Thoughts on the 2018 International Chocolate Awards European Bean-To-Bar Awards

Thoughts on the 2018 International Chocolate Awards European Bean-To-Bar Awards

One of the challenges with analyzing the list of winners is that it’s not published in a form that lends itself to analysis.

Therefore, the first thing I had to do is regularize and normalize the list. For example, you want to get all of the percentages into the same column. The same is true of Makers, Origins, and other categories where comparisons can be made.

The first step is to copy and paste the relevant text on the page. You will find the complete, original, list of winners here.

  • The next step is to find a way to separate like kinds of data into columns. I did this using programming text editor called Sublime (Mac) using regular expressions to do sophisticated find and replace on delimiters in the text. Fortunately the listings are fairly consistent and regular. I have done a lot of this kind of work on other collections, so it took me about fifteen minutes to get this part of the project done.

Once I’d taken care of everything I could do using regular expressions, the next step was to go in by hand, a process that took somewhere between one and two hours. This work I did in MS Excel. This hand work included:

  • Moving the cocoa percentage (when included in the description) into its own column.
  • Moving the origin (when included in the description) into its own column.
  • Adding a notes column into which I could copy some information from each listing.
  • Eliminating redundant information where it made sense. For example, now that percentage and origin were in their own columns they could be removed from the description.

Once all of this was done, what can we learn? What follows are objective observations from the data.

I did the analysis by importing a .CSV version of the file into a database tool called Airtable because it has built-in functions to do most of the analyses rather than my writing custom macros or formulas.

Numbers with an asterisk following them have been updated from the original post.

Added on September 24, 2018; from the website, the number of entries in this round was “almost 500.”
  1. 214 awards were given in 30* categories, including Best in Competition and special jury awards, to 67 different entrants. (Entrants submitting chocolate made by another maker, where identified, were not double-counted.)
  2. 41 Golds were awarded (19% of winners). 90 Silvers were awarded (42% of winners). 83 Bronzes were awarded (39% of winners). 2 Gold “Best in Competition” were given and 22 awards were given in special categories.
  3. Among winners where a bean origin is specified, the most highly awarded origin was Nicaragua with 33* winners. Peru comes next with 30 winners followed by Madagascar (23) followed by Honduras and Ecuador (8 each). 68 entries did not specify an origin and three entries explicitly stated they were blends.
  4. Winners hailed from 29 different countries. The country with the most winners was the UK (33), then France (31), followed by Denmark (24), Austria and Italy (15 each), Belgium (13), and Iceland (11) [7 countries] for a total of 127 or 59% of all awards.
  5. The most highly-awarded maker was Friis-Holm (Denmark) with 22 awards followed by Duffy’s (UK) with 12, then Omnom (Iceland) with 11 awards. Together, they received nearly 15% of all awards given. 100% of Friis-Holm awards identified Nicaragua as the county of bean origin, representing over two-thirds of all of the winners using Nicaraguan beans.

I have downloaded the Grand Jury finalist list for the European awards, and a future project is to figure out, of the entries that made it to final judging, the percentage given awards. Of course, we do not (and cannot unless the competition organizers choose to share that information), the number of entries that were not judged for reasons that include being damaged in shipment. Therefore it’s not possible to calculate the ratio of entries to winners.

You can find a read-only copy of the database here. If you have any updates to suggest – especially if you see an error or know a percentage cocoa content or an origin for an entry on the list – please let me know in a comment and I will update the database, and the numbers here, accordingly.

Read some analysis on the 2018 Americas round by clicking on the link below:

2018 International Chocolate Awards - Americas Finalists Announced
I’ve downloaded the data from the awards page and after cleaning it up, did some analysis. Here are some initial top-line stats. Total number of entries Approximately 800. There is a very close correlation between the number of Winners and the number of Grand Jury Finalists – most

Archived Comments

Comment by: EaariatuUt
Posted on: May 21, 2020

European chocolate awards are conducted and granted for the appends of the candidates. All the performers of the award winners and is inquired for the state of the art technology for the field. Approach is rushed or the naming of the clues for all chocolate means for the citizens.

