Anyone trying to walk the five exhibition halls (encompassing 110,000 sq. meters) at ISM in Cologne, Germany, this past January would have had a hard time avoiding chocolate, much less sampling an exotic piece of theobroma. After all, with 784 chocolate manufacturers offering everything from chocolate wrapped in a Kentucky tobacco leaf to enhance flavor (Cuorenero Barrique Chocolate from the Sugar Co.) to beer-flavored truffles (Original Kulmbacher Beer truffles from Esther Confiserie), it was rather evident that “chocolate is the new black (or brown or white).”
Of course, the seemingly “anything” goes in chocolate trend dovetailed nicely with several ongoing trends impacting confections – health, premiumization and organic. Some products, chocolate-based in particular, intertwined all of the above.
Vlezenbeek, Belgium-based Neuhaus, which marked its 150th anniversary last year, continues to extend its celebration with creative launches, such as its ChocoSpresso debut at the show.
“One truffle or two?” is the question chocolate aficionados will ask when offered a box of ChocoSpresso. Formulated to be dropped into hot milk, ChocoSpresso elevates chocolate drinking into an art, Veronique De Clercq, communication coordinator for Neuhaus, asserts. The box contains six varieties of ganache-filled pralines: Mocha (classic); Sao Tome (strong); Vanilla (exotic); Orange (bitter); Milk (soft) and Spekulatius/Spiced Cookie (traditional).
In its Ring of Stars offering, Neuhaus turns to renowned chefs and chocolatiers for inspiration in creating the perfect truffle. Nine culinary stars ranging from Raymond Blanc in England to Tateru Yoshino in Japan add their personal touches to handmade pralines, coming up with intense flavor combinations using exotic teas, spirits, fruits and spices.
In conjunction with its emphasis on sublime elegance, and as part of its 150th anniversary celebration, Neuhaus has embarked on an ambitious program of upgrading all its retail shops, contemporizing the interior with brighter colors that accent its broad product line and creating a signature ambiance with its “The Wall of Temptations,” “The Avenue of Desires” and the “Event Totem.”
Well-known chocolate bar producer Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG, while not involved in operating any retail shops, also took steps to upgrade, committing itself to using higher quality ingredients for all of its 22 varieties.
As a result, it will use only exclusively natural flavors as opposed to nature-identical flavors. A long-time user of organic nuts and biscuits, Ritter has invested during the past two years in improving recipes. In addition, it has added new transport and storage facilities to ensure fresh ingredients for processing.
This “quality offensive” backs up Ritter Sports’ new slogan, “The best ingredients for the best flavor.” As such, the company also announced its decision to launch a new organic range of Ritter bars in four varieties: Whole milk (35% cocoa), Bittersweet (60% cocoa), Slivered Almonds and Grape and Cashew.
“The development of organic chocolate was the next logical step and consistent with our long-term quality strategy,” said Alfred Ritter, chairman and managing director of the company. “Our organic chocolate proves that organic is not about doing without. The purpose of sustainable organic farming is to make life better. Our organic chocolate is simply delicious. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean less flavor, on the contrary.”
It’s all about flavor for Chocolates Valor, S.A., as the company introduced its All Natural dark chocolate bar line at the show. The 70% cocoa content bars come in seven flavors: Orange, Forest Fruit, Toffee, Mint, Pear, Plain and Banana. Known for its Marcona Almond bars, the company has also come out with a new 150-gram line that comes in 70% and 52% dark chocolate varieties and a milk chocolate offering.
It’s also enhancing its sugar-free lineup with four new introductions: 72% Dark Chocolate with cocoa nibs, 70% Dark Chocolate with Coffee, 70% Dark Chocolate and 70% Dark Chocolate Premium.
Chocolate drink lovers will now have an opportunity to sip true Spanish Taza as Valor showcased its Taza To Go product in 400 and 900 ml. packs. To accompany the chocolate drink, Valor offers consumers its Little Secrets pralines, which are available in 190 gram and 63-gram standup boxes in 70% Dark Chocolate and Dark Chocolate with Almonds varieties.
