Sweet taste of success for Purbeck food and drink producers

Top awards for great taste, dubbed the Oscars of the British food industry have been dished out to Purbeck companies including Swanage chocolate firm Chococo.

More than a dozen Great Taste Awards were given to Purbeck products in the annual big reveal for 2023, with Baboo Gelato, The Wasabi Company, Winfrith Bakery, Purbeck Ice Cream and Corfe Castle Spirits all receiving awards alongside Chococo.


A huge selection of award winning chocolate is on sale in the Swanage shop

Great taste and high ethical standards

Chococo, which opened its first shop in Swanage in 2002 and has its factory in Wareham, believes passionately that great tasting chocolate, gelato and cakes should go hand in hand with the highest possible ethical standards.

And when its oat milk gelato made with their ethically sourced 43 percent Colombian cocoa milk chocolate was given an ‘outstanding’ Gold award in blind taste tests by the UK’s top food critics, it was time to celebrate at the Purbeck chocolatiers.

‘Simply delicious’ Gold awards were also received for Chocco’s 47 percent Colombia Origin Milk Chocolate, 72 percent Ecuador Origin Dark Chocolate, Tawny Port and Fig chocolates, and Black Forest Gateau filled chocolates.


Chococo’s oat milk chocolate gelato came in for special praise from the Great Taste judges

“You would not know this is a vegan ice cream”

Judges at the annual Great Taste awards said:

“The gelato has such a wonderful rich chocolate colour, and the taste is just as rich and chocolatey. It is as rich as any dairy gelato and the complex chocolate has been handled with great care. You would not know this is a vegan ice cream – and that really is a compliment.”

Claire Burnet, who founded Chococo in Swanage with husband Andy, said the awards were important markers of quality in a market with surprisingly dark undertones.

Most chocolate bars eaten by the British public contain around 50 percent sugar and cheap conflict palm oil, or will be made from cocoa beans harvested in countries which still use child slave labour.

Claire Burnet enjoys a cup of Chococo hot chocolate at their Swanage cafe

Judging is as objective as possible

Claire said:

“We enter the Great Taste awards which are known as the food Oscars, the International Chocolate awards and the Academy of Chocolate awards.

“Products are judged blind, which is very important, taken out of their packaging and judged by panels of food critics, chefs and producers so that it is as objective as possible.

“We use them to bench test our products to make sure that they are still as good as we think they are – tastes change, fashions change and we want to make sure that our quality doesn’t change.

“Customers love to know that what they are eating is officially delicious and it’s not just us saying that, they are tested by independent experts and foodies and given a badge of honour.”


Black Forest Gateau filled chocolates received a simply delicious award from the judges

Making sure that cocoa farmers get a fair price

Chococo avoids palm oil – high in unsaturated fat and a major cause of deforestation – which other firms use as a cheap alternative to cocoa butter.

It also cuts back hugely on the amount of sugar used in production, which can be as high as 55 percent in some commercial milk chocolates.

It upholds the slave free chocolate ethics by avoiding cocoa from West Africa, where 1.5 million young children work in cocoa production and where 70 percent of the world’s cocoa beans are grown.

Chococo sources all of its chocolate from three centres in Colombia, Ecuador and Madagascar, where it is produced sustainably, allowing local farmers to add value to their own economies making sure that they get a fair price for their product.


Claire and Andy Burnet started the ethical Swanage company 20 years ago

“Think before you buy”

Claire said:

“This means that the chocolate comes from a single estate with complete traceability, from beans with very different, complex flavour notes, depending on how it is grown and what else the soil is used for – it’s similar to wine tasting and quite fascinating!

“It’s true that Colombia has been known for its drugs trade and farmers were sucked into growing coca for drug producers, but by supporting the cocoa trade we can help farmers get back into growing legal crops and getting them away from guns and away from drugs.

“We do get involved with geo political issues and we would like people to be a little more educated about chocolate rather than buying a huge bar for £1 because it’s cheap without considering sugar content, slave labour, deforestation and so on.

“The world thinks of chocolate as a cheap food and the industry is dominated by massive global players who are only tinkering around the edges of sustainability.

“We are trying in our small way to get people to rethink what they buy, and look at the packaging – if chocolate lists palm oil as an ingredient, don’t buy it. I’m not necessarily saying buy our chocolate, just think before you buy.”

