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  • July 20, 2020 9:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We are sharing a guide to all the small business support that is available during the COVID-19 crisis. Unlike the IRS and SBA guides which focus on federal support we’ve dug into what’s available at a state level as well.

    Here is the link: US States’ Small Business Support Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic



  • July 13, 2020 10:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    FCIA has had the good fortune to bring on some new team members this year. Get to know the new people working behind the scenes to keep FCIA moving this year.

    Ephi Maglaris is FCIA’s Operations Manager. She has over 20 years of diverse professional experience in event production, sustainability consulting, and restaurant marketing including:

    • programming education for the National Restaurant Association Show
    • producing a national mixology competition
    • event management for an international bank
    • organizing culinary focused health and wellness events

    After executing Elevate Chocolate in San Francisco in March, Ephi became certified as a Digital Event Strategist (DES) in order to adapt to restrictions on live events. She is looking forward to leading FCIA’s expansion in providing digital event experiences to reach a wider audience and stay connected with stakeholders.

    Ephi resides in Chicago and is a fan of farmers markets, craft cocktails, and of course fine chocolate.

    Dan McMahon is FCIA’s Program Support and Development Intern for Summer 2020. After graduating from college with a degree in international development and economics, Dan worked in rural Jamaica where he was a teacher at an orphanage and led community development activities. Upon returning to the U.S., Dan began working at Fintrac Inc., an agriculture-focused international development consulting firm, where he supported business development efforts and the company’s global analytics portfolio. In summer 2019, Dan returned to school full-time, pursuing a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Georgetown University McDonough School of Business. He is providing FCIA with a variety of program support and development tasks.

    Emily Reese is FCIA’s EU Liaison. She's a pastry chef and chocolatier in Paris, France since 2014. Born in Hershey, she grew up surrounded by the smell of chocolate and immersed in the family business of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Emily graduated from Brown University and earned her master's degree before working at tech startups like Kickstarter, OpenClassrooms, and Glossier. After teaching more than 200,000 people how to code and design websites via online courses, she chose to reignite her own learning by earning the official French diploma for pastry chefs: the CAP Pâtissier. This year, she'll earn the CAP Chocolatier while working with various French chocolatiers. She then will combine her entrepreneurial and chocolatey backgrounds by creating her own business.

    LaSaundra Scott is FCIA’s Administrative Assistant. She is a southern belle located in northern Louisiana. She has both an Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree in English, and holds true to the philosophy that a quality education can open a world of possibilities. Currently, she assists FCIA in an administrative capacity, adhering to various projects and tasks. Although she’s a proud vegan, she allots a touch of chocolate into her life occasionally.


  • July 13, 2020 10:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    EquipNet is a global leader of surplus asset management solutions, helping our clients to buy, sell, and manage equipment. We are recognized for our proprietary asset management platform, our revolutionary industrial equipment marketplace, and our results-driven project management services. 

    Our clients span across multiple industries and range in size from small businesses to Fortune 500 multi-national corporations and leading regional manufacturers. We serve several industries, including Food and Beverage, Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology, Personal and Homecare Products, Chemical, Electronics, and more. For more information, please visit our website at www.EquipNet.com

    Our COVID-19 Preparedness

    Because EquipNet has been identified as an essential business our warehouses and customer fulfillment operations, while adhering to social distancing guidelines, are open and functioning. Employees who can work remotely are doing so and are available to communicate as usual via phone, email, or chat technologies.

    Many companies are ramping up production or increasing lab throughput -– we have manufacturing and packaging equipment, laboratory instrumentation, and plant utility equipment available to purchase and ship immediately.

    We are offering inventory and inspection alternatives with our Post It Now feature on EquipNet.com to self-post multiple items and use video recordings for walk-arounds and/or demonstrations of machines. Our customers can use FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, or any other preferred video chat technology to have a live, virtual inspection.

    Read more about our COVID-19 plan

    FCIA Opportunities

    EquipNet is excited to join the FCIA community and we look forward to connecting and building new relationships in the chocolate industry. Our solutions can help companies save money on the cost of equipment, gain capital return from surplus or idle assets, and enhance sustainability efforts. 

    As some may know, we are currently working with a Nuubia site closure in California and a range of manufacturing assets are currently available from that facility. If you have any equipment needs or any surplus or idle equipment you would like to sell, please reach out to our Senior Sales Executive, Ken Medicino, at +1 (781) 821-3482 x8134 or kmedicino@equipnet.com. We look forward to connecting with you all!

