Examining a Mast Brothers Assertion

Clay Gordon
@clay
04/30/12 11:26:49AM
1,680 posts

I rarely take a public position when it comes to chocolate companies, but a recent statement in a BusinessInsider.com video  brought me up short. Before I go on, I do have to say that what Rick and Mike - and everyone involved - have done is phenomenal. They were in the right place at the right time with the right product with the right ethos, capturing the cultural zeitgeist perfectly - guiding and riding it expertly.

But I have never been a huge fan of the chocolate they make, or more properly, their skills as chocolate makers. I don't mind vintaging in wine where the differences in a particular bottle occur from year to year. My issue with the Mast Brothers stems from the fact that I never know what I am going to get from batch to batch of what is ostensibly the same chocolate. If I find a decent bar and go back several weeks later to get another of the same, it will be different. Sometimes very different. And sometimes difficult to recognize as being the same chocolate. Yeah, I know, small batch variability and all that. When the Mast Brothers are on, they turn out good chocolate - but too often I am left wondering what all the fuss is about. I've even had bars with rancid nuts, purchased fresh from the factory store.

Going back to the video: At just after 3:00 minutes in, Rick claims that they've paid up to 10x the average price for commodity beans (and 3x-5x market price more generally).

Last Friday's spot closing price was $2352.94 per MT (metric ton, 1000kg), down from over $2800/MT in November, 2011. If what Rick is saying is true, then at some point in the last six months they paid between $23,000 and $28,000/MT for beans. 18 months ago, 10x market would have been nearly $40,000/MT.

Really? I'd like to see the paperwork supporting those claims.

If it's true, and the farmer actually received 10x market for their beans , then that's good news and I will be the first out the gate to let people know about it.

But - if it's not true - what are the implications and potential ramifications for the craft chocolate industry? Not just for the Mast Brothers, but for every craft chocolate maker who is trying hard to improve the lives and livelihoods of the cacao farmers they source from.

Your Thoughts?

*****

Do some math. Is it possible to pay $25,000/MT for beans and make a 2.5 oz (71gr) bar of chocolate that can be sold (profitably) for $7?

At $25,000/MT raw, whole beans in multiton quantities costabout $11.35 per pound. By implication in the video, that money is paid to the farmer and therefore would not include customs, insurance, freight, and other costs, so the calculation understates the actual landed price of the beans and therefore the following cost basis is low.

Assume an 80% yield on those beans (i.e., every 100 lbs of beans yields 80 lbs of usable nib after roasting and winnowing - this is generous) raises the price per pound of nib to about $14.15. Assuming a 70% cocoa content chocolate, that means that the cost of just the cocoa nib component of a pound of chocolate is north of $9.90 - also assuming zero loss in the process of making the finished product.




--
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/

updated by @clay: 12/22/15 04:24:25PM
Mike3
@mike3
04/30/12 01:47:38PM
63 posts

For what its worth, I paid $11 for a bar of their single origin Dominican Republic in Los Angeles, one of the only places I have seen it in my area (not that I have scoured the state for it, but its not for sale in my town).

If they are paying those prices, and its true that they process about 1 full bag a day (~50,000lbs/year; according to an interview--I need to get a reference for it though), that is a lot of money per year to shell out, especially when picking it up by sail boat!

Jeff
@jeff
04/30/12 03:00:42PM
94 posts

Highly unlikely those prices were paid anywhere, to anyone....

premium prices run about $5k+ a MT for FTO....and they arent saying they use FTO are they?

Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
04/30/12 04:00:35PM
527 posts

Theoretically it IS possible to pay that much for cocoa beans and still make craft chocolate at a profit. The finished price of the chocolate per lb (transport costs included) will be somewhere around $12-13 per lb. Given that their bars are 70 grams +/- they will get 6.5 bars per lb and at $10 per bar that's $65 per lb retail, putting their food cost at roughly 20% - 10% lower than the standard in the food industry.

Personally, I think paying that much for cocoa beans is foolish, and bragging about it is even more foolish.

