Ruby chocolate makes its U.S. debut
The world’s largest chocolate market is finally getting a taste of the ruby range, the first new type in more than 80 years.Switzerland’s Barry Callebaut, the top maker of bulk chocolates, is rolling out its ruby breakthrough in the U.S. almost two years after announcing the discovery. The new type of chocolate, with its pinkish hue, expanded the industry’s color palette beyond just dark, milk and white, and was the first new natural shade added since Nestle started making white bars in the 1930s.
Ruby has already made a splash in Asia, where Nestle was the first to adopt the invention, adding it to its KitKat bars starting in Japan. Barry Callebaut has also launched the chocolate in Europe, Australia and New Zealand and trials in the U.S. proved successful, said Bas Smit, global vice president of marketing for the Zurich-based firm, the No. 1 cocoa processor.
“We know there’s a lot of appeal already for quite some time,” Smit said in a telephone interview. “The test market we had with some pioneer artists worked out very well, which made us decide now the next move is into the U.S., the biggest chocolate market in the world.”
Barry Callebaut announced the invention of ruby chocolate in September 2017 after a decade of development. The innovation, based on a special type of cocoa bean that can be found in Ivory Coast, Ecuador and Brazil, has a natural berry flavor that’s sour yet sweet. Ruby first hit the consumer market in January 2018, when Nestle debuted its pink KitKat bars in Japan.
Tapping the U.S. market could boost Barry Callebaut’s sales and help establish ruby as the fourth type of chocolate. The invention is also being officially rolled out in Canada, where Nestle already sells its ruby KitKats.
But there are still some hurdles. The Swiss firm will have to wait for approval from the Food and Drug Administration to be able to call it “chocolate.” For now, the product will be launched as ruby couverture, with early adopters using names like ruby cacao bar and ruby cacao truffle, Smit said. A similar approval process is needed in Canada, he added.
“We filed the application in March 2018,” Smit said of the FDA process. “Because there’s such a high demand and requests coming from our businesses and brands in the U.S., it feels the right moment to give them the opportunity to unlock ruby chocolate.”
Another main hurdle the company may face is that Nestle has been the biggest adopter of ruby chocolate for its KitKat bars. But in the U.S., the KitKat brand is made by The Hershey Co. instead.
While Barry Callebaut says it won’t trademark ruby, the recipe to the world’s first naturally-pink chocolate remains a secret.
“Trademark is of course different than trade secrets,” Smit said. “Even if you know what the ruby bean is about, what the ruby production process is about, you still need to be comfortable enough to commit to volumes of big brands, meaning you need to be able to source enough ruby beans” and that’s not an easy task, he said.
Barry Callebaut is the world’s largest producer of chocolate, generating more than $7 billion in revenue last year. It declined to offer sales figures for its ruby variant, but the product line is available in more than 40 countries.
In the United States, ruby products can be found through such retailers as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Harry & David and Vosges Haut-Chocolate.
The taste profile of ruby hits lots of berry notes with a balance of sweet and milky, said Patrick Peeters, the head of innovation and master chocolatier at Chocolove in Boulder, Colorado. It lends itself to pairings with fruit, coffee, tea, wines, cheeses and herbs.
“As a chocolatier, I fully embrace this new innovation,” he said, describing the unique flavor as a boon to the confectionary market and an exciting ingredient for chocolatiers, pastry chefs and chefs.
“It’s natural, it’s colorful, it’s hedonistic,” CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique said during a 2017 interview with Bloomberg. “There’s an indulgence aspect to it, but it keeps the authenticity of chocolate. It has a nice balance that speaks a lot to millennials.”