Purbeck Ice cream van

Purbeck Ice Cream picked up an award for its Ecuadorian Dark 72 percent Chocolate Bar with Natural Orange

Awards for Purbeck producers

  • Chococo: 43 percent Colombia Oat M!lk Chocolate Gelato (two stars), 47 percent Colombia origin milk chocolate (one star), 72 percent Ecuador origin dark chocolate (one star), Black Forest Gateau chocolate (one star) and Tawny Port and Fig chocolate (one star)
  • Baboo Gelato: Lemon Sorbet (two stars), Blood Orange Sorbet (one star) and Blackcurrant Ripple Gelato (one star), Elderflower Sorbet (one star), Vegan Chocolate Gelato (one star)
  • The Wasabi Company: Sansho Spiced Rum (three stars) and Shiso Gin (one star)
  • Winfrith Bakery: Green Olive and Lemon Sourdough (one star) and Damson and Sloe Gin Mince Pie (one star)
  • Purbeck Ice Cream: Ecuadorian Dark 72 percent Chocolate Bar with Natural Orange (one star)
  • Corfe Castle Spirits: Gloriette King’s Cut Gin (one star)
Sansho Spiced Rum with wasabi was described as an exquisite masterpiece
The Wasabi Company

Award winning three star rating for Sansho Spiced Rum

Exquisite rating for rum masterpiece

Other winners in the Great Taste Awards included a coveted three star ‘exquisite’ rating for Sansho Spiced Rum produced by The Wasabi Company of Owermoigne near West Lulworth, which also claimed a one star award for its Shiso Gin.

Judges called Sansho Spiced Rum a masterpiece with complex flavours including a sweet and savoury umami, smoked soya, plums, butterscotch, vanilla and brown sugar, adding:

“Overall it is a really fantastic rum with a lot of character, really unique with such an explosion of well balanced Japanese flavours. It is delightful on the palate, the flavours linger and leave a cooling sensation in the mouth.”

The Wasabi Company’s operations manager Anna Hildebrandt said:

“We are pioneers in the growing trend for Japanese cuisine, the first commercial growers of fresh wasabi in Europe initially supplying top chefs and restaurants, but now direct to consumers too.

“We launched a range of condiments and sauces in 2018, many have since won awards and all are made using natural ingredients and free from artificial flavourings, colourings and preservatives.

“These products are bursting with fresh aromas and perfectly balanced flavours to provide everything needed to enjoy Japanese flavoured cuisine and drinks at home.”


Baboo Gelato have established a popular shop on Institute Road, Swanage

Five awards for Baboo Gelato

Baboo Gelato, with its shop in Institute Road in Swanage, won a two star award for its lemon sorbet and one star awards for its blackcurrant ripple gelato, blood orange sorbet, elderflower sorbet and vegan chocolate gelato.

A spokesperson said:

“We set up Baboo Gelato because we wanted to create great ice cream using the wealth of amazing ingredients in Dorset, and we think that our use of real ingredients sets us apart.

“We don’t use flavourings, much to the astonishment of the big flavour houses. Instead we start with local organic milk and add real ingredients, whether that’s freshly picked strawberries, elderflowers from the local hedgerows, or damsons from our garden.”


Gloriette King’s Cut Gin was one of several products introduced for King Charles’ Coronation year


Although Winfrith Bakery sadly closed in spring 2023, two of its products were given Great Taste Awards, including its mince pies

Damson and sloe gin mince pies

Purbeck Ice Cream, based at Kingston near Corfe Castle won a one star award for its Ecuadorian dark 72 percent chocolate bar with natural orange, and Corfe Castle Spirits Ltd also won a one star award for its Gloriette King’s Cut Gin.

Winfrith Bakery also picked up two one star awards for its green olive and lemon sourdough and for its damson and sloe gin mince pies.

The Dorset based Great Taste Awards was started in 1994 judging fewer than 100 food and drink entries across five classes, blind-tasted by 12 experts.

It now accepts more than 14,000 entries a year with a panel of more than 400 judges, and the tasting process taking two months to complete.

Research conducted by YouGov in December 2022 revealed that almost one in three of UK shoppers would be persuaded to buy a product if it had the Great Taste award logo on its packaging.

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