The most I've ever paid for cocoa was $10k USD per tonfor my Chuao, but that also came with the ability to say that it is the legendary chuao. Jeff is correct that the average for premium beans is around $5k per ton.

This is of coursejust my opinion.

Brad

Jim Greenberg
@jim-greenberg
04/30/12 08:37:33PM
34 posts

I am still amazed what folks will pay at POP retail for chocolate. That, in itself, leads me to believe that the education of the consumer, through both private and public channels, has reached a noteworthy state.

As far as claims made about the cost of purchasing beans at a super-premium price, let's allow the truth to filter to the surface instead of digging for it. We must be professional in our pursuit of excellence and careful about the time spent monitoring the activities of others. Big world, lots of customers, do what you do and stay the course.

PS - look to Guatemala for some big breakthroughs in both crop maintenance and drying/fermentation practices in the next two years. Some money is being invested and it will improve the quality of their already interesting bean crop.




--
Jim Greenberg, Co-President
Union Confectionery Machinery Company
Jim@unionmachinery.com
www.unionmachinery.com
Jeff
@jeff
04/30/12 10:17:25PM
94 posts

good point jim. It is very easy for those of us making chocolate to be nit picky and catty about what others do in this industry. Its really none of my business what the mast brother pay or say they pay for their beans.

Mike3
@mike3
04/30/12 11:13:27PM
63 posts

It is true that we shouldn't care about what they say they are paying, but the members of this community are the only ones that are going to catch that type of exaggeration, one which would otherwise leave the general public thinking the Mast Brothers are saints pouring money on poor farmers, which could potentially sway consumers to choose them over X, Y, or Z chocolate brand....exaggerating a fishing story is one thing, but it is a little different when you're talking about what your business does (remember the debate over whether TCHO is bean to bar?).

I also agree with Jim that there is no reason to dig up dirt, but the statement was made in public, so to me its fair game to pick apart, as long as everything stays factual.

Felipe Jaramillo F.
@felipe-jaramillo-f
04/30/12 11:44:30PM
55 posts

After watching the video I don't get the impression that he implies the 10x price common or even paid to the farmer itself.

He seems to mention they have paid up to 10 times the regular price, but not necessarily that it is the regular practice. Iguess finding a unique origin or testing new ones can justify paying a 10x higher price for beans. If you look at online sources for fine beans, prices are way over the regular market price. This is a good way to familiarize oneself with new beans.

Clay Gordon
@clay
05/01/12 12:48:20PM
1,680 posts

There are a number of very interesting points here - which was the purpose of making the post in the first place, to encourage discussion on what I find to be a very interesting and surprisingly (to those not familiar with cocoa pricing) controversial. To make people THINK about how fine chocolate is being marketed.

It's important to keep in mind that most of the people who watch the video are not sophisticated and don't know what paying 10x market price means in dollar terms - and will neither question the assertion or think about what it means. They will naively assume that the farmers are getting all (or at least the major part) of the difference and that the Mast Brothers are making great strides in supporting the farmers wherever they buy their cocoa beans - when in actual fact they may not be. This makes it more difficult for other chocolate makers who (now) may be called upon to "justify" the "low" prices they pay for their beans.

I will argue that the assertion (paying 10x market price) without any supporting context is harmful to everyone - consumers, chocolate makers, and farmers.

Over on Twitter the following points were brought up by Colin Gasko:

1) Just mentioning a price, out of context, raises expectations in a potentially very unproductive way. [ Farmers are competitive and when they hear that someone is getting a higher price than they are, they want to get the higher price. When the higher price is "justified" as a result of an external certification that requires extra work, the difference can be explained in a way that the farmer can understand. If they're willing to make the investment, then they can earn the higher price as well. ]

2) The increased price has to be tied to something tangible - preferably an increase in quality and consistency. [ Paying for nothing accomplishes very little, and, counterintuitively, may do more harm than good. ]

Context is important. Without context it's impossible to assess the meaning and value of the assertion. It should be easy to provide the context - what about it, Mike and Rick?




