UPDATE: Nov. 25, 2019: In a statement, Barry Callebaut Americas CEO and President Peter Boone said, “Barry Callebaut has established itself as a pioneer and innovator in chocolate and cocoa, globally. With the approval of this TMP, we will move forward with our customers in introducing Ruby as chocolate to the U.S. market.”
- Barry Callebaut will be able to label up to 60 million pounds of its pink-hued confection as "ruby chocolate" in the United States, according to a temporary permit published in the Federal Register on Friday. The permit is effective for 15 months.
- Ruby, which is a fourth type of chocolate, comes from a distinct cacao bean discovered by scientists working at the chocolate ingredients giant more than a generation ago. In recent years, the company found out how to process these beans and get ruby, a dark pink chocolate with a distinct taste reminiscent of berries. It was first unveiled to consumers in Asia in 2017.
- The pink ingredient was made widely available to manufacturers in the United States and Canada in May. Until now, however, it could not be labeled as "chocolate" because it did not meet the Food and Drug Administration's standards of identity for the confection. It has previously been labeled "ruby cacao."
What's in a name? Chocolate ingredients giant Barry Callebaut is about to find out.
Ever since the company perfected the process and formulation for ruby chocolate, it has been in talks with regulators to be able to label its new sweets as such. Federal regulations have strict definitions of chocolate, and ruby is not covered by them. Currently, there are just three recognized types of chocolate — dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. Federal regulations also allow products from cacao beans and explicitly define ingredient mixes that can be made for products including coatings and breakfast cocoa.
More than a year after talks began, and just in time for the holiday gifting season, Barry Callebaut got its wish. The entry, which publishes in the Federal Register today, lets the company "evaluate commercial viability of the product and to collect data on consumer acceptance."
The company is likely to get an overwhelming response from consumers clamoring for the product. It's been available in very limited quantities at a few high-end chocolatiers for close to a year, more to stoke interest to convince the FDA to issue the temporary marketing permit. This spring, Laura Bergan, Barry Callebaut's director of innovation for specialties marketing, told Food Dive the trial for ruby chocolate was "very tightly controlled."
Since ruby is so new to the chocolate scene, there is not much research on its market success. Nestlé started making a ruby KitKat in Europe and Asia. According to the company, ruby is the best selling KitKat variety in Nestlé's Chocolatory specialty stores, and is responsible for 30% of store sales.
Barry Callebaut touted ruby's rollout to the massive U.S. chocolate market as a major accomplishment in its most recent annual report, filed earlier this month. In the last year, Barry Callebaut's sales volumes, revenues and profits all expanded. The company reported $7.35 billion in revenues worldwide ($7.3 Swiss francs), an increase of 7.8% from the previous year.
Anecdotally, ruby chocolate is bound to be a hit. Aside from its Instagrammable "millennial pink" color, its taste has a unique slightly fruity sweetness. It also melts in the consumer's mouth somewhat quickly. It's a distinct chocolate treat. It's also something different in the chocolate space so it would likely resonate with millennials and other consumers looking for a new variety or flavor to try in the sweet treats they consume.
“It turned out to ... satisfy unique needs, and it's called hedonistic indulgence,” Bas Smit, Barry Callebaut’s global vice president of marketing, told Food Dive in April. “And it was the only chocolate doing this. And when we saw this out of the 200-plus pages in the research, we thought, ‘We have the fourth type of chocolate.’ ”
The temporary marketing order has a lengthy definition of ruby chocolate, delineating how much cacao, milk fat and other solids and inclusions should be in it. However, it cannot contain ingredients that imitate the taste of chocolate or berry, nor can it contain any added colors.
It's unclear when more ruby chocolate will appear on shelves in the United States. While it's been available since May, it has yet to become easily found in stores. Perhaps many confectioners were waiting for this labeling change. Now that ruby can be marketed as chocolate, average consumers could be more likely to try it. The timing of this labeling change right before the holidays will help ensure that ruby chocolate will appear under Christmas trees, on New Year's Eve, and in romantic chocolate assortments for Valentine's Day.