/ Doug's Chocolate Republic /
Review: Dagoba Milk
Posted: 14 October 2010
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.
price/gram: USD 0.045
Cocoa %: 37
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
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.
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