--
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
05/01/12 02:06:24PM
527 posts

This is a very interesting topic, but in what wayare their claims any differentdifferent than "re-melters/Fonduers" claiming to make chocolate when all they make are confections out of chocolate, or large companies claiming "artisan" products, or using "fair trade" or "organic" as a marketing tool?

If it were Nestle' or Cargill, or Callebaut who started boasting about prices paid such as that I would be concerned, and I'm sure someone would call them to task. However, the Mast Brothers following / production capacityis so infinitesimally small in the whole grand scheme of of even New York chocolate consumption (let alone US chocolate consumption), that it will have virtually no impact on what happens in the chocolate industry.

For those of us who are in the industry, actually "making" chocolate, it's good to know what others are doing and saying, and at the very least prepare our answers if the question arises. However, the overall impact of what a micro chocolatier says or does hardly creates a ripple in the pond, so my position is why worry about it? I think I'll wait to circle the wagons when Nestle' makes such an outlandish claim.

Someone wise once told me to stop sweating the small stuff....

Just my thoughts...

Brad

Thomas Forbes
@thomas-forbes
05/01/12 08:35:47PM
102 posts

I have not been out to visit the Mast brothers since last fall but have bought some of their bars since at a variety of locations. I like it but am still a novice. I also love what they are doing and hope to somewhat replicate what they are doing but working within the Dominican Republic. The whole pricing and grading thing will be closely examined on my next trip to the DR after having the ability to ask the right questions, primarily from participating on this board. Last summer I bought a 100 pound bag of fermented (Hispanola in the DR) beans from Cooproagro (formally block 1 of Conacado) for about US$190. The commodity price was around $3,000 at the time and farmers were getting around $144 for 100 lbs. for Sanchez which is unfermented and around $158 for fermented. All the fermentation, beyond a couple of farmers in the areas I work, is done by the bigger producers or the farmer cooperatives. Farmers are now encouraged to get the cacao wet to one of these fermentation centers but I still do not know how that is priced from the farmer's perspective. The price for cacao is pretty much the same whether a farmer is a member of a cooperative, associated with a major producer or sells independently from what I know. I will have more to add in July.

About a year ago I read an article somewhere and then saw a video on the Mast Brother's website about them bringing, I think 20 tons of beans from the DR to NYC on a sailing ship. Very interesting and on one of the bags I saw the name of the farmer's cooperative in the DR. About 3 weeks into my trip and after asking around at Conacado, I rode my motorcycle and found the Red de Guaneco and spoke with a women who manages the cooperative. Found out that there has been 5 or 6 Peace Corps volunteers who have worked with the community over the last decade and the last two or three focused on supporting the cooperative. US AID funded much of the construction of the buildings, fermentation boxes, and the plastic covered drying areas. They sell dried beans, and cacao powder which is processed for them in country, and she will make you hot chocolate to drink when you visit. It is a mini version of the blocks which feed into Conacado. There is a list of the 100 members of the Red and how much cacao each supply. I did not get details about grading and pricing but discussed their dealings with Mast Brothers and Taza where I also saw a video implying they developed and supported the farmers in this cooperative without mentioning Peace Corps or US AID.

The big players like Rizek, Roig, Munne, and Hermanos Cortes may also supply them quality beans but I seriously doubt the farmer is getting more than their $158 for 100 pounds (now it is less) of beans which are fermented in the cooperative. The cooperative then receives US$800 a ton more than the commodity price for Hispanola when sold on the open market.

I would love to know what Hector Rizek sells his beans for to Michel Cluizel for the Los Ancones bar which has the Rizek's ID'ed on the back. When you open up the book on chocolate sold in the store, a big picture of Don Rizek is on the first page looking over a couple workers on a farm.

Clay Gordon
@clay
05/02/12 12:00:16PM
1,680 posts

Brad -

Here on TheChocolateLife we discuss many things that are not necessarily interesting to members of the general public.

You are right when you say that claims like the Mast Brothers will have little to no affect on the chocolate industry as a whole, but it has, and will continue to have, a huge effect on the craft chocolate community here in the US, as well as on foreign companies who do business here in the US. Any deliberate misrepresentation is an issue.

