Everyone loves chocolate. In an April 2018 report, Mintel reports that 90 percent of adults reported purchasing some form of chocolate in a three-month period of time. The demand for premium chocolate is increasing, with consumers showing interest in single-origin chocolate and branching out into details like provenance and origin, as well as flavor pairings with exotic profiles like chili, fennel, cardamom, and matcha green tea.

Consumer interest in specialized diets also has chocolate ingredient suppliers innovating with dairy-free and vegan chocolate products, as well as fortifying products with ingredients such as protein. The sourcing process is also increasingly transparent, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and ethical.



Puratos USA, Pennsauken, NJ, is introducing a new line of ingredients focused on health and wellness. “Healthy eating is as much about stripping away the unnecessary ingredients as it is about adding more of the ‘good stuff,’” says Alejandro Tovar, vice president marketing. “In accordance with both consumer needs and established international organizations’ guidelines and without compromising on taste and texture, we are working on: increasing the availability of nutrients and ingredients recognized for their positive impact on health, such as fibers and whole grains, and decreasing the presence of nutrients and ingredients recognized for their negative impact on health if consumed in excess, such as salt, certain fats and sugar.”

Tovar notes that the new line includes:

  • Belcolade Origins CT, from Papua New Guinea, naturally dried, dairy-free, organic, all natural, 73 percent sustainable cocoa, roasted flavors of coffee and hazelnut with notes of fresh and dried fruit and underlying hints of black pepper and honey
  • Belcolade Reduced Sugar CT, premium Belgian dark chocolate, 30 percent reduced sugar, high in fiber (chicory root), produced in Belgium
  • Belcolade Organic, premium Belgian dark and milk chocolate with different flavor profiles
  • Chocolanté Organic, can be adapted to suit desired tastes and requirements, manufactured in U.S.
  • Belcolade Amber, Belgian craftsmanship, bright and intense amber color, all natural, Cacao-Trace certified, caramelized in process
  • Belcolade DairyFree, real Belgian 4M chips, dairy-free dark, organic, non-GMO

These new ingredients can be used in bark, bars, cookies, brownies, muffins, and cakes, among other applications.

Consumers are more cognizant of the amount of sugar in their diet. To meet those needs, Icon Foods, Portland, OR, has launched SweetBitz, a line of no-added-sugar inclusions that can be used in baked goods, frozen desserts, bars, and cookies. “We led off with NSA Dark Chocolate Chips which we sold over 3 million lbs. We have launched SweetBitz NSA Dark Chocolate Baking Chips and SweetBitz White Chocolate Chips in both 2M and 4M. All of these can weave seamlessly into bars and baked goods. 10 percent of added sugars come from inclusions. SweetBitz can mitigate those added sugars and are Keto-friendly,” explains Thom King, CEO and president. The Sweetbitz ingredients are clean label and made with cocoa butter, cocoa powder, erythritol, stevia, and sunflower lecithin. The company plans to expand the White Chocolate Chips by offering additional flavors such as cardamom, caramel, and seasonal options like pumpkin pie spice.

Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate North America, Minneapolis, offers customized compound coatings and inclusions fortified with protein and fiber. The coatings work well in a variety of applications, such as drizzling the top of a nutrition bar, enrobing nuts, or adding indulgent chunks into a muffin, notes Gretchen Hadden, marketing manager.



Later in 2020, Guittard Chocolate Co., Burlingame, CA, is scheduled to launch a new line of single-origin products called Collection Etienne, four premium, single-origin chocolate ingredients offered in a wafer format. The line was created with the intention of highlighting the subtle flavor nuances of each origin’s bean, and to allow more pairing and application flexibility, notes Amy Guittard, director of marketing. The percentage for each was selected to highlight the unique flavor of the bean. “The purpose of the new line is to provide chefs, bakers, and other industry professionals with a tool to more deeply explore the nuances of chocolate, with each origin bearing distinct flavor notes and characteristics that will allow users to uniquely tailor their chocolate creations to deliver a truly outstanding final product to the consumer,” she says.

