FDA's definition of chocolate excludes new ruby variety
Barry Callebaut can't market its new ruby chocolate product in the U.S. since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't consider it chocolate, according to ConfectioneryNews. The Swiss chocolatier has asked the agency for a temporary marketing permit allowing it to label the product as chocolate, and the company is expecting a response by October or November.
Lauren Bergan, Barry Callebaut North America's director of innovation for market development, told the news site that because ruby doesn't into any of the existing chocolate categories — milk, dark and white — it must be considered a compound for now. FDA regulations dictate the ingredients which must be in a product in order to legally call it "chocolate."
Bergan said Barry Callebaut has been in discussions with U.S. food companies on potential partnerships involving the new ruby chocolate.
Receiving a chocolate designation by the FDA could mean big dollars for Barry Callebaut. Chances are the unique product wouldn't sell very well if had to be labeled a compound instead of chocolate. Food companies, especially those in the confectionary space eager for the next big product, also could be less inclined to develop a new item if the new ingredient wasn't considered to be chocolate.
The new pink treat is expected to be especially popular with millennials who seek something novel and colors that perform well on Instagram and other social media platforms. Compound carries an artificial connotation, an impression that could scare off younger people looking to eat healthier or consume a simpler roster of recognizable ingredients.
The company doesn't reveal its production process but does say the berry-flavored ruby chocolate comes from extracting compounds from ruby cocoa beans harvested in Ecuador, Brazil and Ivory Coast. Barry Callebaut calls it the fourth type of chocolate, along with milk, dark and white.
Early on, white chocolate had some trouble getting past the FDA, which initially defined it as a "confectionery" rather than a type of chocolate. That's because the agency's standards of identity dictated that anything labeled as "chocolate" contain chocolate liquor, which white chocolate doesn't have. Today, white chocolate is specifically defined by FDA and also has had a standard of identity since 2004 because Hershey and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association petitioned the agency to establish one.
Following ruby chocolate's debut in Shanghai last September, it has since been picked up by other manufacturers for their own products. Nestlé introduced Ruby KitKat in Japan and South Korea in January, has since debuted it in Australia and the U.K. According to Fortune, the company reached a deal with Barry Callebaut for exclusive rights to market the new variety for six months.
The product reportedly did well in China and Japan and was being sold exclusively at Tesco stores in the U.K. in April. However, Sarah Phillips, who runs a food-related Instagram account, told the Guardian newspaper that the true test of ruby chocolate will be whether it performs well in technical settings for melting, tempering, molding and other chocolate work.
For now, American consumers aren't likely to see any ruby chocolate on shelves here until sometime next year. By the time the FDA decides on the temporary marketing permit, U.S. demand could be high and American consumers might be more than ready to try out items featuring the new product.