Using Fairtrade and organic as greenwashing techniques is insidious, and ultimately, misunderstanding about the value that fair trade and sustainable initiative actually deliver affect people's lives in more direct and harmful ways.

I have brought (and will continue to bring) to the community's attention issues that I think are relevant to the community because I believe - just by the act of becoming a member - people have signaled an interest in these larger issues.

I have to disagree that what a micro-chocolatier says or does hardly creates a ripple. Take a look at the press the Mast Brothers gets. Pay attention to the channels they are in. People listen, pay attention, and measure others' performance by what they say. While the effects may not be seen in the supermarket or on Nestle's or Mars' bottom line - it does affect other craft chocolate makers and the people who really do care about the evolution and growth of the market.




--
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
05/02/12 12:49:54PM
527 posts

Clay;

To some degree you're right. I get a tremendous amount of press as well, have been on the front page of every local newspaper,front and center on regional television as well, and have had some of my recipes published - in all over 40 different media appearances/publications.

When you talk to people who areIN the chocolate industry, many people have heard of me. Chances are they haveread something I've written, or some review about me somewhere online. However outside of the chocolate industry it's a different story and there's a good reason: Almost nobody pays attention to traditional media these days. The proof is in the pudding so-to-speak.In the past 31/2 years, in spite of garnering 10's of thousands of dollars worth of free press in a community of a million people, less than 5% of our gross saleshas some from it - 5 % of over 52,000 transactions! What's even more interesting, is that in the weekly events I host in my shop, while everyone claims to love chocolate only 25% of the attendees have ever heard of Choklat. After 3 1/2 years of publiclykicking sand in the faces of every local chocolatier, only 25% of the population has heard of me!

Having said all of that, when you look at the size of New York, or even the US in general (10X the population of Canada), I think you'll find that very few people will have heard of Mast Brothers in spite of all the press they get, UNLESS of course, that person is IN the chocolate industry - and most people aren't in the industry.

I think their words will have more effect on those in the craft chocolateindustry, but based on the market research that I continue to do, their words will have a negligible effect on the general public - largely because they didn't hear what Mast Bros said in the first place, and secondly because a large portion of the general public simply doesn't care.

Now, having said all of that, I'm in no way diminishing what you offer here to the chocolate community. It's been a valuable resource for me, which is one of the reasons I keep contributing. However I think if you poll your thousands of members, I think you'll find that almost all of them work with chocolate in some capacity - they aren't just end consumers.

Again, I think it's great that we police each other in this industry, and this popular forum is a great way of spreading the word. However on the grand scheme of things, what we say here will have almost no effect on the general public - kind of like screaming in a vacuum.

I'm completely fine with agreeing to disagree on some levels, but would like to say that I vehemently agree with your stance on deliberate misrepresentation. I'm just trying to be pragmatic in my assessment of the level and scope of potential misrepresentation. Forexample: You have 5,000 members (I'm guessing). I'm also guessing (optimistically) that another 5,000 people lurk this forum. That's 10,000 people out of the 350 million people in North America alone - or about one person per city. How many of those people do you think will care enough about what Mast Bros (or any other chocolatier for that matter)say to be the town cryer and convince others to change their buying habits? Like I said.... Hardly a ripple to the general public - which is probably a good thing, as maybe what he said was a slip of the tongue, or he was a bit "enthusiastic" about his product. In the end is that one sentence any better or worse than the majority of chocolate shop employees who claim their owner makes chocolate in the back? What's worse?

Noka Chocolate is the poster child for this example. How many people in the chocolate industry would actually "Pay" for one of their outrageously priced and pretentious confections? Certainly not I or you! Yet they still do great business in spite of the negative comments available on the 'net. Most people don't know, and many don't care.

...just my thoughts.

Brad.

Jeff
@jeff
05/02/12 02:37:38PM
94 posts

People listen, pay attention, and measure others' performance by what they say.

