How Credible Is A Chocolate Competition When There Is No Validation Criteria For Contestants?

Brad Churchill
11/03/15 00:12:22
527 posts

Over the years, many people have asked me to enter my chocolate into competitions.  My answer has been a resounding "ABSOLUTELY NOT" for many reasons - one of which is that there is no "audit" step with respect to submissions.

Simply put: contestants can submit anything without being required to prove that they actually made the product.

Case in Point:  This past April, the "Academy of Chocolate" held a competition where chocolate makers and chocolatiers from all over the world submitted entries to be judged.

These contestants spent cumulatively THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS to get their creations to the competition.  They also spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours crafting their wares to be judged.


WHO VALIDATED THEIR WORK???  After all, if the winners are going to proudly celebrate their awards in order to entice more consumers to buy their wares over their peers', shouldn't there be some kind of audit - some kind of proof that they actually did what they were awarded for doing?

...and what if it was revealed that competitors fraudulently submitted entries simply to be able to use the perceived "prestige" created by the contest and it's award?  Would that not taint ALL of the contestants' awards?

I don't know.  I think it would.

What I do know is this:  In April, Papa Chocolat of Calgary (aka Bernard Callebaut the person) submitted an entry in the 80% Bean to Bar Category.  That entry he claimed was his Peruvian.

What I also know is that Bernard Callebaut (aka Papa Chocolat) has never made an ounce of chocolate in his entire life, and currently buys his couverture from ICAM Spa.  Ironically one of the 70%'s that ICAM Spa produces is Peruvian.  Now... Add a little liquor to it, mix it up, and presto!  You have an 80%.

Does that make his submission Bean To Bar?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Could it be a mistake?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  This man is the grandson of Eugenious Callebaut himself, and owned a successful chocolatier company with 20 stores for 25 years.  HE ABSOLUTELY KNOWS THE DIFFERENCE.

Does his blatant disregard for the rules taint all the hard work that HONEST artisans are doing?   ABSOLUTELY

I got into this business because of slimy, deceptive practices of people like Bernard Callebaut, and I will continue to speak out against them, because if even one single customer of mine sees his website, sees that award, and questions my claims, the poison taints MY business and MY hard work.

I truly hope the Academy of Chocolate sees this, does something about Bernard's lies, and sets the record straight.


Brad Churchill, a guy who REALLY DOES MAKE CHOCOLATE.


updated by @brad-churchill: 11/03/15 00:12:55
11/03/15 09:12:24
29 posts

Brad, what has Bernard done to you personally that causes you to constantly attack him and his products? I would think one's time would be better spent improving their own product and offerings, than to belittle and criticize others in the industry. Have you actually worked for him, and he slighted you, in some way? Bernard has done a lot to put chocolate confections on the map in Calgary. Props are due, and respect is earned for what he's done over the past 30+ years in the city. 

If you think your products stack up, why not submit them to be judged? What have you got to lose? As you stated to me personally, your products qualty speak (taste) for themselves, and taste rules...why not throw them into the ring and see how they stack up? 


Brad Churchill
11/03/15 11:25:34
527 posts

Dallas, you are completely missing the point here.

The point I'm making here has nothing to do with Bernard Callebaut as a person.  It has to do with HONESTY, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND FAIR PLAY in competition.

What REAL bean to bar manufacturer didn't win the award because a competitor lied and submitted product made by a large company?  Was the misrepresentation fair to them? Why should THEY be deprived of an award for their hard work?

Why would I want to compete if nobody is honestly representing themselves or at the very least there is no accountability or audit system?

What is the value of such a competition if people can cheat with impunity?

Forget Bernard Callebaut for a minute.  What if I said "Information has come to light which can prove that company X didn't actually make the chocolate they submitted and won an award with?"

Does it hold any less merit than my original post?

I don't think so.

It just so happens that I make a point of knowing my competitors in my market, what they do, what they don't do, and that my friend is simply intelligent business, and it just so happens that in this case the fraudulent submission is made by Bernard.

Over the years I've publicly pointed a lot of fingers at other people too.  If you lied in a competition and I found out about it I'd publicly slap you wherever I could too.  Somebody has to.  There's too much deception in this industry done in the name of selling chocolate to the consumer.


Clay Gordon
11/04/15 14:03:39
1,680 posts


If you go to the Academy of Chocolate web site you will find the criteria for what constitutes "bean-to-bar." Specifically:


Open to manufacturers who use cocoa beans (as opposed to cocoa liquor, paste, or couverture) as their raw material in any of the three specifications below.

Please specify on the entry form which best describes your bean to bar product. This is for office information only and will not be disclosed to the judges. [Emphasis in the original.]

  • Tree to Bar. Made from beans managed by the producer. This is the end-to-end process of manufacturing owned and controlled by a single business.
  • Tree to Factory. Management of cacao at the source with a third party manufacturing the bean to bar process.
  • Factory Roast to Conch [sic]. Bar made from beans purchased from a grower or an intermediary. All manufacturing processes i.e. roasting, grinding, refining and conching owned and controlled by a single business.

IMO, these "distinctions" make it possible for virtually everyone to claim to be bean to bar. As I interpret the guidelines, I could make a phone call to ECOM and get a container of beans - sight unseen - delivered to ICAM and have chocolate made and I would qualify.

