report

If you paid any attention whatsoever to the news in December, there’s a very strong chance you heard the report on chocolate’s potential demise by the year 2050. Originally reported in Business Insider, the blurb spread like wildfire, even reaching major newspapers. After writing an article last year on the Cacao Genome (see the 2017 issue), I didn’t find the news itself surprising, but there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

With us all so busy working on holiday doings here at the mag and otherwise, I simply planned to revisit it for Chocolate News here in the January issue, so I didn’t actually read the article outside of the headline. My first thought, however, courtesy of the investigation I do into the GMO controversy over at Change the World Films (, was that I’d really only expect news like this to come from the people working on genetically modifying cacao.

Why? Because those tinkering with our beloved cacao know how difficult the road will be to creating a GMO chocolate, which means they’ll need all the support they can muster to win people over on such genetic modifications.

The difficult road exists for two reasons. First, when people revere a food like they do chocolate, it sits under a more intense microscope than genetically modifiying say soy, or sugar beets. Translation – many people will question why you’re messing with their chocolate!

Second, cacao ranks among the most complex substances on earth, making it one of the more difficult genetic modifications to pull off. Genetics continues to advance, and the new CRISPR technology for more precise modifications holds great potential, but cacao may prove to be one of its biggest challenges.

As for my initial thought, that big chocolate’s work on GMO chocolate could use a little “scare tactic” boost to win some public support, well it turns out I was exactly correct. The report comes to us from the University of California at Berkeley, where geneticist Jennifer Doudna invented the aforementioned CRISPR technology, and where Mars now funds research, specifically into cacao. As the Science Alert article I’ve linked to here clearly indicates, the original news headline, proclaming cacao’s demise in 40 years from climate change, grossly exaggerates the situation –

“But where does it say cacao is heading for extinction in 40 years? Well, the article links to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report from 2016, itself citing research released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014.

That research warned that under one “business as usual” scenario predicting unabated global temperature rises of 2.1°C (3.8°F) by 2050, two of the world’s leading cacao producers – the Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana region of Africa, and Indonesia – will lose significant amounts of suitable cultivation area.”

The dire prediction exists under only one, very specific scenario, and clearly applies to a certain region. For big chocolate, yes, losing Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana for cacao would devastate their current business models, but for higher quality cacao grown in other regions within the cacao belt, not so much. So yes, big chocolate would have the most at stake by far, and if they feel they’ll need an acceptance of genetically modified chocolate to survive, well… I’ll let you fill in the rest of the pieces to that puzzle.

I also encourage you to read both the links below for more details. The bottom line – pushing out a click-bait, irresponsible, misleading headline like “Chocolate is on track to go extinct in 40 years” reeks of a different kind of manipulation than genetic, and as chocolate connoisseurs we should all do our part to clear that up with people in our own circles, whenever the opportunity arises. Regardless of how the genetic modification of cacao does or does not move forward, the last thing we ever want to see is a situation where it does so dishonestly. We’ve already seen that movie once, and it didn’t end well.

For the latest on that, watch our groundbreaking GMO TRUTH video here.

Original article at Business Insider:
Science Alert article:

ENDANGERED SPECIES Hires New Marketing Director

I scored big at Christmas last month when I found a stash of Endangered Species Chocolate’s Dark Chocolate with Caramel & Spiced Apple holiday chocolate bars on sale at Sprouts for $1 each. No one in my nuclear family sits anywhere even near the chocolate connoisseur spectrum, so buying decent chocolate as a gift proves nearly impossible. This year, however, ESC at least offered a nice upgrade, and the bars were a huge hit with (almost) everyone.

Never ones to stand still, the company also made a new move in mid-December at a key position – hirng a new Director of Brand and Marketing. Enter Tod Dalberg, stepping in to handle the core responsibilities of developing all brand and marketing opportunities. According to the press release, Dalberg says –

“The brand offers an incredible opportunity to build on past successes and to position Endangered Species Chocolate as a lifestyle brand that intertwines our passions with our consumers’ beliefs of enjoying a premium chocolate while supporting causes focused on species, habitat and humanity.”

Tod previously held marketing positions with Best Buy, Musicland, The Salvation Army and Paradies Lagardère, with his Salvation Army likely offering a bit of synergy with ESC’s important philanthropic side. Current CEO Curt VanderMeer (see Rene Zimbelman’s 2017 On the Chocolate Regular feature on ESC for more on both Curt and ESC) looks to a very bright future with Dalberg now on board –

“As the natural chocolate category becomes more mainstream, we are building our strategic vision to capture more consumers that desire a great tasting chocolate that delivers on our promise to ‘Give Back’ to wildlife conservation. We see a time in our near future where Endangered Species Chocolate will be able to donate $1 million dollars annually for conservation through the sales of our delicious, Fairtrade and Non-GMO certified chocolate.”

Click below to view the full press release over at Inside Indiana Business.

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Vox on the “Chocolate Science Hype Machine”

I almost left this little news tidbit out of the issue here, because although its core point is completely valid, as editor and publisher of Chocolate Connoisseur Magazine, I also feel it’s a tad irresponsible on Vox’s part. I do, however, enjoy much of Vox’s reporting, and since I think their hearts are in the right place here, it’s definitely worth discussing.

First, their point about the scientific studies, much like what you’ll see within the GMO controversy I referred to up above, is sad but true. Company’s fund studies with eventual financial gain as the intent, which is not unexpected, but that intent often frames the study with a very specific conclusion in mind. In other words, it can taint the process, and that’s the reality of much of today’s “science.” Obviously, the chocolate companies want positive results for chocolate, and when 98% of all the studies show positive results, well… raise the red flags. That’s an insanely high rate for studies to score in the clearly positive column.

Conflicts of interest can get ugly in today’s scientific world, and this article at For Better Science shines a light on one ugly example, if you’re up for a more intense read:

So Vox makes a completely valid point here – you really don’t want to sit there with a giant bag of M&Ms and think you’re gorging yourself on flavanols! The article enters irresponsible territory, however, when it completely ignores higher quality chocolate (no offense to Green & Black’s, which does appear in the video).

As we clearly showed in this issue’s Healthy Bean column, a huge gap exists between even “plain” big chocolate bars and healthier alternatives, such as bean-to-bar, etc. Ignoring these alternatives and the smaller chocolate makers and chocolatiers of the world when making blanket statements like these, well… that does a disservice to both the chocolate creators and the more health-conscious consumers who rely on them for better snacks and treats.

Do we need more studies? Yes. Do we need to eliminate conflicts of interest and keep our feet firmly and ethically planted in the true science? Most certainly. Let’s just not throw all of the chocolate world under the bus in an effort to do so.