L to R: S Peralta (Pacari-Chocolate), Andal Balu (CocoaTown LLC), Mary Jo Stojak (FICA) and Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer (The French Pastry School)
The Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) honored on January 19 four chocolate professionals recognized for their outstanding performance and contribution to the sector.  The Excellence Awards Ceremony, taken place every other year, was part of the FCIA winter event in San Francisco, USA.

This year the winners of the FCIA Excellence Awards are: Mrs. Andal Balu, co-founder of US based Inno Concepts Inc. and its sister firm CocoaTown LLC. Mrs. Balu and her husband have been supplying quality specialty appliances to the gourmet food industry since 1992. CocoaTown LLC designs, and distributes unique, multipurpose equipment to fine chocolate makers. Mrs. Balu was presented with the Innovation in Fine Chocolate Products Award.

Santiago Peralta, co-founder of Ecuadorian Pacari Chocolate, was recognized as Outstanding Fine Chocolate Maker, The eight year old brand with 25 medals is considered the best chocolate in the world. The same evening Peralta was presented with the International Chocolate Awards (ICA) by chocolate expert Martin Christy of Seventy%.

Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder and Academic Dean of Student Affairs at The French Pastry School was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, while Mary Jo Stojak received the Outstanding Service Award. As a fine chocolate maker herself, Mary Jo understood the resources and support needed to run a successful business. Her dedication and commitment to expand the network gave birth to The Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FICA).

FICA is the only organization focused 100% on supporting professionals in the Fine Chocolate segment of the Chocolate Industry.  It started in 2007 with 15 founding members and currently has over 200 worldwide. It is an international group of chocolate professionals who come together in support of the art of fine chocolate making with premium chocolate and natural ingredients and transparent labeling and marketing practices. For more information or to become a member visit www.finechocolateindustry.org