It was chocolate and then some for Lambertz, which was celebrating its 320th anniversary at the show. Having posted a 6.1% gain in revenues during 2007, the traditional ginger bread snack manufacturer continues to expand its year-round offerings with innovative debuts, such as its new Nussparade (Nut parade) line of nut snacks and Malties, a European version of the classic malt ball.
Nut lovers looking for a light yet satisfying fix will enjoy the Nussparade launch, as Lambertz’s four varieties – Cashews Crisps in Milk Chocolate, Peanut Crisps in Caramel, Hazelnut Crisps – deliver crunch and flavor in a delicate carrier. Those seeking a noisier crunch will favor Malties, an airy malt center confection enrobed in dark chocolate.
The company’s forte, traditional gingerbread cookies, as well as chocolate biscuits come in a variety of beautifully crafted, gift-giving tins, including the Alles Liebe (All Love) magnet box and the Best Selection, 1,000-gram box, which contains 21 different cookie types. The Best Selection tin was awarded the UK Packaging award last year.
When discussing gifting, one would be hard-pressed to ignore Kambly’s latest product launches. Long revered as the manufacturer of the finest biscuits in the world, the company broke new ground with its Couer Truffé, an artistically shape biscuit heart that features a silky truffle filling covered in extra-thin, crunchy semi-dark chocolate.
Complementing the Couer Truffé are two other creations, the Tendre Noisette, a light meringue biscuit sandwich filled with hazelnut cream topped by a dap of Swiss milk chocolate on one end and accented on the other by several milk chocolate streaks.
Then there’s Carré Fondant, a light hazelnut biscuit that features a delicate truffle cream containing hazelnut pieces, covered in dark Swiss chocolate and decorated with milk chocolate. Such artistry earned the new biscuit a Reconnu Saveur de l’Annee 2008 innovation prize.
“We are merging confections with biscuits,” explains Oscar Kambly, managing director of Kambly. “We’re going back to the artisan method, making our products more complex, as if they were done by hand. Nevertheless, everything is fully automated.”
Kambly points out that the Couer Truffé was three years in development, a process that required engineering a new method of creating the filling. But in extolling technology, Kambly was just as earnest in emphasizing the importance of sourcing.
“Consumers are looking for authenticity,” he says.
Authenticity is exactly what Rausch has based its growth on. The Berlin, Germany-based chocolate manufacturer has doubled its revenues during the past three years, targeting consumers who appreciate and seek out single-origin chocolates.
Since developing six sorts of Plantagenschokolade chocolates in 2000, Jurgen Rausch, managing director of the company, has concentrated on ensuring that only “fine cocoa” is used in his products. With only 5% of the world's cocoa harvest making the grade as fine cocoa - cocoa that’s cultivated in Middle- and South America, the Caribbean and on the islands of Java, Madagascar and New Guinea - ensuring their availability and quality has been critical to Rausch’s success.
The line, which now includes eight varieties – Noumea, Java, Madagaskar, Puerto Cabello, Amazonas, Arriba, Tobago and Trinitario, comes in a variety of sizes, ranging from the 250-gram bar to the ever popular 40-gram sticks.
As Biki Khurana, managing director of Rausch, pointed out, consumers are changing they way the view chocolate.
“In the past, people would buy 10 bars of chocolate at a low price because of a special offer,” Khurana explained. “Today, they are looking to buy their favorite chocolate bar, one bar, at a higher price. They’re looking for quality, not quantity. It’s a ‘you only go around once in life’ mentality.
It’s a similar mantra at Loacker, which realized a 14% upshot in sales last year, a record-breaking pace for the global leader in the production of high quality wafer products. This year Loacker looks to tap into the growing affinity for dark chocolate and snacking convenience with its X-cream and Sticks Fondente rollouts.
