2024 NZ Vegan Chocolate Awards

Chocolate-awards-banner-2024

One of the most wonderful foods our planet has to offer is the cocoa bean 😊 Packed full of antioxidants, happy brain chemicals and caffeine, there is much to enjoy about this particular bean. Unlike actual beans, there is not a great deal of protein in the cocoa bean, mostly because it is a seed of the fruit of the Theobroma cacao tree.

The pod shaped fruit is botanically classified as baccate-like (berry-like) and each pod produces approximately 35-50 seeds surrounded by a sweet pulp. The flesh or pulp of cocoa pods can be consumed raw, but the beans inside the pod must be fermented and roasted before they can be eaten. How do they do it? Our Bean to Bar category showcases the extensive effort that goes into turning raw cacao beans into a delicious bar of chocolate.

Our Chocolate Awards are here to show Aotearoa that there are some amazing and quite extraordinary vegan chocolates in various forms. Not only are plant-based milk chocolates becoming much more popular, but there is also a rise in delicious, artisan, hand crafted individual chocolates rivalling the best that dairy chocolates have to offer.

To all our amazing plant-based chocolatiers out there, this is your opportunity to show us the best you can offer! Enter the Awards now and see if your product has what it takes to wow our judges and become the Best in category and even the Supreme Winner? Entries open to any company that produces chocolate that is available in Aotearoa.

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Meet the judges 2024​

Flores Niu chocolate awards judge
Jasbir Kaur
aaron Pucci
Gianpaolo-Grazioli

Floris Niu is a fourth generation Samoan Cacao farmer, processor and Chocolate-maker. She’s the founder of Ms Sunshine Organic Farms which operates Cacao Agritourism experiences on Upolu island. She is co-creator of the “Koko Beans” brand of vegan chocolate snacks and the recent “Pacific Cacao and Chocolate 2022” show.

Floris is also an international cacao consultant working on various projects to support cacao communities in Samoa and the Solomon Islands. Floris loves to create new and exciting ways to consume pure cacao in savoury and sweet recipes, and shares her knowledge with women growers in the Pacific. Her passion is working to increase consumer awareness and education specifically on Pacific Island Cacao beans, promoting ethical and traditional (organic) farming practices.

Multi-award-winning executive chef & trainer, TV personality, creative head and chef of the new series “Ignite the Chef in You” and President of the NZ Chef Association Auckland, Chef Jazz is an external verifier for City and Guilds, UK. She has been judging in New Zealand’s Regional and National culinary salon competitions for the past nine years and is deputy chief judge for the Hospitality Championships. She has worked in top hotels and restaurants in five countries – USA, UK, India, New Zealand and Spain.

Aaron Pucci has clocked up 25 years in the food and beverage manufacturing industry. His trusted palate has earned him numerous seats on judging panels for awards in New Zealand and Australia over 15 years. As a dedicated chocolate consumer Aaron is always on the lookout for new brands and products ~ especially those that are breaking new ground. Aaron’s ‘food for thought’ is a desire for more manufacturers to take up the challenge of sustainable food operations and reducing their carbon footprint
 

Tracy Berno is a Professor in Food Studies at AUT. She has worked in food for over 30 years in roles ranging from academic to presenting cooking classes and demonstrations to catering. Tracy has a particular interest in the foods of the South Pacific and sustainably produced food products (including chocolate). She is an experienced panel judge and has judged for many competitions and food awards starting in the early 2000s. Tracy was recently named as one of the 50 most influential and inspiring women in food and drink in New Zealand.

With a rich background in Europe and the UK’s finest patisseries and chocolatiers, Thomas is on a mission to redefine the essence of chocolate. His journey from prestigious Michelin-starred kitchens to launching Ao Cacao reflects his passion for ethically and sustainably grown cacao, combined with unique Pacific and Aotearoa flavours for an unparalleled bean-to-bar experience.

Rooted in his Whakapapa – Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, Te Whakatōhea, Jewish, and English – Thomas is pioneering a new era for indigenous chocolatiers, emphasising people-first values and indigenous excellence. Through Ao Cacao, he champions equity in the chocolate industry, working closely with Pacific cacao farmers to ensure luxury meets sustainability. Last year, he was the only indigenous chocolatier at Salon du Chocolat in Paris, a prestigious exhibition for chocolate makers in France.

VEGAN CHOCOLATE AWARDS JUDGES 2024

The Society is delighted to welcome Tracy Berno, who is a Professor in Food Studies at AUT. She has worked in food for over 30 years in roles ranging from academic to presenting cooking classes and demonstrations to catering. 

Thomas Netana Wright has a rich background in Europe’s and the UK’s finest patisseries and chocolatiers, Thomas is on a mission to redefine the essence of chocolate. His journey from prestigious Michelin-starred kitchens to launching Ao Cacao reflects his passion for ethically and sustainably grown cacao, combined with unique Pacific and Aotearoa flavours for an unparalleled bean-to-bar experience. 

Our final new judge is Giapo Grazioli, the founder and chef at Giapo Ice Cream.
Giapo saw that ice cream had the potential to be more expressive than what it had been so far. In his mind ice cream had to carry a different narrative and anyone who has visited the store in Downtown Auckland, knows this is a most delicious narrative!

Our stalwart judge, Aaron Pucci, has clocked up 25 years in the food and beverage manufacturing industry. His trusted palate has earned him numerous seats on judging panels for awards in New Zealand and Australia over 15 years. 

Judge Jasbir ‘Jazz” Kaur is a multi-award-winning executive chef & trainer, TV personality, creative head and chef of the new series “Ignite the Chef in You” and President of the NZ Chef Association Auckland, Chef Jazz is an external verifier for City and Guilds, UK. 

Floris Niu is a fourth generation Samoan Cacao farmer, processor and Chocolate-maker. She’s the founder of Ms Sunshine Organic Farms which operates Cacao Agritourism experiences on Upolu island.

Categories to enter are:

  • Dark Chocolate bars
  • Milk Chocolate bars (plant milk only)
  • Chocolate Bars; flavoured/ inclusions
  • Filled chocolate Bon Bons and Truffles
  • Caramels
  • Bean to Bar; dark milk/ subs/ flavoured
  • Drinking Chocolate
  • Bark/Brittle Chocolate
  • Dipped Fruit
  • Supreme

 

Check out last year’s winners here