Salon du Chocolat – the 'World Cup' of the Chocolate Industry

By Mike Norton, December 5, 2023

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A chocolate revolution is on the horizon in China, and leading the charge is Gérald Palacios, CEO of Salon du Chocolat.

Gérald Palacios, CEO of Salon du Chocolat
Image courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

Headquartered in Paris, but dedicated to advancing chocolate culture globally, Salon du Chocolat has earned its reputation as the world's most prestigious chocolate exhibition.

Dubbed the 'World Cup' of the chocolate industry, it's where visionaries from cocoa-growing nations, chocolate producers, equipment innovators, and dessert artisans unite in a spectacular celebration of all things chocolate.

Image courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

Image courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

Amidst the expansive FHC – Shanghai Global Food Trade Show 2023 in Shanghai, the Salon is actively engaging palates, introducing new chocolate enthusiasts to its delights, and establishing a firm foothold in the Chinese market.

“Chocolate, put simply, is a moment of pleasure,” enthuses Palacios. “It's an affordable luxury that everyone can enjoy.”

Image courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

Image courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

However, this isn't your typical convenience store fare. Here, we delve into the realm of chocolate gastronomy.

“Chocolate is craftsmanship, and these craftsmen are people who work really hard; they need to understand nature, the raw material, to understand taste and gastronomy. And, of course, to love what they do. 

“So you have a mix of creativity, passion and a demand for excellence. And the final product has total accessibility; everyone can enjoy it, and that’s what makes chocolate such an attractive proposition.”

IMG_6767.JPGImage courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

Image courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

It is becoming more welcoming for artisan producers to enter the market; machinery used to make chocolate in the past was prohibitively expensive, but is now within reach for artisan producers and hobbyists.

This has resulted in an upsurge of ‘bean-to-bar’ producers – where the chocolate maker meticulously oversees every step of the process, from the origin of the cacao, through production and the creation of the bar.

IMG_6761.JPGImage courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

Image courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

Yet, this is merely the beginning. Luxury brands are venturing into the chocolate market, with high-end offerings emerging from renowned five-star hotels, celebrity chefs, and even labels like Louis Vuitton. 

Given China's penchant for branded goods, this trend could potentially propel the allure of high-end and artisanal chocolate within the country.

Palacios draws a parallel between the trajectory of chocolate in the Chinese market and the evolution of wine or coffee, where consumers swiftly transitioned from basic awareness to nuanced understanding of origins and product quality.

IMG_6620.JPGImage courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

So how does Salon du Chocolat fit in to this new landscape? Palacios characterizes it as a unifying force, bringing together diverse segments of the industry. 

“We bring big names and small producers together; we have very important things like the organizations that campaign against child labor, because we can talk about the most important issues in the world of cacao. But also we do fashion shows, with chocolate dresses.

“So for us the idea is it's really about education and content to help people understand chocolate. What is good chocolate? How do you conserve it? Where does come from? How do you make the different types? So this is also the platform of visibility for the industry.”

The exhibition truly embodies the industry's diversity. Numerous bean-to-bar producers from China and other parts of the globe showcase their wares under the Salon du Chocolat banner.

The event offers informative presentations, tastings, and a sprawling chocolate museum housing meticulously crafted replicas of historical Chinese artifacts, all fashioned from chocolate.

Image courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

Image courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

Palacios is heartened by the enthusiasm exhibited at the exhibition.

“I'm very surprised and I'm delighted that so many younger consumers are here; they are very interested, and they ask questions. So I think the base in China is really quite good.”

So watch this space for the development of China’s chocolate scene in the years to come, bolstered by the initiatives of Salon du Chocolat.

Image courtesy of Salon du Chocolat

Yet, for Palacios, chocolate is more than just a commodity; it serves as the ultimate cultural bridge.

“Regardless of where you come from, chocolate is a simple delight for every category of people, more than coffee or wine, because it can be enjoyed by everyone from young children to very old grandparents. 

“And I like to say it's a universal link, it's a common language. And I love that because I think more and more in the world, we need something that can go across cultural and geographical divides and chocolate is one of those things. 

“It is a moment of joy. And I think that’s important.”

[Cover image courtesy of Salon du Chocolat]

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