Raising the Bar: A Story of Bean-to-bar Chocolate Production in New Zealand
Chocolate is considered one of the most gratifying confections there is, and this holds as true in New Zealand as elsewhere in the world. While broader culinary traditions in New Zealand have been well documented, the food history of chocolate production has not yet been explored. Consequently, this study explores the history of chocolate production, with a specific focus on bean-to-bar chocolate production, in New Zealand. Within the realm of a qualitative and interpretive paradigm, this work, based on a narrative history and interviews with current bean-to-bar chocolate makers in New Zealand, traces the history of bean-to-bar chocolate production in New Zealand. This process allowed for a multi-faceted reconstruction and interpretation of historical data to help understand various transformations within New Zealand’s chocolate industry, an industry long dominated by multinational companies such as Cadbury and Nestlé. This domination by overseas companies has recently been challenged by the emergence of small artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate makers and the rise of local chocolate company Whittaker’s. Among the key findings is evidence of the maturing of the local chocolate industry to the point where it is clear that New Zealand-made chocolate is now widely viewed and trusted by local consumers as a high-quality product. This trust extends to both the current strong player in the market, Whittaker’s, and equally to smaller artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate makers, a confidence in product comparable to the New Zealand craft beer industry and the more well-established wine industry. The research also finds that the emergence of more artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate makers and their focus on more transparency around the production of chocolate reflects similar trends overseas, highlighting the fragile structure surrounding growth and sustainability in the chocolate production industry. The findings of the research are timely as they highlight opportunities for the industry to place current worldwide sustainability concerns in perspective with a view to the future, a future which New Zealand chocolate manufacturers cannot avoid.