All-natural demands spurring development amongst chocolate suppliers as consumers seek authenticity, traceability and wellness.

All-natural demands spurring development amongst chocolate suppliers as consumers seek authenticity, traceability and wellness.

By Bernard Pacyniak

It’s all quiet on the commodities front. OK, perhaps that’s stretching it a bit. But certainly the volatility and surge in cocoa prices that’s prevailed over the last few months has dissipated - at least as this piece went to press.

In doing so, customers and consumers have an opportunity to drink in ongoing developments, which cocoa and chocolate suppliers dutifully have been working on for months, even years.

One of the latest new chocolate entries comes from Barry Callebaut, which unveiled its new Sweet by Fruits chocolate at FiE’s show in Paris last November.

In a move that addresses consumer demand for “products free from certain ingredients such as additives, preservatives or refined sugars,” the world’s largest cocoa and chocolate processing company has introduced a chocolate sweetened by all-natural fruit sugars, derived entirely from fruits. It functions as an alternative sweetening solution, thus replacing the refined sugar in chocolate.

“We are very excited to launch Sweet by Fruits, the first chocolate on the market with only sugars 100% derived from fruits,” stresses Hans Vriens, chief innovation officer at Barry Callebaut. “This chocolate does not contain any added refined sugar and no added artificial sweeteners. It is made from selected cocoa and sweetened by sugars from fruits such as apples and grapes without compromising in the exquisite taste of our high-quality chocolate.”

According to Barry Callebaut, Sweet by Fruits is the first chocolate that combines the entire and complex sugar profile of selected fruit and thus forms an answer to the increasing demands for chocolate with ingredients from natural sources. It also excludes the potential side effects of some other alternative sweetening solutions.

Natural fruits contain different sugars such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, polyols and complex sugars. Typically in existing fructose chocolate, the fructose is being isolated, and purified, the company says. In Sweet by Fruits, the entire sugar profile of the selected fruits is included, the company says.

Barry Callebaut also introduced another sweetening solution at the Paris show - chocolate sweetened with stevia extract. Thanks to the European Union’s approval of stevia on Nov, 12, Barry Callebaut now also is offering European food manufacturers the sweetness extracted from stevia leafs in chocolate with no added sugars.

In North America, stevia’s use has already been growing for some time.

“We are seeing that people want to make natural claims, and although there is no FDA-approved definition of ‘natural’ for chocolate, we address the desire by switching to natural sweeteners and flavorings,” says Jenna Derhammer, R&D scientist, applications dept., Blommer Chocolate. “There is growing interest in stevia as a natural, high intensity sweetener since it became GRAS; we have carried stevia-sweetened products since early 2010 and continuously use it to develop new products.”

Noting that health and healthful living is a concern for consumers, Derhammer pointed out that Blommer’s customers were responding to that concern. Thus, high protein and fiber are popular for both their implications in greater satiety/weight reduction and for their contribution to overall health, she says.

“Our customers have been adding their own special blends of supplements to chocolate for products that contribute to mental acuity, heart health, antioxidant, etc.,” Derhammer continues. “It is an exciting trend that has not yet fully developed; we are sure to see new value-added items and nutraceuticals added to chocolate in the coming years. We have experimented with a number of proteins and fibers to find the best taste and texture and have several products that feature them. We have also been working with probiotics for the past two years since it is popular with consumers and chocolate is an excellent carrier for it.”

Not only is there special attention being paid to specific ingredients going into chocolate, but there’s also more focus on where the chocolate comes from and how it’s processed. Consequently, certification continues to play a larger role in the countries where cocoa is grown.

“Rainforest Alliance Certified (RAC) chocolate requests are outpacing Fair Trade, which is exciting for us because Blommer is the leader in the RAC field,” Derhammer says. “We have been practicing sustainable cocoa farming for years and now it is becoming a big trend for all confectioners, not just premium customers. People want to know that their chocolate is ethically and conscientiously sourced as well as where it is grown. We have been seeing more focus on the origin and telling the story of where the beans are grown, why this origin is unique and we even see farmers from coops being featured as part of the story on packaging. We have a number of organic, traceable and/or Rain Forest Alliance chocolates to answer this need.”

All-natural, sustainable, origins and health benefits are all trends making an impact on chocolate products these days. Still, flavor reigns supreme amongst consumers. Moreover, there’s a tendency on consumers’ part to be more adventuresome.

Hence, as Derhammer points out, salted candies are extremely popular and prolific.

“We are also seeing new flavors like African fruits such as baobab, new berries like cloudberry and yumberry as well as ’classic American’ flavors making their way into confections,” she says. “We have developed some excellent new flavored compounds like cream cheese, marshmallow and red velvet.

“We just developed a Provident red glitter mint compound disc; mint flavor is nothing new but the edible red glitter in this white disc is what sets this piece apart,” Derhammer adds. “The glitter bakes out well and melts while keeping the glitter intact; it adds a wow factor to confections.”

Clearly, cocoa and chocolate suppliers are helping confectioners intensify that wow factor.

Barry Callebaut’s Terra Cacao captures Innovation of the Year award

Barry Callebaut’s Terra Cacao chocolate can now add “award-winning” to its title.

The product was the winner of the FI Confectionery Innovation of the Year Excellence Award as well as the Most Innovative Food Ingredient Award.

“Winning two of these prestigious awards exceeds our highest expectations,” says Sofie De Lathouwer, marketing director food manufacturers products region Europe with Barry Callebaut. “Obviously our Terra Cacao range is an answer to our customer’s demands, but [this] is also a huge motivation for us to continue striving to make a perfect chocolate.”

Terra Cacao originally was launched in February 2011 and relies on new cocoa cultivation and fermentation methods developed by Barry Callebaut in collaboration with local cocoa growers.

This process produces zero-defect beans and avoids off flavors, resulting in a 100% “purest in its kind” cocoa beans as an ingredient for superior chocolate, with an unprecedented harmony of pure tastes and rich aromas.

For Terra Cacao, Barry Callebaut searches for plantations on flavor-enhancing terroirs in equatorial regions. The cocoa beans are then handpicked only at the precise moment when they contain a maximum of flavors and aromas.

Then, the cocoa is fermented with the company’s 100% natural method that respects and enhances even the most delicate flavors and aromas.

Afterwards, the beans are roasted in their shells until they release all of their inherent flavors. And finally, the chocolate is conched, fully preserving the right texture, aroma, taste and flavors.

“This award is the reward for years of painstaking research,” says Nicholas Camu, fermentation innovation manager at Barry Callebaut. “Terra Cacao started with a study at the University, but quickly became an interesting and passionate challenge until Barry Callebaut reached its goal: a cocoa of an unseen top quality, cultivated in a sustainable way and thus resulting in a superior-tasting chocolate.

“Winning this award shows that not only our customers appreciate the outcome of the project, but also a jury of industry experts and specialists,” he adds.

The Terra Cacao range covers several milk and dark chocolate references varying from 33.5% to 70.5% cocoa mass. The product, which comes shaped as callets, is packed in 10-kg bags and will be available to industrial customers worldwide.