Could cheese-chocolate put Spain on the chocolatier map?
The Spanish corporation will be developing the denomination-of-origin fillings along with the Basque Culinary Center, with which Natra recently signed an agreement.
A reputation for chocolate
Eli Lopez de Bergara, marketing and innovation manager at Natra, said that currently Spain does not have a strong global reputation for its chocolate in comparison to other European countries like Belgium and France. She said that the company hopes this concept of working in foods for which Spain is already internationally renowned will change this. She also said that the company wishes to infer some of the positive health benefits often associated with a Mediterranean diet by using these ingredients.
“Spain is famous because of its way of eating, healthy food, Mediterranean style and good raw materials. So we wanted to make this kind of link with good lifestyle and chocolate,” she told ConfectioneryNews.
While the concept is being developed in the Basque region - with the research center responsible for the formulation of the fillings and the chocolate’s design and Natra heading the project at its plant in Oñati - she said that the company would be leading with this idea of the Mediterranean as opposed to any specific region.
She said that this is an association which would be recognised by and therefore could appeal to international markets like Asia. "When we are talking about general foods we find super big areas dedicated to olive oil or to wines, these are really Spanish foods that are well known in those countries. Okay chocolate as well, but the origin of Spain is not something specifically which is too well known [for chocolate]."
Natra’s consumer goods division is already responsible for the manufacturing of chocolate tablets, countlines, spreads and Belgian chocolates and specialities.
Savory or sweet?
Lopez de Bergara said that this combination could open up different eating occasions. “It’s not also a sweet chocolate but it can also be something that you can eat before lunch, with a cup of wine for instance. So it’s a different way of consumption as well,” she said.
In this initial development stage Natra is trying out several different types of cheese but Lopez de Bergara said the company is keen to use a strong sheep cheese typical to the Basque region. “It’s not just a creamy cheese but something which really tastes of cheese,” she said.
Last year Japanese manufacturer Meiji released a white chocolate and cheese product. When asked if she thought Europeans would be open to the flavor duo, Lopez de Bergara said that it would be something different and could appeal to "people who are bored with regular chocolate." She added: "This is something they can find new in taste and texture."
A concept project
Natra has a controlling stake in the Spanish multinational Natraceutical, but the company's chocolate and cocoa business makes up 90% of its sales. This chunk is then further divided into two divisions: An industrial goods division which accounts for 25% of turnover and supplies cocoa butter, powder and coatings to manufacturers and a consumer goods division which sees the manufacturing of finished products primarily for private label.
Lopez de Bergara said that it is not developing these products for any particular customer but rather treating this as a project and an opportunity to do something with novelties and to work with the research centre.
"It will be a concept and saying: 'Okay this is what we are doing'. For the time being we want to test the market, we want to test whether the customers are open to this," she said.
The company hopes the idea will be ready to be presented for tasting at Cologne's ISM confectionery event in January next year.