  • July 13, 2020 10:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Emily Claire Reese

    Fifth Dimension Chocolates is a chocolatier and caramelier based in London, UK. Russell Pullan and Albert Chau focus on unique flavor combinations inspired by their travels and have won numerous awards, including the International Chocolate Awards, Academy of Chocolate Awards, Great Taste Awards, and BBC Good Food Champions.

    We talked to them about their backstory, their innovative flavor offerings, and the relationships they have in the European and global chocolate community. 

    Q: How did you get started with Fifth Dimension Chocolates?

    Russell: I used to work in media and started making chocolate as a hobby. I was making individual chocolates and never intended to start a business. Everything has grown quite naturally thanks to my and Albert’s travels. We travel quite a bit and enjoy trying the local foods, which led to us trying to recreate the same flavors in chocolate. We’d go to restaurants and see cooks using several ingredients, and we’d ask ourselves, “Will these ingredients really work together?” And then we’d eat the meal and realize that it all really worked! We wanted to do the same thing with chocolate. The company represents what we’ve always been about: travel, food, and interesting flavor combinations. 

    Albert: I come from a data science background in the healthcare industry. So neither of us come from the food industry, and that’s why we believe anything goes when it comes to flavor; we don’t have any preconceived notions. Everything we make is something both Russell and I love. If there’s something I like and he doesn’t, or vice versa, we won’t release it. Everything we make is a glimpse into how we see the world.


    Q: You pay great attention to where you get your chocolate from. Can you tell us more about how you learned about cocoa itself?

    Albert: Very early on in our business, we wanted to set ourselves apart by using chocolate that we like and working with suppliers that we can learn from. One company we chose was Casa Luker from Colombia. Within six months of using them, we asked if we could visit them in Colombia, and we spent four days with them, learning the whole process, from planting the cacao beans to the chocolate bars coming out in the factory at the end. We even got to plant several trees! We’re not bean-to-bar makers, but as a chocolatier, it is crucial for us to understand every step of how chocolate makes it from the cacao plant to the couverture that we use. 

    We also went to Kew Gardens in London two years ago, where they have cacao. We got to cut and taste some pods with their staff members, and eventually got to take 14 beans home with us to farm in our greenhouse. We were hoping that, of the 14 beans, one or two would grow. But then all 14 grew because of the heat wave that summer. Suddenly we had too many of them [laughs]. Luckily, many of our friends were keen to adopt the plants and have a go at caring for them. Growing cacao allows us to appreciate the different steps in growing and caring for the plants close-up.

    We have both taken the chocolate-tasting courses from International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting (IICCT), which help us in understanding the quality of cacao and chocolate. And when we go on holiday now, we usually try to do a side-trip to visit a cacao farm or two. Earlier this year, we visited cacao growers in Taiwan and Japan! It’s interesting to learn how they do things differently from other countries such as Colombia and Peru.


    Q: What are some of your best relationships in the chocolate industry?

    Russell: As Albert mentioned, we have a great relationship with Casa Luker, and we also have an excellent relationship with Felchlin in Switzerland. With both companies, if we have any questions, we write to them directly, and they answer us straight away. We really appreciate their transparency and openness. We can always talk to them about anything. They educate us, which allows us to educate our Fifth Dimension customers.

    Albert: In the chocolate industry, there are many people who are helpful and open. When we have questions, we can ask fellow chocolatiers or chocolate makers, and many of them will know how to help us. We try to help others in the same way too. Whether it’s tempering or getting hold of certain ingredients or challenges in new recipes or even packaging, we always find someone with whom to exchange ideas. 

    Q: How do you build community as an online seller? I noticed you reply to almost every comment you get on your Instagram posts, whether it’s about ordering or even about how to temper chocolate.

    Albert: We don’t have a physical shop in London, so the main ways we interact with customers are online and at chocolate events. We manage our own social media too. It’s the best way for us to build personal relationships with our customers. 

    FCIA relationships are also part of our community. We’ve met great folks at FCIA events, where we’ve recognized people in person with whom we’d already interacted online. It feels like meeting old friends even though it’s your first time seeing them! 

    Q: Did you have any mentors on your self-taught journey?

