When Peter Boone first joined Barry Callebaut as the chocolate ingredient giant’s chief innovation officer in 2012, he sat down with the R&D team and asked them what was unique about cocoa.
In an interview, Boone, now the company’s CEO, recalled the answers they gave. They told him it was one of the richest raw materials available, close to crude oil. Cocoa has 35,000 genes and is made up of 2,000 different components that enhance taste, smell and even human health. But, at that point, to make chocolate, the company did a basic grading of the beans, performed general fermentation and roasting actions, and then added many other ingredients to come up with a consistent flavor.
But Barry Callebaut had invested years of research delving into cocoa, determining flavor profiles, figuring out which fruits were optimal for which applications. Boone said 10 years ago the company should use that research to improve the finished product, which was made in a way that hadn’t significantly changed in more than a century.
At an event in Venice this week, Barry Callebaut executives announced the launch of the end result of that research: Second Generation Chocolate. This new approach to chocolate, Boone said, uses targeted and precise harvesting, fermentation and roasting methods in order to bring out the best natural flavors and aromas in cocoa.
“[This is] not just an innovation, but we think it's a real paradigm shift in the world of chocolate,” Boone said at the event. “A product that represents superb quality and exciting reinvention. A whole new future for our industry.”
The new take on chocolate lets the natural qualities of the cacao beans take center stage. Second Generation Chocolate has cocoa as its first ingredient — Boone said each bar of the new chocolate has 80% more cocoa. Sugar is also reduced by half. And the ingredient list for this new chocolate is very short: just cocoa and sugar, plus milk if it’s milk chocolate. Barry Callebaut executives said Second Generation Chocolate follows the company’s CCC principle, which stands for Cocoa Cultivation and Craft.
Bas Smit, Barry Callebaut’s global vice president of marketing, said at the event that consumers have changed, but chocolate has not changed with them.
And while consumers still love to treat themselves with chocolate, the confectionery aisle at the store doesn’t completely deliver what they’re looking for. Consumers are thinking more about how products are made, what ingredients are included, how their food impacts the planet and the health profile of what they eat. And those messages aren’t always there for chocolate.
“It's always about pleasure,” Smit said. “It's always about indulgence, and sometimes even intense indulgence.
“The chocolate they would like to put in the shopping basket, like more and more of the products they buy, are about flavor: nature's flavor,” Smit continued.
The choice of a new generation
Unlike many of the recent chocolate innovations Barry Callebaut has created in recent years, Boone said this is not a new product. It’s bigger than that; an entirely new way to look at making chocolate.
This week’s event was to officially launch Second Generation Chocolate, but it’s not the way that all chocolate will be made anytime soon. Boone compared Second Generation Chocolate to electric cars.
“I'm now converted,” he said. “I will not go back to a fuel car, but the transition [completely away from gasoline vehicles] will take 20 years.”
Barry Callebaut is currently producing chocolate made this way in Ecuador, where it has the facilities and infrastructure necessary, Boone said. It’s starting out as a dedicated product, and Boone said it will have a premium price because of the customized work that has gone into it. Second Generation Chocolate will be available first just in milk and dark chocolate varieties. But the traditionally produced chocolate Barry Callebaut is known for will also be available — and will continue to be available for years to come.
As of now, there are no manufacturers who plan to launch specific products to showcase Second Generation Chocolate, as happened with Barry Callebaut’s previous innovations of ruby chocolate, WholeFruit Chocolate and Elix. Boone said it will likely be quickly picked up by manufacturers interested in bringing a more natural flavor to their consumers. Since Barry Callebaut controls all aspects of the production, from working closely with farmers on the ground, to using specifically calibrated equipment close to where the fruits are harvested, to actually making chocolate for manufacturers and consumers, Boone said everything is there to introduce the chocolate to consumers in a big way.
So far, Second Generation Chocolate has tested well with consumers and manufacturers, Boone said. The clean label aspect and reduced sugar content are likely to attract people who want to indulge, he said.
As for manufacturers, Boone said he sees a future of using the Second Generation Chocolate processing method to create highly customized chocolates.
After all, he said, the cocoa grown in the Ecuador is naturally different from that grown for Barry Callebaut in Guatemala, Colombia, the Dominican Republic or Brazil. Barry Callebaut has already developed a full chocolate tasting method, through which many of the distinct qualities of different chocolates are highlighted, developed and talked about. Using this method as a starting point, Boone said he believes Barry Callebaut will someday be able to work backwards to make the exact flavor profiles that some of their larger customers want.
“We expect we will get 100 to 300 different chocolates under the Second Generation because every customer can start to say, ‘This is the chocolate profile I want. It’s amazing that you only have two or three ingredients on the label. Please hit this kind of spec in terms of taste profile,’” Boone said. “And then we start to map out how we will do the process.”