If my work is being judged or assessed by others because of the spin some hipsters with deep pockets in Brooklyn say, as opposed to the actual quality of the product, then this industry is doomed.

Scott
@scott
05/02/12 05:31:26PM
44 posts

Brad,

Noka Chocolate is no longer in business. Their brand management has become a textbook example of what not to do. (See Chapter 7 of Dr. Eric Anderson's Social Media Marketing: Game Theory and the Emergence of Collaboration.)


Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
05/03/12 12:57:37AM
527 posts

Scott;

After reading your post I went online and found DallasFood's 10 part article on Noka. It was great, and epitomizes what I've been talking about here in Calgary for a few years. It's much better written than anything I could come up with, and I'm personally glad that Noka's out of business.

Cheers and thanks for the update.

Brad

Thomas Forbes
@thomas-forbes
05/03/12 04:34:59PM
102 posts

I also just read through the articles. Very interesting and well done.

Clay Gordon
@clay
05/14/12 02:30:36PM
1,680 posts

Chris:

Unfortunately, the chocolate industry is not immune from manufacturers claims that don't match reality; the example of Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate immediately comes to mind. Thus, there is ALWAYS a place for questioning and criticism. As the creator and moderator of TheChocolateLife - and the creator of chocophile.com - this is something that I've been doing for well over a decade. Those who have followed my work know that I come from a place of deep respect for, and interest in growing, the craft and artisan chocolate community and markets.

Those who've followed my writings here and elsewhere know that I am skeptical of the value of the minuscule "investments" being made in sustainable cocoa production by major manufacturers.

It's important to remember that 99% of the people who see the video have no understanding of the market for cocoa - and that includes many people who consider themselves to be chocolate connoisseurs - and what the price paid for cocoa really means.

If the 10x was paid to the growers, then that's interesting to know, especially if the price paid reflected a premium for quality. However, if the price paid did not go to the grower, but went to middlemen, brokers, and/or shippers, then the statement is disingenuous and misleading in many ways - most important of which is that most people outside the chocolate industry automatically assume that growers always benefit from higher prices.

While I may have been off-target in wondering about the profitability of making a chocolate bar whose primary ingredient cost 10x market price, it is an interesting exercise to lead people through, especially for those who make, or are looking to make, chocolate from the bean. Brad's analysis is a cogent one, but I think fails to take into account the cost of doing business in New York City (much higher than Calgary).

In the end, I think that virtually all chocolate is underpriced in the sense that very few chocolate makers are paying a price for beans that represents the true cost of self-sustaining production. Chocolate lovers are in for a rude awakening over the next decade as demand increases and the supply cannot keep up, in part because of a serious lack of investment in farms in major producing areas over the past two decades. Thus, it's more important than ever to question the prices being paid for beans and to understand how much of the money being paid actually makes it back to the grower.




--
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Clay Gordon
@clay
05/14/12 09:50:55PM
1,680 posts



--
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
ChocoFiles
@chocofiles
05/15/12 09:51:49AM
251 posts

Hi Clay,

I'd like to clarify some of the math that you did. You said:

"Do some math. Is it possible to pay $25,000/MT for beans and make a 2.5 oz (71gr) bar of chocolate that can be sold (profitably) for $7?

At $25,000/MT raw, whole beans in multiton quantities costabout $11.35 per pound. By implication in the video, that money is paid to the farmer and therefore would not include customs, insurance, freight, and other costs, so the calculation understates the actual landed price of the beans and therefore the following cost basis is low.

Assume an 80% yield on those beans (i.e., every 100 lbs of beans yields 80 lbs of usable nib after roasting and winnowing - this is generous) raises the price per pound of nib to about $14.15. Assuming a 70% cocoa content chocolate, that means that the cost ofjust the cocoa nib componentof a pound of chocolate is north of $9.90 - also assuming zero loss in the process of making the finished product."

It looks to me like there may be some mistakes in the calculations you used. Here are some calculations that I made:

Assume $25,000/MT

80% yield means that 1 MT yields 800 kg of cacao nibs.

So 800 kg costs $25,000.

