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Pure Chocolate Company Cops Three Awards @ 13th Staging of Chocolate Awards

Gold winner 70% Pure Dark Chocolatewith Jerk Seasoning (centre) andbronze winners 68% Pure DarkChocolate with Slow RoastedCocoa Nibs (left) and 70% Pure DarkChocolate with Cinnamon, Pure Chocolate Jamaica
Gold winner 70% Pure Dark Chocolate with Jerk Seasoning (centre) andbronze winners 68% Pure DarkChocolate with Slow RoastedCocoa Nibs (left) and 70% Pure Dark Chocolate with Cinnamon

As featured in the Jamaica Observer on October 14, 2021:

Pure Chocolate Company, a Jamaican manufacturer of tree-to-bar chocolate, owned and managed by 42-year-old Wouter Tjeertes from Holland and his wife 34-year-old Rennae Johnson from Jamaica, won three awards at the 13th Academy of Chocolate Awards held recently in London, England.

The Trelawny-based company earned a gold award in the tree-to-bar flavoured category for its 70% Pure Dark Chocolate with Jerk Seasoning, the only bar to pick up a gold in this section, and a bronze award in the same category for its 70% Pure Dark Chocolate with Cinnamon. In the tree-to-bar seasoned category, the Jamaican chocolate makers won bronze for their 68% Pure Dark Chocolate with Slow Roasted Cocoa Nibs.

“The 70% dark chocolate with jerk seasoning was almost excluded from entering the competition by us,” Tjeertes revealed. “Our local market had not yet embraced this out-of-the-box combination and we were not sure if it would perform well overseas. Needless to say, we are happy that we chose to include it in the submissions at the last moment!” said Tjeertes.

“It took me about eight recipe development rounds to find the right balance between the bitter of the chocolate and the salty spiciness of the jerk seasoning,” he explained. “First off, it was way too hot, then too light, but eventually we created a bar that illustrates the flavours of the herbs and spices in jerk seasoning combined with a hint of smoked sea salt and our premium quality cocoa.”

Elaborating on the other prize-winning bars Tjeertes said, “The bar with the slow roasted cocoa nibs is a bar that you can simply snack on, have with some wine or add to your charcuterie board.”

“The 70% dark chocolate with cinnamon is created with the warm flavour of locally sourced cinnamon carefully balanced with rich notes of dark chocolate,” he added.

The prestigious Academy of Chocolate is respected internationally for its mission to educate people about fine chocolate and what constitutes 'proper' chocolate based on the variety of cocoa beans, geographical locations where they are grown, recipes of the chocolates, amount of cocoa solids in the bars, and the methods used in the manufacturing process related to fermentation and drying.

The Academy of Chocolate Awards has grown in status since its inception, and in 2019 it registered 1,600 submissions by participants from over 45 countries. Judges comprise chocolatiers, food writers, producers, bloggers, journalists and experts representing different areas of the chocolate industry.

The couple is grateful to have gained recognition at such an important industry event and Johnson explained that the three awards came in the most difficult period of their business brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic when they never expected to receive such a positive reward for their efforts.

“With the onset of COVID in 2020 we had to scale down our operation,” Johnson disclosed. “We reduced our regular staff from six people to three people who were basically on call because at the beginning of the health crisis people weren't spending much.”

The enterprising husband and wife team responded to the economic challenges by redoubling their marketing efforts.

“We knew it would be hard to generate sales so we switched our focus to greater brand recognition,” Johnson revealed. “We immediately set about upgrading our website and online storefront.”

They increased the company's presence on social media platforms, particularly Instagram, so that the brand would not be forgotten during this period, in the hope that when customers were ready to spend again the company would not have to start its marketing from scratch.

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