The ‘underestimated’ confection

White chocolate game upped in private label to compete with rising dark side: ICAM

By Oliver Nieburg contact

- Last updated on GMT

White chocolate vastly underestimated, says Italian producer ICAM. Photo: ICAM
White chocolate vastly underestimated, says Italian producer ICAM. Photo: ICAM
Retailers are improving the quality of their own label white chocolate brands to keep pace with growing sales of premium dark chocolate, says Italian brand and contract manufacturer ICAM.

ICAM has its own brands, but also produces chocolate for private label customers as well supplying cocoa ingredients.

More cocoa butter, less sugar

The company says retailers are improving the quality of their white chocolate offerings to appeal to adults, particularly those who grew up with white chocolate brands in their home nation's such as Milky Bar in the UK.

"They are moving to better quality white chocolate - so more cocoa butter, more milk powder, less sugar,” ​ICAM’s UK representative Simon Wright told ConfectioneryNews.

He added that chefs were increasingly working with white chocolate, which had improved the confection’s image.

"I think there is a perception that white chocolate will just taste sweet and actually if you get it right... it's a much nicer flavor,” ​said Wright.

Top 5 markets for white chocolate bars

Euromonitor International says the top five markets for white chocolate bars each posted 2015 sales between $80-205m, with all but one registering growth from 2010 levels

  1. Brazil +66% value sales 2010-15
  2. US +24%
  3. UK -35%
  4. Germany +15%
  5. China +74%

[Source: Euromonitor International]

A flavor carrier

He added that white chocolate was “much underestimated” and its neutral flavor made it a very good base for new product development.

“It makes a great flavor carrier. It's a very good way of accentuating fruit flavors,​” said Wright.

He added: “You don’t have to stick with chocolate colors, you can go off-piste in a big way."

ICAM will this year produce a high-quality product for a UK retailer that uses white chocolate as its base.

Quality cocoa butter key

White chocolate confectionery contains no cocoa solids and is typically comprised of cocoa butter, milk powder, sugar and vanilla.

ICAM says the key to high-quality white chocolate is the cocoa butter.

Antonio Agostoni, R&D manager at ICAM, told this site : “You have sugar and milk powder but the raw ingredient that changes completely the quality of the product is cocoa butter. The milk powder can have a better flavor if you use a really good cocoa butter and it's the same with sugar."

The acid test

ICAM has a long history of producing cocoa butter. Agostoni's father was the inventor of the horizontal cocoa press around 60 years ago.

About 98% of ICAM’s cocoa butter is below 1% acidity, which ICAM’s R&D manager said was crucial to making the chocolate more desirable.

“In the common market 1.75% is accepted. So we are below what the common market normally uses,” ​he said.  ​ICAM also formulates with fresh milk powder and natural vanilla for its white chocolate.

Sales boost for supermarkets in Italy and UK

A few years ago, it developed a white chocolate bar for one of Italy’s leading supermarkets.

“In two years this white chocolate bar became the best seller in all the supermarket's chains - better than the dark and milk,” ​said Agostoni.

Simon Wright added that ICAM had also developed products for UK supermarkets and saw a similar sales surge, showing that if you get the quality right "people will buy it".

"It's to do with just demonstrating that the quality of white chocolate can be just as good as dark and milk and it deserves to sit in the range,” ​he said.

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