Chocolatier kAAKAO Finds EU Regulations More Bitter Than Sweet
By: Rudy Sanchez
Chocolate is an enduring, beloved treat in Europe. The average British, Swiss, or Germans citizen ate, on average, 17-pounds of the stuff last year.
As popular as chocolate is, it’s no wonder passions run high when defining just what makes chocolate, well, chocolate. It took a prolonged 30-year court battle for the EU to reach an agreement as to how to define the stuff, as some countries, like the UK, add vegetable fat to their treats, while most of continental Europe defines the sugary goodness as only containing cocoa butter.
Now, 13 years after the European “Chocolate War” reached a ceasefire, a new battle over the definition of chocolate is happening, with kAAKAO at the frontline.
kAAKAO is a new chocolate bar that is certified organic, dairy-free and vegan, made up of four ingredients. The makers of kAAKAO sweeten their chocolatey treats with dates, and each bar contains 10-grams of fructose sugar per 40-gram bar, less than a typical green apple.
These bars come in simple, bright packages, with bold, blocky letters, but what's missing from the wrapper is the word “chocolate,” although the cacao percentage is listed.
Sounds great, no? Who wouldn't want to indulge their chocolate craving with an organic, vegan and non-dairy bar with low sugar as well as a low glycemic index? There’s just one problem: per EU rules, since the bar isn't made with sugar or a recognized sugar substitute, it’s not technically allowed to be labeled chocolate.
“When using date powder to sweeten a product, it cannot be called chocolate,” says kAAKAO founder Stephanie Seege. “Instead, it goes under the name of 'cocoa product with date powder.’ This is because date powder is not considered to be a kind of sugar, fructose, or a sugar substitute.”
Are these EU regulations really about consumer protections or is there something more at stake? If a chocolate bar tastes like chocolate, contains cocoa and merely sweetened with something other than sugar, is it still chocolate?
These kinds of regulatory restrictions make it difficult for innovators like kAAKAO to enter the market and promote their products, and seem less about actually protecting consumers from false labeling or misrepresentation. For now, EU rules are leaving kAAKAO with a bitter path to chocolate lovers seeking a sweet snack that’s different but is still essentially chocolate.
And as for Seege, regardless of EU regulations, she still insists her product is indeed chocolate, even if it doesn’t say so on the label.
Rudy Sanchez is a product marketing consultant based in Southern California. Once described by a friend as her “technology life coach,” he is a techie and avid lifelong gamer. When he’s not writing or helping clients improve their products, he’s either watching comedies on Netflix, playing the latest shooter or battle royale game or out exploring the world via Ingress and Pokémon Go.