How to read chocolate labels

If you want to buy a chocolate nowadays, there are so many options to choose from, that you can sometimes feel overwhelmed. You may find yourself staring at chocolate bars trying to figure out why a bar costs 1 euro and the other one 5 euros.

Industrial chocolate makers do an excellent job impersonating mass produced chocolate as artisan. With their marketing strategies and so many options in the chocolate aisle, it feels really confusing and even hard to pick just one bar.

Buying a chocolate shouldn’t be this hard. In the end, you just want to buy something nice and special to make you feel good. So, how to read chocolate labels? Don´t worry! We want to help you understand the terminology on the labels, so you can go home with a quality product 😊


First of all, the most important thing to always keep in mind: less in more! 

When buying craft chocolate bars, look for a simple list of ingredients. The perfect craft chocolate only needs 2 ingredients. Yes, you are reading correctly, just 2 ingredients. Or 3, if you are buying milk chocolate.

The main ingredient should always be cacao. This ingredient should be the first one on the list, it is really non-negotiable. This can be named cacao beans, cacao mass or even cacao liquor (they are all the same). We don’t recommend bars that are made from cacao powder/raw cacao powder.

We know sugar is an important ingredient in our favorite chocolates. It is used to sweeten the bar and bring out the cocoa flavor. Look for natural options and not things like maltitol, xylitol and sorbitol. These are sugar alcohols that are not good for your health.

If you see cacao butter on the label, it’s fine because it’s a fat extracted from the cocoa bean. Some craft chocolate makers use this ingredient to improve the texture. Cocoa butter is actually the magic ingredient responsible for the smoothness in chocolates.

Ingredients are displayed based on quantity, so please remember that the order of the ingredient is very important. If you see ingredients that you don´t recognize, please think again. Do you really want to eat that?


What to avoid?

Please take a step back from a chocolate if you see on the label words like: butter oil, palm oil, or other vegetable oils. Mass produced chocolate companies sometimes use these, because they are cheaper than cocoa butter.

We recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners as well, since they change the taste of the chocolate. If you want to experience the real cacao flavor, the sweetener should have a neutral flavor.

In addition, you should also avoid vanillin, which is a synthetic version of vanilla used in low-quality chocolates. You want and need real vanilla.

What about ingredients like nuts, spices or fruits? Don´t worry, that’s ok. Chocolate makers have gotten very creative in order to differentiate themselves from the competition.


It is also very important that you can identify where the chocolate is from. The more information about the origin, the ingredients and the process, the better. Craft chocolate makers focus on their beans and its flavors. So look for country, region, plantation or even information about the farmers. Remember, it’s all about the beans!

Craft and Artisan…

Look for words like “Craft” and “Artisan”, they indicate small batch production. This is also an indication if the chocolate is really a sustainable craft chocolate (which you should see on the label), or if it was industrially produced.

Fair Trade & Direct Trade

“Fair Trade”, “Direct Trade” or “Sourced Directly” show the relationship with the farmers. This way we can support everyone in the supply chain. ⠀

Key takeaways

A high percentage of cocoa doesn’t mean the chocolate has a higher quality. Sure, it is important because it shows the chocolate maker understand that more and more people are looking for healthier alternatives.. However, you have to take into consideration all aspects we mentioned above.

Now you know it is not about the prettiest package with fancy words. It’s about the quality that you can now recognize by looking at the details. Go get some craft chocolates and practice your knowledge 😊

You are still not sure what is the right chocolate for you?

Subscribe to our monthly chocolate box and discover the world of craft chocolate from the best bean-to-bar chocolate makers.

Every month something new!

Craft chocolate subscription