$25,000/800 kg = $31.25/kg or $.03125/g

Mast Brothers bars are 71g.

70% of each bar is cacao so 1 bar has 49.7g of cacao.

Putting it all together: $.03125/g x 49.7g cacao = $1.55/bar for the cacao.

Add in the cost of the sugar and they still make a profit. If they paid 5x then the cost per bar is only about $0.80.

Of course, this ideal yield with no other losses, so their profit margin is still lower, but it does seem feasible.

The Mast Brothers also claimed "up to 10x" so it's not at all clear how much cacao they bought at this price. I might suspect that it was a very small percentage of their total volume.

I'm not being critical; I'm just trying to get accurate math. You're right that this was an instructive exercise to do.

I also think that you point about asking how much of this profit actually got to the farmers is spot on.

Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
05/15/12 08:14:34PM
527 posts

Lowe;

Not to split hairs here, but you're assuming that the 70% cocoa content is 100% cocoa nib. It may not be. In fact very few chocolate companies use 70% beans, as the fina. cocoa butter content is too low and makes the chocolate thick and hard to work with.

I tried to look at their website to get a more accurate percentage, but there's essentially nothing about their bars on there. I would hazard a guess that it's most likely a 55/15 split between cocoa beans and cocoa butter. However this is just a guess. If I am accurate, then given the price of their beans in relation to the cocoa butter they buy, it would only bring their cost down a bit more.

Cheers.


updated by @brad-churchill: 06/10/15 04:17:48AM
Thomas Forbes
@thomas-forbes
05/15/12 09:03:17PM
102 posts

Mast Brothers do not use cocoa butter in their bars from their label and what they told me.

Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
05/15/12 11:56:20PM
527 posts

Thanks Thomas

Clay Gordon
@clay
05/16/12 08:12:24AM
1,680 posts

After Lowe took a look at my back of the envelope math, I decided to do some more concrete modeling of the costs involved and created a spreadsheet on Google Docs for everyone to look at .

The spreadsheet takes a slightly more sophisticated look at more of the costs associated with producing a chocolate bar, not just the price of the cocoa.

The goal was not to "prove" that I was "right" (okay, I did want to make sure I was not completely off) but to provide a basic template for a pricing tool that anyone who is making chocolate (or wants to make chocolate) can use to help figure out how various different costs affect the final (retail) sale price of a bar. I have also included a three-tier distribution scheme in the pricing (broker, distributor, retailer). Obviously not everyone is going to have these three tiers (especially in the beginning), but having the costs built into the model is extremely important, IMO.

Everyone who is interested should be able to download this spreadsheet and play with it and modify it as they need to.

It's not perfect, and I know it so I am not asking people to critique it. It's still naive in the sense that it does not properly account for all costs, but at least it should give people an idea of relative contributions of various factors. Members are free to download, modify, and tinker to meet their needs.




--
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Sunita de Tourreil
@sunita-de-tourreil
05/22/12 05:29:46PM
19 posts

Well done Scott. I read your series on Noka years ago and thought it was excellent. Congratulations on helping to bring more integrity and transparency to fine chocolate. Exactly why this discussion is important, we need to be consistent about information that goes out to the public, there is so much misinformation around chocolate, we all need to do what we can.

FYI: my business is about doing educational tastings in the SF Bay Area, and I am always learning more about chocolate (aren't we all?) so I appreciate this forum tremendously. I aspire to contribute more here.

Sunita de Tourreil

The Chocolate Garage

Sunita de Tourreil
@sunita-de-tourreil
05/22/12 05:37:18PM
19 posts

Do farmers get such high prices for Fair Trade Organic cacao? This price seems more like what you would pay for a superior grade cacao. I was under the impression that FT cacao could bring a premium of about $150 above the commodity price... and I would be surprised to hear that Organic added such a premium to cacao. Assuming a $2-3K per metric tonne price...

My understanding is that paying $5K per metric tonne is a very handsome price. Never mind paying $20-30K per metric tonne.

