The latest in a long line of edible and inedible objects to get the pink treatment — including ceviche, cocktails, and entire restaurants — is chocolate. Barry Callebaut AG, the world’s largest producer of chocolate, claims to have invented an entirely new type of chocolate it calls ruby — and yes, it has a petal pink hue. As the Switzerland-based company’s CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique told Bloomberg: “It’s natural, it’s colorful, it’s hedonistic, 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.”
“There are no added colors in it,” says Mike Schrauth, VP of Callebaut’s gourmet division. “It’s made up of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, dairy, and sugar. There are no added flavors. It’s about how we process it.” Schrauth says the Swiss chocolate maker has invented a new way of processing certain chocolate beans that “isolates the flavor precursors that preserve a red color and natural berry flavor.”
Currently, world markets and governmental organizations like the Food and Drug Administration define chocolate as containing both cocoa solids or chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. Dark chocolate, which comes in different percentages, is composed of 70 or more percent of cocoa solids; the rest is generally made up of cocoa butter and sugar. Milk chocolate is made by adding dairy to dark chocolate. White chocolate is made entirely of sugar and cocoa butter, or the fat that comes from cocoa beans once they are roasted and processed.
Ruby chocolate has not yet been approved by the FDA or equivalent government offices in other countries, and the process for seeking approval, finding a production partner in each major market (Asia, Europe, and the U.S.), and placing the product in stores and on restaurant menus will take up to a year, according to Schrauth. The company’s initial announcement had its intended effect: News of the new chocolate is now ricocheting across the internet.
Though the FDA will need to approve the name “ruby chocolate” before the product can be labeled as such, Schrauth says there’s an exception that allows a new product to be marketed as a new invention while pending FDA sign off. “It’s tricky because it doesn’t contain enough dairy to qualify as milk chocolate, and contains more cocoa solids than white chocolate,” Schrauth says. “It may need a whole new designation.”
Callebaut says its ruby chocolate was developed after 10 years of research and testing. It’s made from beans grown in the Ivory Coast, Ecuador, and Brazil; the color “comes from the powder extracted during processing.” Other companies have produced red cocoa powder in the past, but this is the first reddish chocolate.
As Bloomberg notes, though chocolate is one of the world’s most ubiquitous luxuries, it is difficult to create new chocolate products that taste and look good, are shelf-stable, can be profitably produced, and meet consumer demands. Though it’s a long way from hitting the market in the U.S., when ruby chocolate arrives, it will be the first new innovation in the cacao market since white chocolate was invented over 80 years ago.
Meanwhile, a debate is raging on some chocolate forums with enthusiasts and experts raising concerns and skepticism about the new product’s veracity.
“This is classic marketing hype,” says Megan Giller, food writer, Eater contributor, and author of the new book Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution. “We don’t yet know what Callebaut means by the ‘ruby cocoa bean,’ especially since no expert I’ve ever spoken to has mentioned a unique type of bean that comes from the Ivory Coast, Ecuador, and Brazil.” Giller has done some research and believes this new product is made from “a genetically modified bean, maybe CCN-51, that has been processed in a particular way to get that ruby color.” (Schrauth would not go into specifics regarding how the bean was developed, citing intellectual property.)
Giller, an advocate for artisanal, fair-trade chocolate — something Callebaut is not known for — “hopes that in the future, big chocolate companies will focus on making quality chocolates with unique flavors and pure, ethically sourced ingredients rather than gimmicks designed to trick consumers. There are already single-origin chocolates with delicious fruity notes — they just aren’t bright pink.”
• A Belgian Chocolatier Wants You to Snort Chocolate [E]
• Don’t Call It Pink Chocolate [Bloomberg]