Expanding upon its network of innovation centers in North America, Barry Callebaut, a Chicago-based manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products, announced the opening of a special research and development laboratory and pilot plant at its cocoa products factory in Eddystone, Pa.

The pilot plant-a scaled-down cocoa products factory that mimics the production processes that occur on actual full-scale product lines in the factory-will enable Barry Callebaut to better serve its industrial customers in the American region. Specifically, the company will be able to produce cocoa liquor, cocoa powder and cocoa butter from any cocoa bean blend in small batches, as well as test new products and raw ingredients, prior to producing them on a mass scale.

“With this new applications laboratory and pilot plant, we will be able to create truly unique cocoa products customized specifically to meet our food manufacturing customers’ needs in terms of color, flavor and performance attributes,” says Hans Vriens, chief innovation officer for Barry Callebaut.

Prior to the opening of the pilot plant in Eddystone, Barry Callebaut’s pilot-scale R&D work in the area of cocoa could only be done in the company’s cocoa processing facility in Louviers, France. “With the opening of this pilot facility, we can now perform R&D services closer to our North American customers and offer better and faster services,” says Mark Adriaenssens, Barry Callebaut’s R&D director for the Americas region.

State-of-the-art cocoa processing equipment
The new pilot plant features a variety of innovative pilot-scale equipment, including a winnower, which dehulls and winnows cocoa beans; a nib and cake alkalizer, which neutralizes acidic components in the cocoa nib roaster that roasts the bits of the cocoa beans that have been separated from their hulls; cocoa liquor grinding line, which grinds the roasted cocoa nibs into a fine paste; cocoa press, which separates the cocoa paste into liquid cocoa butter and solid cocoa cakes; and a cocoa powder mill, which processes the solid cocoa into a powder.

The applications lab also features an automatic cutter, giving Barry Callebaut’s R&D team new production capabilities for developing syrups, sauces, fillings and ice cream-based applications.  

In addition, Barry Callebaut operates similar facilities focused on the development of chocolate products and applications in Pennsauken, N.J.; St. Hyacinthe, Quebec; Monterrey, Mexico; and Ilhéus, Brazil.

“With our expanded network of research and development facilities in the Americas region, our customers can now more than ever customize their products from the bean to the bar, giving them a distinct advantage over their competitors,” said Adriaenssens.