    Russell: I took an Ecole Chocolat online course and a basic chocolate-making-related course but am otherwise entirely self-taught. At the beginning, I was afraid to go to chocolatiers and ask to do apprenticeships because I didn’t know anyone at the time! When I look back, this approach had some positive elements. It probably took me longer to figure out certain things. But on the other hand, I don’t have tunnel vision or set ways of doing things. I knew what I had to start with, and I knew what I wanted to make. I had to figure out how to do it on my own and was able to think outside the box. I probably didn’t have limitations that I might’ve picked up from more typical training. For example, when I see people making caramels, I think, “That’s not how I make them!” But our caramels are pretty good, so I don’t know what I’m doing wrong or doing right, but it works -- which is what matters!

    Q: How big is your team?

    Albert: It’s just the two of us! We still operate from home. We remodeled the whole kitchen two years ago and have a lot more space. Half the house is chocolate-related. We have some people helping us for package design, copywriting, or giving us a hand at shows, but it’s mostly just us.

    Q: How have your non-food backgrounds helped you in chocolate?

    Albert: My pharmaceutical background is quite useful because there are transferable skills. Temperature control, customs, shipping, and regulation all come into play in both industries. Regulatory documents don’t scare me! [laughs]

    Russell: If I had to read all the regulatory texts, I would’ve given up! [laughs] That, and the nutritional info, are quite complicated.

    Albert: You can either calculate nutritional info yourself or send your products to a lab. Sending a product to a lab would cost hundreds of pounds. We have the tools to calculate it ourselves -- while still respecting the very tight regulations, of course. If we change a product, it allows us to be more agile. I get the updated recipe from Russell, crunch the numbers, and update the nutritional info for the product. It can be useful to have a background in another field before getting into chocolate so you can be more autonomous on certain tasks like this. 

    Q: Fifth Dimension offers really interesting flavor combinations, like curry and coconut white chocolate or Arctic thyme and caramel. When you’re traveling and you want to create an interesting flavor combination based on something you ate, how do you source those ingredients?

    Albert: In London, we have great access to many ethnic supermarkets. But Cambodian curry was quite an interesting challenge. There are many different curries in southeast Asia, so I studied a variety of them to understand the ingredients in each of them and whether there’s a common theme: there’s lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime, etc., all of which I can get in London! The challenge is more getting the right proportion of each so that the curry flavor works in chocolate. We got down to the nuance of making 5% adjustments on ratios between the different ingredients to really nail the combination. 

    For our New York chocolate with caramel and calvados, we now get the calvados from France after finding it was superior to what we could get in the UK. For the World Final, we made that chocolate and did two batches: one with a calvados available in the UK and one that is only available in France. The difference was so immense. Ingredients matter!

    Also, for our Arctic Thyme Caramel chocolate, we can’t get the Arctic Thyme in London. We get it from Iceland. Even restaurant chefs have asked us where to source it!

    Russell: Some herbs, like basil and mint, are grown in our own greenhouse and garden. We have some ingredients that we really need to look for, but living in London does make things easier. 

    Q: Plant-based and vegan options are becoming more common in pastry and chocolate. At Fifth Dimension, you offer several. What’s your approach to plant-based alternatives to dairy?

    Albert: We don’t set out to make vegan chocolates intentionally. It just happens that some things we make fall into this category. We focus on flavor first. For example, our “Penang” chocolate has coconut and pandan. Pandan is not a well-known flavor in the UK, and we use coconut as a way to introduce a lesser-known flavor. As a result, we decided to try using coconut cream instead of dairy to make the ganache. At the same time, we discovered coconut milk-based couverture from Felchlin. The flavor profile of the couverture matched so well with the coconut and pandan, and that’s how one of our vegan chocolates was born.

    We have two other vegan bonbons: our “Grytviken” chocolate is a whiskey water ganache. Whiskey on the rocks requires the ice, so using water instead of dairy naturally worked with the whole story, and the water ganache brings out the flavor of both the couverture and the whiskey even more. For our “Turin” hazelnut chocolate, we had feedback that what we were making was too milky and sweet. We substituted the milk chocolate with dark chocolate and studied the different hazelnut paste. Within a few months, our improved “Turin” won at the International Chocolate Awards in Italy in 2018.

    Russell: We always focus on a story before we make the chocolate to tell that story. The ingredients we choose help us tell whatever the story is, and those ingredients don’t always include dairy products, which means some of our chocolates end up being vegan.

    Another related subject is sugar. Some chocolatiers use sugar substitutes, which I don’t necessarily agree with. Personally, I think if you want to eat chocolate, you shouldn’t be thinking about reducing the sugar so you can eat more of them. It’s a luxury treat, and that’s how you should eat it. 

