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Home / Doug's Chocolate Republic  /   Review: Dagoba Milk

     
Dagoba Milk 
Posted: 14 October 2010    5.0 
Dagoba Mint Based on all the hype, the kudos from food critics, I was expecting my taste buds to be transformed to new levels of enlightenment when I ripped open this milk with my girlfriend and her son. Were it one of the world's best chocolates, my life would now be divided into two parts, my life before tasting Dagoba and my life after. But life went on as usual.     
Avg price/gram: USD 0.045   Cocoa %: 37  Size: 56g   
       


The 1990's started it, the 2000's continued it.  First came the interest in premium artisan-made chocolates.  As that became more acceptable and marketable, a flood of firms opened up shop to sell high-end and sometimes organic chocolate.  Dagoba, founded by Frederick Schilling in 2001, was one of those post 2000 firms.

Schilling set up his company in Boulder, Colorado and later moved it to Ashland, Oregon in 2003.   Dagoba's timing was impeccable.  Fairtrade and organic were on the lips of every treehugger and aspiring vegan from Mt. McKinley to the Florida Keys.  Dagoba's hallmark was their unusual combinations, with such things as Indian tea, various seeds, berries, and herbs.  The press rallied around, and in 2003, CNN/Money ranked them as one of the world's best chocolates.

I'd never heard of them at that time. I didn't even know who Dagoba was when my brother's girlfriend came over to visit Thailand with him in December 2009 and brought over 3 Dagoba bars. Naturally, I started doing some research on the firm and discovered they'd been bought out by Hershey in 2006. Schilling insisted that the buyout was solely to increase Dagoba's distribution and to spread the organic and fairtrade mantras far and wide. Nothing else would change.

This is the normal rhetoric for any small company bought out by a big one. "Don't worry, we're still the same. It's business as usual. Keep spending." If nothing will change, what's the incentive for the company with big pockets to buy the smaller operation? Schilling said in 2006 that Dagoba should make $9m and produce more than 7m candy bars. By agreeing to the buyout, Schilling was implicitly agreeing that Dagoba would be expanding its operations as big as Hershey's pockets would allow and the marketplace would bear. That could mean the streamlining of certain operations, the eventual layoffs of a certain number of employees, supervision from corporate HQ instead of from Ashland. This is textbook stuff.  Several years after the buyout, Schilling himself did not renew his consultancy contract with Hershey. That's a very big change.  When Hershey bought another artisan chocolate maker, Scharffen Berger a year before the purchase of Dagoba, similar assurances were made, yet in 2009, Hershey shut down the Scharffen Berger factory in Berkeley. 

Based on all the hype, the kudos from food critics, I was expecting my taste buds to be transformed to new levels of enlightenment when I ripped open this milk with my girlfriend and her son.  None of us remember our reactions.  Were it one of the world's best chocolates, my life would now be divided into two parts, my life before tasting Dagoba and my life after.  But life went on as usual. 

I'm liable to get flamed by Americans in love with Dagoba's sublime flavor.  How could lowly Doug in his Republic rate this bar as average?  Easy.  It is.  You know the saying:  what goes up must come down.  Part of the harm of hyping something into the skies is that when an unbiased taster actually tries it, he's going to be let down more than he would've been had the product not been built up.  It's not particularly cheap chocolate either.  I can pick up a non-organic Lindt bar for a fair bit less and know I'm in for quality.

What I don't know, what I'll never know, is if Dagoba once deserved all the praise it got.  I mentioned on my Green & Black's reviews that the brand no longer deserved the accolades I gave it back in 2004-05, and I couldn't be sure if that was because better and more competitive chocolate had elevated my tastes or if it's because Cadbury's buyout of G & B's had gradually lowered the quality.  Before the Hershey buyout, Dagoba may have been one of the world's best chocolates.  Today, part of the Hershey family, the Chocolate Republic says it's not.

When a smaller entity becomes part of a larger one, it assumes the larger one's personality.  Hershey was never renowned for its fantastic quality, and yet it's found all over the world and marketed as an American product manufactured with the finest ingredients.  It looks like Dagoba has found itself a nice, happy new home. 


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 Amadeo Solo Milk Chocolate with Raisins from Poland -- 25% cocoa solids
 Coles Belgian Fruit and Nut from Australia -- 26% cocoa solids
 The Complete Chocolate Republic Index

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Insights From A Travel Mastermind

  USA is home to some great goddam chocolate. AMerican chocolate can be good, mates. Dagoba based in Oregon loves to make milk chocolate, organic style. Founder Frederick Schilling enjoys milk chocolate and organic chocolate. Come visit the Chocolate Republic with Doug of Doug's Republic and taste a bar of chocolate