A breakthrough by a Swiss chocolate maker expands the industry's hues beyond just dark, milk and white.
Barry Callebaut AG, the world's largest cocoa processor, has come up with the first new natural color for chocolate since Nestlé started making bars of white chocolate more than 80 years ago. The Zurich-based company refers to the product with a pinkish hue and a fruity flavor as "ruby chocolate."
The new product may help boost sales in a struggling global chocolate market that producers hope has touched bottom. As Hershey cuts 15 percent of its staff and Nestlé tries to sell its U.S. chocolate business, ruby chocolate raises the possibility that next Valentine's Day may arrive with store shelves full of naturally pink chocolate hearts.
The innovation, based on a special type of cocoa bean, comes after about a decade of development, Chief Executive Antoine de Saint-Affrique said. Unveiled Tuesday in Shanghai, the chocolate has a natural berry flavor that is sour yet sweet, according to the company, which works behind the scenes to produce chocolate sold by all the major producers including Hershey and Cadbury.
"It's natural, it's colorful, it's hedonistic, there's an indulgence aspect to it, but it keeps the authenticity of chocolate," the CEO said.
The new product may also appeal to Chinese consumers, a nascent market for chocolate, De Saint-Affrique said. Preliminary consumer research in Britain, the U.S., China and Japan had a good response.
Innovations in chocolate often take years because of the complex structures and the challenge of maintaining texture and taste. Nestlé scientists have found a way to reduce the amount of sugar, for example. Barry Callebaut also sells chocolate that withstands higher temperatures.
While other companies including Cargill already produce red cocoa powder, this is the first time natural reddish chocolate is produced. "You could try and copy the color and try to copy the flavor, but making a real chocolate, which is just made out of your normal chocolate ingredients, with that taste and with that color would be extraordinarily difficult," De Saint-Affrique said.