WRT to Papa Chocolat - if Callebaut sources the beans and someone else makes the chocolate for them then it fits under the Factory Roast definition. That said, I can see how Original Beans, Idilio, and Åkesson fit the definition - they source beans and have the chocolate made for them - Factory Roast again. But it's harder for me to see how some others fit. And I am fairly knowledgeable.

To me, bean-to-bar means – at the very minimum – all stages of the transformation of raw cocoa beans into finished chocolate are performed under the direct supervision and control of the company claiming so. Secondarily, it means that the company actually has to sell product (bars) at retail in a package with their own name on it. 

I have long had a problem with the phrase bean-to-bar because of this malleability and I strongly encourage the Academy of Chocolate to take a long, hard, look at their classification criteria before the next installment of the Awards. This is because, in the long run, the context of the guidelines will get stripped from the award itself when it appears on a box or wrapper and the uninformed consumer will not see the asterisk that a knowledgeable professional might.

:: Clay

clay -
Brad Churchill
11/04/15 15:25:05
527 posts

Holy cow Clay.  I just about fell off my stool when I read your post!

We finally agree on something unilaterally!

Gotta go.  I need to print and frame this thread!  



Adriennne Henson
11/11/15 05:49:54
32 posts


I live here in New York City and would love to try your bars and confections and share with my chocolate colleague Brady

but I don't think you ship to the states and I can't get to where you are.

Brad Churchill
11/11/15 15:41:35
527 posts

Hi Adrienne

I hope to be able to increase volume enough in the new year to offer my bars over the web all over North America.  I've already bought some of the equipment.  Now I just need a place to install it and put it to work!  ;-)

The reason I don't ship right now, is because I can't meet local demand.




Clay Gordon
11/12/15 10:34:17
1,680 posts

Brad -

I reached out to a member of the Academy of Chocolate and shared my observation that the guidelines, as written, enabled pretty much everyone to qualify as "bean-to-bar" even if what they were doing was sourcing cocoa beans from a broker and shipping them for private label production.

The response I got was tepid, but my guess is that they will look at the issue more closely before the next competition. They will be holding their bi-annual meeting next October and I am going to suggest that this is a topic that gets discussed. In public. With everyone contributing.

clay -
11/12/15 11:27:47
55 posts

Brad Churchill:
Hi Adrienne I hope to be able to increase volume enough in the new year to offer my bars over the web all over North America.  I've already bought some of the equipment.  Now I just need a place to install it and put it to work!  ;-) The reason I don't ship right now, is because I can't meet local demand.   Cheers Brad


      I d love to try some of your chooclate as well. I trade you some of my santas and snowmen for some samples!!!!


Brad Churchill
11/12/15 16:20:59
527 posts



FWIW, I think bean to bar should be defined as "...all steps in the production of chocolate, including but not limited to purchasing. roasting, cracking and fanning, refining and conching cocoa beans into chocolate, must be done in-house.  No step can be contracted to a third party.  Furthermore, all steps in the production of the chocolate confections submitted for competition must also be done in house, with only the chocolate made in-house."  This is truly a definition of bean to bar.



Keith Ayoob
11/16/15 13:53:06
40 posts

Not sure I have a place here, as I'm just a layperson and consumer who likes really good stuff, but to me, "bean-to-bar" is Clay's definition, as he stated above.  Not complicated.  Bean-to-bar is bean-to bar, period.  You have a handle on it from start to finish.  If you don't, then that's fine, too.  Good chocolate doesn't always have to be bean-to-bar, but just say what it is. 

To a lay consumer, a little honesty goes a long way.  And if we find out you're lying or being's REALLY not good for business.  A company should never play with a customer's trust.

11/16/15 15:57:00
754 posts

I'll start a new business model around 'certified bean to bar' validation.  I'll be the 3rd party voice of credibility 8-)

Brad Churchill
11/16/15 23:40:29
527 posts

Sebastian:  I'd compete for sure if you were that voice.

Keith:  Clay's definition is really close for sure, but....  his statement of "all stages of the transformation of raw cocoa beans into finished chocolate..." needs to be clarified, or at the very least the word "raw" removed.  Raw can be interpreted many ways, and in fact today, almost NO manufacturer, large or small has complete control over the raw product.  They/we all get cocoa beans after they have been fermented and dried by the grower - a process which is crucial in the step of making good chocolate.  (in the case of large manufacturers, some of the beans they get aren't even fermented, as the grower has no idea they need to do so!)   In my case, two of the varieties of cocoa beans I buy, I do have some say in how they are fermented and dried, but in two other cases I don't.  However, I still get the cocoa beans whole, and in sacks, and still have to roast, crack and fan, and then grind them up into chocolate, which I then sell at full retail price in my store.  Whether I control the fermentation process or not should be irrelevant, as I still get the beans and turn them into bars, ergo, bean to bar.  The quality of the bean when I get it is, in my opinion and for the purpose of definition of the competitive category, irrelevant.  In fact this is why the competition is in place.  It's hard to make a good chocolate out of crappy cocoa beans!

I also agree that a company should never play with a consumer's trust.  Frankly it's a shame that I have to compete in a market where at least one of my peers (and a well known one at that), has lied to consumers for many years, and to this very day continues to do so.  When I stand up and speak the truth, I'm often looked upon as the bad guy.  It's sad really....

Cheers and thanks for your input.



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