Comment by: DiscoverChoc
Posted on: Sep 17, 2018

Thanks for letting me know! I need a lot more of this kind of help!

Comment by: JuanBuchert
Posted on: Sep 15, 2018

Hello Clay, #69 (Legast) and #143 (Chocokoo) used Costa Rican beans.

Comment by: DiscoverChoc
Posted on: Sep 05, 2018

The pack idea was suggested as a metaphor – I realize it applies to events that are timed. Clearly in the Tour de France there is just one first place. Just one second place. Just one third place.

While I think the approach of a single award at each level makes a lot of sense – although I would be okay with one gold, two silvers, and three bronzes max, as long as there were at least 2x that number (i.e., twelve minimum) of entries in the category – if there were a fourth level of award; the proverbial t-shirt.

I don't think either the AoC or ICA awards programs could be economically sustainable if there were only one winner in each category. The 190 non-special awards in the EuroBar competition were given in 19 categories.

What happens when a bar is given an award in multiple competitions? This is when we really start to see the effects of prize inflation.

There's no reason to be sorry about being firm in your opinion. Most of the time it's a very good thing. I am not always happy about the way you express that opinion, but I am very glad you have them and that you express them.

Comment by: Choklat
Posted on: Aug 28, 2018

reply to Clay, the pack scoring system only applies in any race or competition to entrants that are not in contention for a gold, silver, or bronze.  No judge wants to go back to the video to see if you were 114th place or 115th place because it doesn't matter.    If you read the PDF of the ICA's rules it states to the best of my knowledge that there already IS a cap on the number of silvers and bronzes (I think 5 and 3 respectively).  However they don't even follow those rules and hand out awards like someone handing out flyers for their lost puppy.  One gold.  One Silver.  One bronze.  X “Thanks for participating t-shirts” just like any competition. I've been competing in all kinds of things all my life, so I am being firm on that one.  Sorry.

Comment by: DiscoverChoc
Posted on: Aug 28, 2018

reply to Brad – a number of good points here. A few top of mind refinements:

  • Winners can only put award stickers on boxes containing product that actually was given the award. Of course, winners can put the awards on their websites.
  • I don't necessarily agree there should only one winner at each level. Yes to one gold, however. For silver and bronze I can see the value of using something like the pack scoring system used in bike races and marathons where everyone in a pack gets the same time. However, I would institute a limit – a maximum number of awards based on the total number of entries, total number of categories, and number of entries in each category.
  • Open and transparent reporting should be required at all levels, including knowing how many entries there were overall and how many entries there were in each category. That way we'd know how selective the awards were. I can imagine competition (pun intended) growing around awards that were more selective.

Comment by: Choklat
Posted on: Aug 27, 2018

reply to What would I do different? Here's a list for starters:

  1. Every category gets one gold, one silver, and one bronze. Period.
  2. Every bean to bar entrant MUST prove some type of provenance. For example, every finished bean to bar entry
    must be accompanied by a sample of the same beans used to create the chocolate in both roasted and unroasted format.
  3. Every entrant must be able to demonstrate that they have the ability to have available for sale after the competition at least 2,000 bars.  My rationale behind this is that the competition is going to drive customers to that business, and the business is going to use their award to bolster sales, so they had better have the product ready.  This rule is for the good of both the competition AND the competitor.
  4. Winners of all three levels will be expected to provide the competition with a select number of bars, that can be sold as a “winners collection” by the competition through their website. (After all, running a competition like that is not a charity event, and if the results of the event is going to be used to bolster participant sales, then the event as the “legitimate promoter” should be able to capitalize on its efforts too)  Price and quantity are to be determined.
  5. Judging is conducted by an equal split of well respected and impartial industry professionals who live in the region where the competition is being held (for example, Europeans judge European contests, North Americans judge North American contests, etc) and anonymous consumers.
  6. At least 10 judges (5 pro's and 5 joe's).
  7. Judging is done on a scale of 1-100 for three categories:  a)Taste 1-100  b) Look 1-50  c) Texture/Feel 1-50 for a total of 200 total points per entry.