X-Cream, which features a new innovative wafer texture, uses a light chocolate cream to deliver an extra crispy yet rich chocolate eating experience. The Sticks Fondente offerings build on Loacker’s successful Sticks launch, which feature crisp wafers filled with hazelnut cocoa or lemon creams enveloped in dark or milk chocolate. Sticks Fondente has three layers of dark wafers filled with a dark chocolate cream and then covered with the finest dark chocolate.
Those launches, coupled with an ongoing upgrade of packaging and visuals for its Pasticceria line, reaffirms the company’s commitment to offer consumers “more pleasure appeal.”
As Ulrich Zuenelli, head of operations, notes, “It’s all about offering a premium product at a good price value.”
With Barry Callebaut’s Stollwerck division, it’s a matter of tying in chocolate’s appeal with its health potential. In this instance, Choco+ (Chocoplus) delivers premium taste with an added benefit, probiotic cultures. According to comparative studies conducted by the company, Choc+ carries three times as many valuable probiotics into the digestive tract as comparable products. (Editor’s note: Probiotic foods are products with certain living bacteria, usually lactic acid bateria, which help keep the gut flora in a healthy balance and strengthen the body’s natural health defenses from within.)
Because probiotics do not have any effect on taste, texture or mouth feel, adding them to a premium piece of chocolate delivers a bonus benefit that consumers will find appealing, Stollwerck said.
That same theme prevails with Stollwerck’s new antioxidant chocolate, which features Barry Callebaut’s ACTICOA chocolate. Thanks to the gentle ACTICOA process, the chocolate contains a higher level of antioxidants than typically found in chocolate. Two pieces of chocolates, a mere 20 grams, contain twice as many antioxidants as one glass of red wine (0.1 liter). Available in milk (38% cocoa content) and fine bitter (63% cocoa content), the 100-gram bars hit retail stores last February.
Health themes, nonetheless aren’t only prevalent in chocolate. For example, long-time innovator Hebert Mederer, managing director of the Mederer Group, revealed three new good-for-you Trolli products at the show: Actident; Actifit; and Actifruit.
The Actident gummi product reverses a long-time prevailing myth about candy – that it’s bad for your teeth.
“Actident actually builds tooth enamel, facilitating remineralization through calcium ions,” says Mederer. “The saliva actually acts as a catalyst in helping build up enamel rather than eroding it.”
The second better-for-you entry, Actifit, features a Vitamin B complex sourced from ground quinona flower seed. The quinona seed delivers the highest percentage of Vitamin B complex and is regarded as a natural medicine. Typically, the Vitamin B complex, which is found in many fruits and vegetables, stimulates energy and clarity.
With Actifruit, the Mederer Group has combined fruit and vegetables essences to deliver bioactive benefits within a gummi format. Two years in development, the fruit/vegetable combination helps strengthen a body’s natural defenses.
Sometimes consumers require balance rather than a boost. Wrigley GmbH offers stressed individuals the opportunity to soothe the psyche and body with Orbit Balance Papaya-Aloe Vera. The fusion features the fruitiness and long-lasting flavor of papaya with the equilibrium benefits associated with aloe vera.
In that same better-for-you line, the company launched its Extra Drops line that combines a xylitol powder filling with unusual flavors. Xylitol, which is a natural sugar substitute extracted from plants that has a proven healthy effect on teeth, provides a fresh taste as the drop dissolves. The fresh taste commingles with three new flavor fusions: Cranberry Lime, Caramel with Mint and Strong Mint.
And speaking of fruit flavors, which continue to have a strong influence within the confectionery marketplace, Magic Fruits debuted their singular product, Beauty Snacks. By using a proprietary process, the company drains select fruits from water but ensures the key essences of the fruit, thus delivering a generous dose of Vitamin C, which fortifies the immune system and rejuvenates the skin.
And sometimes, it’s just a dollop of chocolate that can prove rejuvenating, as Bahlsen’s Leibniz Choco Sticks demonstrate. Conscious of convenience and snacking ease, the company developed the famous Leibniz biscuit into a stick form with a healthy dose of milk chocolate on one end. Packaged in a pocket-sized folding box with a click lid, the Choco Sticks make for perfect “on-the-go” snacks.