Thomas Forbes
@thomas-forbes
05/22/12 06:25:45PM
102 posts

Farmers in the Dominican Republic who are members of farmer's cooperatives get the market price for the cacao. The benefits are access to fermentation centers, technical assistance, ability to get certified organic and 10% of the profits from the cooperative go back into community projects. No other real advantage from what I have learned so far. The major cacao producers are also establishing similar relationships with the more medium sized farms. There are other certifications which they qualify.

I will be looking closely on how cacao is graded coming out of the farm and the price differentials. From what I have seen so far, have control over harvesting and fermentation are the key components out of control of most chocolate makers working with Dominican beans. The Rizeks are probably more advanced on a large scale, in creating a fine cacao which can identified from the farm. I know there is sourcing for cacao beans at the cooperatives but do not know to what extent. So much of what everyone handles is bulk cacao and will looking at how higher graded cacao is sourced.

I do know of three other individuals/groups who are also harvesting, fermenting and handling the entire process up to chocolate in the DR and the US.

From what I have been told, the differential for fermented cacao is about US$800 per ton above commodity prices. Any price above that is news to me.

Channy
@channy
05/29/13 10:26:08PM
11 posts
I have to put my two cents in here. I am from Adelaide, South Australia, and while I have never heard or seen anything to do with Choklat outside of these forums, I have heard and seen Mast Brothers Chocolate everywhere. Even in Adelaide it's not uncommon for people to know them and any serious chocolate lover will know them. Their chocolate is stocked in at least two- three places here in South Austrlaia and countless more in Sydney and Melbourne. I have to say I really agree with Clay as I am actually considering starting my own experiments with producing chocolate and the price I should pay for Cocoa beans is very relevant. This whole discussion is very relevant, hence me sitting here reading through anything and everything about chocolate and what people think of other craft chocolate producers.
Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
05/31/13 01:40:44AM
527 posts

Chantelle;

Mast Brothers ships their product. Choklat doesn't. It makes sense thatthe Mast Brotherswould be more well known, as more people all over the world have access to their chocolate. That doesn't mean their chocolate is any good though. In fact, given their very limited production ability and the fact that they are in the center of a wealthy city with a daytime population of over 8 million people and need to sell outside of their geographic region, I would seriously question their quality.

If the locals aren't buying it...

Conversely, my business is in a city 1/8th the size and we can barely keep up with demand. In fact some days I'm very happy a lot of this city still hasn't heard of my business (I don't advertise). Why would I care what the rest of the world thinks of my product or business if my supply is constantly sold out locally?

...and anything more than $10k for a ton of beans is a load of bunk in my opinion. Either that, or the buyer got played.

Brad

Channy
@channy
05/31/13 10:25:27AM
11 posts
Brad anyone might think my reply was a slight to your company and chocolate- and it wasn't. I have never tried your product, and I wasn't even comparing you Mast Brothers at all. I actually think most of their chocolates are grainy and inconsistent. That brings me back to the point of this whole conversation. Clay brought this up to make a point of the possible unrealistic claims they make as bean to bar producers, regarding their purchasing bean price. What I am saying is that this is a valuable conversation that must be had- not just because there needs to be more transparency in modern companies but also that if you are staking a big claim about potentially 'doing good for society' then your peers must not openly disagree. Secondly, and more personally, I truly want to look into bean to bar, and I want to know what other people think of what is a legitimate price to pay for good beans (and what is too high). In summary that is two reasons this conversation must be had. I'm glad It has been had
Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
05/31/13 12:52:18PM
527 posts

Chantelle;

At first I took it as a jab, and started to write one of my tyrades, but then went back, read the thread in context to what you wrote and retyped my response.

Good thing. I would have thoroughly embarrased myself.

I agree with you whole heartedly about transparency. That's what my business is all about.

From a business perspective it's also a good thing to observe a company's practices surmise why they are doing something, and then read feedback from those who have tried their product and see a correlation between what they are doing and the reasons. In this case, the locals don't like their chocolate, so they have to find other markets in order to move product.

Cheers and best wishes in your venture.

Brad

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