    Q: How can people follow you online and order your delicious chocolates?

    Albert: They can visit our website at www.5dchocolates.com. On all the social networks, we’re @5DChocolates. This includes Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and more. Apart from the UK, we also deliver to Europe and the USA between September and April -- when the weather is not as hot!


  • July 13, 2020 10:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The votes are in! By an overwhelming majority, FCIA members voted to approve two amendments proposed by the board of directors last month:

    1. Allow FCIA President, Vice President, and Secretary/Treasurer to complete their two year elected officer positions and maintain their current board seats.
    2. Include an additional board seat for "Associate Level" members, starting January 2021.

    During the FCIA Membership Assembly on June 23rd, we will provide more details on the achievements in 2020, in relation to our strategic plan, and provide details about the upcoming board elections this fall.


  • July 13, 2020 10:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Bill Guyton, Executive Director

    In March 2020, the FCIA Board developed a new strategy to assist members during the COVID-19 pandemic. Three months later, FCIA conducted an online membership survey to hear how you assess the usefulness of the new strategy and corresponding initiatives. We were also interested to learn how you prioritized FCIA’s strategic partner organizations.

    Thanks to the 94 members who participated in the survey. Your insights will help us improve current activities and guide future programming and partnerships. Here are three important takeaways from the survey:

    1. Make Mine Fine Website Has a Positive Start, But More Visibility Is Needed

    In April 2020, FCIA launched this website to help promote our member companies who offer online chocolate and equipment sales. Over half the survey respondents are now participating in Make Mine Fine. Thus far, about 14 percent of you have seen direct increases in sales, attributed to Make Mine Fine over the past two months. Several reported increased traffic on your sites from Make Mine Fine, but not directly linked to sales. Survey respondents rated the site as moderately useful (45%), very useful (24%) or extremely useful (17%). The combined favorability score was 86 percent.

    Future Actions: Based on the feedback from the survey and individual member discussions, we have seen the importance of increased media exposure to help promote the site. For example, there was a significant spike in MMF visitor traffic directly following the New York Times article by Florence Fabricant on May 11. We also noticed increased numbers of visitors following social media postings by Antonella Tromba and Clay Gordon. Looking forward, FCIA plans to invest more in social media advertising and in new sections to the website such as fine cocoa producing country profiles. We also see the opportunity to include more listings of European and Asia company members.

    2. FCIA Educational Webinars Themes and Frequency Are On Track

    We received overwhelmingly positive feedback on FCIA-supported webinars. Over 63 percent of the member respondents have participated in at least one of these webinars with digital marketing and the Latin American Cocoa Summit receiving the highest ratings. Our first webinar on SBA loans was only attended by 30 percent of the respondents, but 40 percent of those who participated rated it “extremely useful.” Nearly 35 percent of the member respondents applied and received SBA PPP loan funding. The digital marketing webinar received the highest overall rating for content and presentation, although few have followed up with the speakers since then or taken advantage of the special discount offers. When asked why some respondents haven’t participated in the webinars, the most common response was that the timing was inconvenient, although all of the webinars are recorded and listed on the FCIA website.

    Future Actions: Since the survey was completed, FCIA has already hosted five additional webinars (Online Shopping Carts, Shipping during Warm Weather, International Quality Standards, Cocoa Trading and Fruition Plant Tour). The international standards, shipping during warm weather and membership assembly were the most highly anticipated sessions with over 50 percent ratings. FCIA has been holding one to two webinars a week, and the overall majority, 77 percent, felt that this was the right frequency. FCIA will therefore to continue programming webinars targeted to different communities in our diverse membership base through the remainder of 2020. We welcome members to contact us and suggest topics or to co-host a webinar with us.

    3. FCIA Can Build on Several Strategic Partnerships in 2020 and Beyond

    The final section of the survey asked respondents to rate, who they believe, are the most strategic partners for FCIA among over 20 organizations. The highest rating was given to FCCI (63%) followed closely by the Specialty Food Association/SFA (56%), and then HCP and NW Chocolate (each with 44%). The National Confectioner’s Association/NCA also scored high (34%) probably as a result of our expanding partnership on regulatory updates and consumer surveys.

    Future Actions: Leveraging the talents and resources of other organizations can benefit FCIA, particularly during difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic. We will prioritize the relationship with these organizations and reach out to others who share our values and commitment to helping support our company members and promote fine chocolate.


  • July 13, 2020 10:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Brad Kintzer

    “That which is measured, improves.”

