The global chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut has introduced Ruby chocolate, a naturally reddish, fruity-tasting product dubbed “the fourth type of chocolate”. Made from Ruby cocoa beans sourced in different regions of the world, it was launched in China in September 2017, after years of developments. The producer described it as having an “intense taste”, but not of chocolate, or at least not the “chocolate” that consumers associate with that word. According to the company, Ruby offers a “totally new taste experience, which is not bitter, milky or sweet, but a tension between berry-fruitiness and luscious smoothness.”

Millennials are “visual” foodies

Ruby chocolate fits Mintel’s Eat With Your Eyes Trend, which champions the development of foods that are boldly colored, artfully constructed, and “sometimes just cool.” Indeed, Barry Callebaut’s new Ruby chocolate is a product with a guaranteed audience: Millennials, a generation known for its love of “visual food experiences.” The unexpected pink color of the new chocolate is likely to find its way onto the social media platforms of myriad Millennials, for whom the “fun” aspect of food is a purchase driver. As a business-to-business chocolatier, Callebaut is likely to reach out to both retail and foodservice companies with its Ruby chocolate, and Millennials’ interest in food trends through both channels bodes well for Ruby’s acceptance.

Does chocolate have to taste like chocolate to be successful?

Clay Gordon, an industry consultant who was at the product release, told Mintel that “there is little to no taste of chocolate. Red berry fruit predominates.” He added that Ruby is likely to be more successful in Asian markets such as China, where chocolate is a relatively new category and where consumers may have fewer preconceived notions about chocolate’s flavor. Gordon went on to raise an interesting point: “White chocolate mostly has no chocolate taste and there is no expectation that it must. I think one of the interesting things about this is expanding the range of possibilities for what chocolate can be and taste like.”

Perhaps because some consumers consider it not to be “real” chocolate, white chocolate has not gained much traction in Europe. Only 16% of French chocolate eaters look for white chocolate, for example, and chocolate eaters in Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland only show a little more interest, with less than a quarter in each market eating white chocolate. While there has been some innovation around the product, and while white chocolate has figured in a number of other categories, the product is not as popular as milk or dark chocolate.

Ruby chocolate’s distinctive color and flavor will help it stand out from white chocolate. If consumers can be persuaded that it is derived naturally from cocoa beans, Ruby may surpass white as a preferred alternative to dark or milk.

Most chocolate is “chocolate flavored”

Mintel’s Global New Products Database shows that since 2016, the top flavor for chocolate confectionery has been plain/unflavored, with strawberry and raspberry accounting only for 2% and 1% of launches respectively, showing the extent to which fruit-flavored chocolate is not especially popular. Ruby may have an advantage, with little competition from other fruit-forward chocolates. But consumers who consider chocolate flavor to be part of the equation are likely to be disappointed by its absence.

Marcia Mogelonsky, Director of Insight, Food and Drink, has been with Mintel since 2000. Her expertise is centered on a number of areas in confectionery and snacks. Before joining Mintel, Marcia headed her own consulting company which focused on consumer behavior and product innovation in a wide range of industries.

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