The new line will include:

  • 72 percent Ecuador, from Hacienda Rancho Grande in Vinces, Los Rios Province, a rarified Forastero varietal, extremely dark color, floral notes with hints of dried cherries and banana, nuttiness and flavors of roasted stone fruit, tobacco, and tea tannins balanced with mild astringency and a soft acid finish
  • 64 percent Madagascar, from Akesson Bejofo Estate in Sambriano Valley, pleasant bitterness and soft acid with notes of warm savory spices and bourbon barrel, bright and tart citrus fruit intermingle with under-ripe berries and a dash of spice
  • 66 percent Peru, from the Oro Verde Cooperative in Lamas, San Martin, fresh and bright fruitiness and acidity give way to hints of red fruit and unripe mango with lingering floral notes
  • 70 percent Grenada, an aroma of dried fruit with plum and apricot notes, very early upfront browned fruit-date note, moderate chocolate tones and mild fruit acidity, under-ripe apricot and young guava lead with a long-lasting smooth chocolate finish

All the new products are Non-GMO Project Verified and work well across a range of pastry, bakery, and confectionary applications.


Extracts and flavors

Virginia Dare, Brooklyn, NY, produces custom liquid and dry cocoa extracts to add another layer of flavor complexity to chocolate snack and bakery products. Philip Caputo, marketing and consumer insights manager, highlights some examples:

  • Chocolate flavors, from milk chocolate to chocolate pudding and hot fudge, classic chocolate flavors that consumers know and recognize
  • Chocolate flavor keys, custom flavor systems, adding complexity or dimension to chocolate-type flavors, options include fruity, buttery, caramelic, earthy, floral, and roasted
  • Indulgent profiles, flavors include chocolate mousse, s’mores, mocha, chocolate lava cake, and much more
  • Chocolate pairing, complementary flavors like bourbon, butterscotch, chai spice, ginger, marshmallow, and lavender

Virginia Dare offers clean-label, non-GMO, allergen-free, organic, kosher, halal, fair trade, and Rainforest Alliance certified products.


Sustainability commitments

Producing chocolate that is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and ethically sourced and manufactured is increasingly important to consumers.

Puratos addresses chocolate sustainability through Cacao-Trace. “What sets our sustainable cocoa sourcing program apart, is that our main focus is on taste and creating value for everyone, from the cocoa farmers to your customers,” explains Tovar. For every pound of Cacao-Trace chocolate bought, $0.05 goes back to cocoa farmers.

In 2012, Cargill established the Cargill Cocoa Promise, the company’s future-looking and action-oriented framework for global sustainability efforts. In 2017, the company outlined five sustainability goals: famer livelihood, community wellbeing, protecting our planet, consumer confidence, and transformation together. Through the program this year, more than 200,000 farmers have received training and/or one-on-one coaching to ensure adoption of good agricultural practices, while 137 communities in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana are currently developing community action plans to define the resources they need going forward.



Pairing honey with chocolate

Chocolate is having a moment. The indulgent ingredient walks a fine line between a calorie-laden indulgence and better-for-you ingredient. When combined with a sweetener and flavor such as honey, chocolate’s positioning in the baking and snack food industries improves.

Honey blends beautifully with chocolate, whether it’s white, milk, dark or the newest member of the family, ruby chocolate. From a flavor perspective, honey provides balance to chocolate, making a bitter chocolate sweeter and adding an acidic complexity to white chocolate.

Honey also can be uniquely flavorful based on the varietal. Monofloral honeys, such as Orange Blossom, Buckwheat, or Watermelon, give bakers the ability to impart specific flavor profiles. In monofloral varietals, honey bees predominantly visit one type of plant, and the nectar they pull from the flowers imparts a unique color, flavor, and aroma. There are more than 3,000 varietals of honey worldwide.

Honey’s ability to complement chocolate is exhibited in RealBar’s new Honey and Chocolate Bar, a raw cold-pressed bar. In the bar, formulated to mimic a brownie, honey works with chocolate to bring together a diverse ingredient list that includes almond butter, pea protein, date paste, and cacao nibs.

Base Culture has capitalized on honey’s all-natural and unprocessed characteristics in its Paleo Raspberry Cocoa Brownie. The indulgent treat features a clean label with honey as the first ingredient. In the brownie, honey works with chocolate to complement a raspberry swirl, and functionally, honey helps hold all the ingredients together, including eggs, cashew butter, and cocoa powder.

Similar to chocolate, honey shares a story when it comes to the source of the ingredient. The National Honey Board recently released a Celebrating Beekeeping video that details the importance of honey bees and beekeepers to our entire food ecosystem.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Services, honey bees are responsible for more than 35 percent of the foods we eat through their pollination efforts. The amazing story of honey can help give baked goods formulated with chocolate and honey a deeper meaning well beyond flavor and texture.

—Catherine Barry, Director of Marketing, National Honey Board