Marc Ast

It is the time of the year when our broom fight with the leaves brought in by the cool breeze tells us that Fall is right around the corner.  We recently returned from a trip to Europe and while visiting many of the chocolate shops in Brussels and Berlin I was very surprised to find that the country of origin label requirement is not enforced in Europe as it is here in the United States.

It made us wonder if our customers in Culpeper are always aware of the product origin of the foods they purchase, be it chocolate or anything else.  In a world where globalization is very common, it clearly is not always easy to decipher when you make your purchase.

While you ought to expect this process to be handled by your local retailer, it is important that you as the ultimate consumer, ensure that you do read the labels and know the provenance of the product that you are buying and consuming.  While some of us do not believe this step is a necessity, more consumers than ever see this step an important part of their shopping experience.

As I hope many of you do, I often ask for U.S. made products, simply put because it supports our own economy, no politics here rather common sense for shopping locally and nationally.

The best possible principle is to know where products are made and never be fooled by the name in front of the chocolate bar because it can be misleading so buyer beware.  A couple of examples of this are below.

Last year we received molded chocolate Santa Claus’s as part of our holiday selection of items for sale which was presented as having been made by a very well-known German brand. The packaging was very catchy and the price was affordable; however, when the product arrived we read that it was manufactured in Romania and not manufactured in the highly disciplined German factory. This has become a very common practice in manufacturing, where the product is made very inexpensively in countries such as Romania, China, Taiwan, etc. and finished in countries such as Japan, France, Germany and then are labeled as having been made in Japan, France, or Germany but if you read the label more closely you will find out that it wasn’t.  While we are unable to verify the claim for Romanian standards of production, we did not want to take any risk and immediately refused the product.

Sometimes you find yourself in the crossfire amid international politics, it was the case last year when we received a small collection of pralines with nuts, proudly called “Noble Nuts” The line was produced by our favorite brand Neuhaus chocolates.

During a meeting in Brussels a few weeks ago with the Director of Marketing of that venerable institution, I made them aware that in the past, one of the Noble nuts could no longer have been sold in our store, simply because the nut was the Pistachio from Iran and this was a breach of U.S. laws.  While there were no consequences because this was in the past, at the time is was a breach against U. S. sanctions.

A local retail store has the advantage over large department stores in the sense that the owners tend to know many of the small producers personally and it allows for a more thorough knowledge of their product.  At the end of the day, customer beware and especially be informed.

We would love to hear from you and get your feedback and opinion on the subject. Please feel free to send your comments to

Enjoy the fall and all it has to offer.

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