The Tasty World of Fine Chocolate – A New Swerve on Luxury

There are fine drinks, such as wines and whiskey, which attract investors as well as for their taste. Although not collectible as such, there is also an emerging fine chocolate company that emphasizes rigorous sourcing and high work standards. It’s also a game about sustainability. This publication bites into history.

The health of the global luxury goods market can be an indicator for wealth management; if people buy high-end products, it usually means they are in a confident mood. And yet the ways people express their desire for quality are changing, driven in part by concerns about sustainability.

The fine wine market, to name just one case, has long been not only a place of luxury spending where one can flaunt, but also cultivate taste. Now comes a new frontier in the space of gastronomy and sophistication: chocolate.

A new company, Firetree Chocolate, wants to do for high-quality chocolate what some craft beer specialists have done for beer. Instead of mass-produced products, Firetree, founded in 2017, is about unusual and relatively small production sizes. Aimed at connoisseurs, their products come with an engaging narrative. And “dark” chocolate doesn’t just taste good, proponents say, it’s also healthy.

“People are fascinated and demanding backstory,” David Zulman, managing director of Firetree Chocolate Limited, told this news service on a recent call. “We are very strong in our relationships with farmers. (Zulman spoke to this news service just before the Christmas break. Heritage Briefing can fully reveal that he tasted some of the Firetree wares.)

Firetree chocolate is part of a trend of some brands catering to the top 1% of the market. Its products are based on specific sources of cocoa. Firetree works with local farmers with very strict quality controls, said Zulman, originally from South Africa. (He now lives in the UK.)

“We know the farmers personally…that’s why we chose them. We know they have the ability to achieve the quality of cocoa we are looking for and that they can do post-harvest fermentation and drying. And we know that they do not use child labor, slave labor and follow good labor practices,” he said. “Like the wine industry, this job is about understanding the
land.”

Zulman said Firetree pays farmers about two or three times the mass market farm gate price. The company eliminates several intermediate steps.

“We do this to control our supply chain and to make sure the farmer gets the price we have agreed on. We go the extra mile – regularly visit the farmers, build a relationship with them and get the best quality possible,” he continued.

Firetree started making chocolate towards the end of 2018 and the brand was launched in late 2019. The company, which exports to 10 countries, works with select departments, delicatessens, as well as an online route. He made chocolate especially for Harrods, the famous London store, which earned him an important business relationship.

The company is small compared to some of the big players, such as Nestlé in Switzerland, The Hershey Company (USA), Lindt & Sprüngli (Switzerland), Arcor (Argentina) and Meiji (Japan). Several of these companies, such as Nestlé and Hershey, are listed, giving investors a way to “play chocolate” on the stock market. The global chocolate market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.78% to reach $182.09 billion in 2025, from $137.599 billion in 2019, according to Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence. And this report added that chocolates with organic ingredients are “increasingly gaining in the market and are offered at a higher price”. This describes Firetree.

Winning admirers
Aficionados realize this. Firetree has won accolades for its products from entities such as the Chocolate Academy, winning seven Chocolate Academy Awards, nine Great Taste Awards, two Great British Food Awards and one Harrods Award.

Most of the cocoa beans used by Firetree come from the South Pacific Islands and places like Madagascar.

The remote islands in the South Pacific and Oceania are part of what is known as the “Ring of Fire”: a circle of 452 volcanoes surrounding this ocean.

“We call it ‘our Firetree’ because when the tree has the sun behind it and is hanging with red, yellow, orange and green cocoa pods, it looks like a tree on fire. Add to that imagery the Pacific Ring of Fire and we get it both ways,” Zulman said.

This is where the fire tree, or cocoa tree, comes from, hence the name chocolate. The fire tree thrives on the rich, porous volcanic soil found on these islands. It is here and a few other places in the world – for example, the volcanic island of Madagascar.

Firetree says its chocolate is high in cocoa and therefore low in sugar. The health benefits of dark chocolate are increasingly appreciated. Dark chocolate contains organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants.

So on that virtuous note, the business and pleasure of luxury chocolate seems to deserve some attention. Just be careful not to bite too much too fast.

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