In June Gut Check spoke with Askinosie Chocolate founder Shawn Askinosie after the Springfield-based company won its fifth silver Sofi Award from the National Association of Specialty Food Trade for its Dark Milk Chocolate + Black Licorice CollaBARation Bar. Last week Askinosie announced it won three medals in the "Americas" round of the International Chocolate Awards held in London, beating out more than 200 entries from North and South America.
Gut Check caught up with Bethany Parry, Askinosie's "person in charge of getting the word out," to learn which bars won big, in advance of the World Finals, which take place this week in London.
Parry says Askinosie's "Dark Milk Chocolate + Black Licorice CollaBARation Bar" was awarded a gold medal in the "Flavored Milk Chocolate" category (as well as a national gold medal, beating out more than ten other U.S. contestants), and its Davao white chocolate bar won a silver medal in the "White/Plain Origin Bar" category.
"We're really excited because we're up against chocolate from all over the globe, and based on the feedback we've been getting on both of these bars, I think we have a pretty good chance," Parry says.
The International Chocolate Awards judged entries based on a range of criteria, including flavor profile, cacao variety and sustainable sourcing. Parry says Askinosie's bean-to-bar edge in sustainable sourcing is considerable, with a direct-trade model that spans four continents. "I believe that's part of what they were looking for with sustainability. The company is doing something to leave the world a better place than what they found it. We really embrace the farmer and celebrate the farmer and want to make them the business partner that they are. I think that's really unique in the chocolate industry right now," Parry says.
Parry adds that the award-winning bars are two of the company's most popular confections.
"I'm not a big licorice fan -- at least I wasn't until I tried [the 'Dark Milk Chocolate + Black Licorice CollaBARation Bar']," she says. "I don't think a lot of people in the U.S. have ever had real handmade, hand-crafted licorice. We just think of Twizzlers. We get this amazing licorice from one of our partners and distributors in Sweden."
The Davao bar is made with beans from the city of Davao, in the Philippines, and blended with homemade pressed cocoa butter, organic cane juice and goat's milk powder for a sweet, rich flavor that sharply contrasts the notion that white chocolate isn't real chocolate. "It really has a great, balanced taste to it," Parry says. "White chocolates sometimes can be too sweet or almost a chalky texture, but ours is very smooth and it has a very nice finish. It's 'from scratch' in every sense of the word. I think that really brings out the great flavors in all of those ingredients."
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