I was at Waitrose today to buy chocolate, and it was all sold out. I’ve been there every day for the last three days, but Willie’s chocolate hasn’t been restocked.

Willie is just as his name suggests, a single man production of dark chocolate. His line of products is limited to two types of baking chocolate with 100% cocoa and two types of dark chocolates with 70%+ cocoa. He became famous because Channel 4 on Demand broadcast a 4-part documentary series following his entrepreneurial endeavor to convince Britain to only eat chocolate that features real cocoa. Not sugar, milk and emulsified vegetable fat as Cadbury does.

Yes, cadbury. We in America seem to hold Cadbury as a standard, myself included, because American companies dilute American chocolates far beyond Cadbury’s recipe. And if they are shit, what the hell is Hersheys?

But WIllie’s chocolate isn’t particularly innovative or exceptional compared to other high quality brands out there. The difference is that he’s trying to democratize chocolate, I think, so that good-tasting chocolate isn’t just a high wine experience for the elite.

But more importantly, the documentary offers a story to the product. Even though I know that his chocolate isn’t necessarily better than other types of dark chocolate, I want to buy his chocolate because I feel curiously connected to the creator the way I feel connected to an author of a book. It becomes a shared experience between the creator, the individual buyer and the invisible community of buyers. Its really cool.

Jack Daniels tries this gimmick with its print ads about the original Jack Daniels. But it just doesn’t work, because I know the purpose of the story is to convince me to buy his product. But the documentary at least leaves it open for me to judge whether the story is good enough to convince me to buy it. There were some parts which left me unimpressed, like the “scientific” experiment to prove that his chocolate is “healthy”. Its the most rigged experiment clearly designed to add the word “scientific” for commercial value and I’m not going to be stupid enough to buy that. And the scenes of him visiting his cocoa “plantation,” in Venezuela seems just a bit awkward, but his relationships with the farmer seem very much about two equal men discussing business with each other rather than a Mansfield Park-esque colonial relationship. Mostly.

I heard there’s a new initiate to connect food buyers with the actual farmers behind the food to create a relationship like I feel with Willie. Whole Foods might do this already, but it gives you the story about where your food is coming from. Although the food might start from the farms, however, who knows what kind of processing it goes through to get to you. I’m not sure how they resolved that problem.

Anyways, I will be coming home with some Peruvian chocolate. I prefer it over the Venezuelan because the Peruvian really does have fruity undertones. And a rich chocolate flavor, mmmcocoa.

Advertisements