That would be a real good start I think.

See?  I don't always just complain!  haha!

Comment by: DiscoverChoc
Posted on: Aug 27, 2018

reply to Brad – What would you do differently? Imagine you can start from scratch and offer up a competing awards program. What would it look like?

Comment by: Choklat
Posted on: Aug 27, 2018

The ICA IS marketed as a competition.  They announce “winners” and give out medals, and use the word “competition” over and over.  What's worse is that the companies who submit their chocolate in order to purchase their awards then use those “purchased” awards to flog their product.  There is no legitimacy to that competition, and the companies who purchase their golds, silvers, and medals should be black listed from other competitions.  they are just as much sheisters as Noka, or Mast as far as I'm concernced.  All they do is muddy all of the hard work that others legitimately do to create great chocolate.  Here is a great example of one company who purchased 8 awards so they could brag on their facebook page and hopefully bolster sales.  I would bet money that every single company who has purchased an award from the ICA has used their purchased award to sell more chocolate.  How is that not lying to the consumer and what can the chocolate community do about crap like that?

Comment by: DiscoverChoc
Posted on: Aug 26, 2018

Some more points:

  • Over 50% of the awards given in just five categories.
  • In one category, 1 gold, 28 silver, and 21 bronzes (50 total prizes) were awarded.

Comment by: DiscoverChoc
Posted on: Aug 26, 2018

One of the bits of cognitive dissonance I have about awards in general is they are advertised as competitions (as the screenshot below attests):

I struggle with the application of the word competition, where there are clear winners – one gold, one silver, and one bronze – when so many awards are given. For me, limiting the number of awards is implied by the use of the word competition. What is happening is a lot of “tied for second place” and “tied for third place” awards are presented.

While we in the industry may get this, I wonder if the average consumer who walks into a store understands this is what's going on … and whether it matters or not. I also take issue with the fact that the box displaying the award almost certainly does not contain the actual batch of chocolate that was awarded.

Do you think this of this matters? To the chocolate industry? To consumers?

Comment by: DiscoverChoc
Posted on: Aug 24, 2018

Brad – A major part of my reason for doing the tabulation is to make it easier to make observations like the one you made.

It's a subtle but important distinction that the ICAs (and the Academy of Chocolate) are not competitions but are recognition programs. If they were awards programs the number of awards given would be far smaller. Probably three per category, max. The awards programs exist not to select which chocolates are best but to recognize “excellence” overall.

One major challenge I have is that the average member of the public who sees, say, a silver award on a box does not know that this is one of a dozen such awards in this one category.

I have many other reservations about communication surrounding the awards. I also am acutely aware that most consumers will not actually be buying the chocolate (i.e., the exact batch) that won the award and so the award itself may be meaningless or confusing, or both.

I think the only way to address the concerns with the organizers is to start with facts like the ones that numerical analysis supports.

Comment by: Choklat
Posted on: Aug 24, 2018

Why tabulate the results of a competition so farcical that only the three stooges could make sense of???  1 gold, 13 silvers, and 12 bronze medals in a category that has 26 entrants????  Are you kidding me???  …and people ask why I don't waste my time on competitions.  I could mix up some horse manure with 30% cocoa butter, temper it up and submit it for a bronze medal in a European competition!  Giddy Up!  No losers here folks, because somebody might get their feelings hurt.

Comment by: DiscoverChoc
Posted on: Aug 23, 2018

From ZartPralinen via Twitter – “Cotabato is Philippines and Kissed by the Muse 60% with beans from Nicaragua” I have updated the Google Sheet.

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