    Bringing fine chocolate to life is a long and beautifully complex process. Each of us, from cacao producer to chocolate consumer, plays a distinctive role throughout the chocolate value chain, and we all inherently rely on each other. What unites most of us in our fine chocolate community is a shared aspiration to create an elevated quality experience. The complexity of the chocolate journey can be an asset or a stumbling block depending on how we approach it. If our goal is the pursuit and attainment of higher quality chocolate, we need the right tools to collectively measure and improve. Our fine chocolate industry’s success hinges, in large part, on our ability to define, assess, and communicate flavor and quality with each other and others.

    Creating international quality standards for cacao and chocolate will provide a multi-dimensional business tool that is broadly beneficial. This system will allow us to collectively measure and improve quality as we grow as an industry. Quality standards will enable cacao producers to better target buyers’ quality criteria and achieve it at the farm level. This calibration can educate producers, traders, makers, and consumers alike, providing a common flavor language and process that can be the foundation of mutually beneficial business relationships. By creating these measures, we invite all partners in the value chain to cultivate a more equitable and efficient future for cocoa and chocolate commerce.

    The benefit of a single, industry-wide system for quality and sensory assessment is already well documented in third wave coffee, olive oil, craft beer, and many other analogous industries. When the fledgling specialty coffee industry created and embraced a universal system for quality, and it was applied across their value chain, it transformed the coffee world. Its development and adoption didn’t happen overnight, but it is credited as being one of the most important innovations and developments in the specialty coffee industry (a now estimated $20B+ industry). The ability for farmers, traders, roasters, and even super consumers to be able to debate and assess flavor within the structure of a standardized sensory and quality system continues to be key to specialty coffee’s global success.

    To that end, FCIA and several member companies have been supporting and driving efforts to develop international quality standards for cocoa for many years. You may have heard that within the last five years, FCIA and others have been helping lead an international working group focused on researching, writing, and vetting a broad set of robust cacao quality protocols. Coordinated by The Alliance of Biodiversity International and CIAT with support from Lutheran World Relief, the USDA and others, we are in the final stretch of development of 9+ protocols and are currently looking for feedback. Please check the protocols out here! FCIA organized a webinar for FCIA members in June 2020 to review the protocols that many company members attended. We are now moving to a very important phase of reaching out to a wide range of stakeholders and plan to field-test the applicability in the coming months. There will be adjustments and refinements to the system, based on local conditions. This is an inclusive process.

    Formalizing a system of international standards holds the promise to transcend chocolate’s innately complex barriers, and to create more efficient ways to better appreciate and improve fine chocolate. We at FCIA invite you to be part of this historic chocolate moment and share your perspectives -- our collective knowledge of chocolate is as varied, unique, and appreciated as its future flavor possibilities.

    Brad Kintzer
    FCIA Board President
    Chief Chocolate Maker, TCHO





    For more information on how you can directly be involved and updated, please reach out to me, John Kehoe or FCIA staff.


  • June 26, 2020 1:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    An article in Adweek examines the changes in shopping habits over the last two months. The study found "the majority of consumers are willing to nix their tried and true brands for a competitors in order to get what they want when they need it."

    Additionally a recent Harris poll cited 43% of participants would continue online grocery shopping once the pandemic ends. "As more shoppers move online, brands need to prioritize digital shelf initiatives such as content upgrades and promotions, and will need to improve the e-commerce shopping experience by optimizing supply chain flexibility."

    Adweek Article


  • May 04, 2020 4:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    FCIA has been working with the international cocoa and chocolate industries and development organizations on an initiative to support cocoa farming communities impacted by COVID19. In Ecuador, FICA has partnered with Lutheran World Relief (LWR) and other organizations to provide relief supplies and health training.

    Companies or individuals are welcome to join this effort by contributing directly to LWR: Donate to Help WCF and FCIA Stope the Spread of Covid-19 

    Press release in English

    Press release in Spanish


  • April 28, 2020 11:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Join Candy Industry for a conversation with Pam Williams about the impact of COVID-19 on small, independent chocolate businesses. We discuss some of the creative ways that businesses have pivoted to stay open and sell products, as well as tips for getting through these challenging times.  Pam is the founder and lead instructor of Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts, a culinary school now in its 17th year dedicated to the art and science of making fine chocolate.

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Executive Director / Membership Inquiries: Bill Guyton / 1.206.577.9983 / Email Bill

Operations & Membership: Ephi Maglaris / 1.312.771.0181 / Email Ephi

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