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Today's Smart Brevity count: 926 words, ~4 minute read.
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At Dandelion Cafe, San Francisco. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux/Dandelion
Wine experts get loads of respect, with their oenologists, viticulturists, masters of wine, not to mention white-gloved sommeliers. Ever since Starbucks elevated the cup of coffee, "Q graders," the mandarins of the Arabica bean, have achieved similar gravitas. Craft beer has its cicerones.
Now, a still-tiny phalanx of fancy chocolate companies, most based in the U.S., think they are on the brink of the same sort of coming of age.
Their product has not yet reached the zenith of niche dining — a fancy appellation to single out its best experts. But exotically sourced chocolate may be the new thing in haut cool.
The big picture: Americans spent about $22 billion on chocolate last year, almost a 1% increase over 2017, according to the National Confectioners Association. But sales of premium chocolate, approximately 6% of the market, grew by more than 19%.
But craft chocolate is growing.
The growth in sales does not necessarily mean that chocolate is the next Starbucks. But consumers are demanding less-sugary and darker chocolate, says Kristy Leissle, author of "Cocoa" and a professor at the University of Washington. "For me, the question is how far will this trend go? Will consumers keep on this quest for healthy living through chocolate, and will the big manufacturers and processors continue to innovate to meet this demand?"
Chocolate has a resonance that is missing from the others.
Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty
A slow but increasingly determined drumbeat to update antitrust laws — held over from the time of enormous railroad companies — has tech companies in the crosshairs, but could spill over into other merger-happy industries.
What's happening: Asked today whether Google, Facebook and other tech giants are too big, President Trump told CNBC, “Obviously, there’s something going on in terms of monopoly.”
What's next: Monopoly-busters have largely focused on the short-term effects of a merger — does it drive up prices, are consumers immediately worse off? But a longer view could change the playing field for modern monoliths, writes Axios' Dan Primack.
For tech companies, the focus on price is something of a loophole. It can perpetuate Big Tech dominance, as consumers don't pay direct dollars for services like Google, while Amazon's size helps it lower prices (at least in the short term).
There is plenty of fodder beyond Silicon Valley, too. The health care system, for example, is full of monopolies, writes Axios' Sam Baker.
High school graduation in Denver in 1991. Photo: Emmett Jordan/The Denver Post/Getty
Average wages for high school graduates in the U.S. are finally higher than they were in the middle of the financial crash — but they remain lower than they were in 2000, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, Erica writes.
Why it matters: The cost of a college education is ballooning while incomes for high school grads are shrinking, making young Americans increasingly reliant on sky-high student loans if they want degrees.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Inside the UN. Photo: Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty
It took two researchers 13 hours and $7.80 in cloud computing costs to build an AI system that can generate fake United Nations speeches on refugees, climate change and nuclear disarmament on command, Erica reports.