Sacrificing taste for sugar reduction will ‘kill our category’: Barry Callebaut innovation chief

By Oliver Nieburg contact

- Last updated on GMT

Barry Callebaut’s head of innovation expects the chocolate industry will opt for natural fibers to gradually cut sugar and calories, but says uptake for sugar reduction remains low.

In an interview at the ISM trade fair in Cologne, he said premiumization rather than sugar reduction would help the industry combat volume pressures.

A category about taste

“There’s a big sugar scare – although there’s more rumor and discussion about it than really demand from our customers,” ​said Peter Boone, chief innovation officer at Barry Callebaut.

He said the sugar-free and sugar reduced chocolate segments were not growing rapidly and remained niche.

“I think some of the longer-term reformulation, which some of the bigger players are driving, probably has bigger potential, but it will take a lot of time to make it big scale,” ​said Boone.

Nestlé, for example, plans to introduce a faster dissolving sugar​ across some of its confectionery range from 2018, which it claims can reduce sugar content by up to 40%.

But Boone said: “Sugar reduction is not really the trend and ambition we feel with a lot of customers…We are a category that is all about taste and enjoyment, if we start to sacrifice that, we will kill our category in the longer term.”

Natural reduction with fibers

However, the innovation chief added that calorie and sugar levels could be slightly reduced compared to current levels.

“I strongly believe in natural solutions. So the work we are doing with fibers, where we use fibers to replace some sugar, is more natural and also appealing to mothers,” ​he said.

Value chocolate upping its game

Boone expects the industry to concentrate on quality, as volume growth will remain pressured in the long term.

“The value game is becoming more aggressive…getting a good quality chocolate for a lower price point will definitely be a big game in each and every market.

“We see this huge development of the premium segment – and I think there we can do much more,” ​he said.

Bring artisanal experience to supermarket aisles

Boone said the industry could borrow from the wine and coffee sectors to talk more about the taste profiles of chocolate.

“The learnings we get from the high-streets, from the artisanal chocolatiers, I think that kind of experimentation and new product experiences we definitely believe should find its way to the supermarket aisle.”

He said that the dark chocolate segment was slowly progressing, which Barry Callebaut sees as a positive.

“The virtues of chocolate and of cocoa can much better be expressed in darker chocolate,” said ​Boone.

Authentic stories

Barry Callebaut relaunched its Swiss and Belgian chocolate range with a recently tweaked recipe at ISM.

The supplier also introduced a new range of organic Mediterranean nuts under its La Morella brand.

Boone claimed the Swiss or Belgian chocolate manufacturing process or the procurement of organic nuts gave compelling backstories that could entice consumers.

“Really important nowadays is real authentic stories about your product,”​ he said.

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