Ruby chocolate has been a buzzword in the confectionery industry since it was first unveiled by Barry Callebaut last year in Shanghai, China.
The chocolate and cocoa provider noted the naturally pink-colored and berry-flavored product was invented by extracting certain compounds from Ruby beans, which can be found in Côte d'Ivoire, Ecuador and Brazil. It is the fourth type of chocolate in addition to milk, white and dark.
Petition to the FDA
Since Ruby chocolate doesn’t fall into any of the current US chocolate categories, it can only be considered a compound, according to Lauren Bergan, director of innovation for market development at Barry Callebaut North America. Barry Callebaut is thus not allowed to label it as chocolate on packaged items at the moment.
“Ruby chocolate is already called chocolate outside of the US… but the FDA has a code of federal regulations that define food categories based on what ingredients can or need to be in there, the maximum or minimal amount of certain ingredients and the percentage of ingredient compositions,” she explained.
“Ruby has all of those ingredients that can be found in regular chocolate – cocoa butter, sugar, milk powder and unsweetened chocolate,” Bergan continued.
“But the unsweetened chocolate is not allowed in white chocolate, and to be milk chocolate, you have to have enough unsweetened chocolate in it which Ruby does not. From a visual and flavor perspective, this is definitely not dark chocolate, so we are in the scope of needing that forth definition which is ultimately what we want anyway.”
However, “we’ve submitted a temporary marketing permit via the FDA that would give us the approval to market [Ruby] as chocolate… We’re expecting to receive a notification by October or November this year,” she said.
Ruby chocolate has caught several US food companies’ attention, and these companies have been in discussion with Barry Callebaut for potential partnerships, according to Bergan.
“Hopefully, more Ruby products can come out in 2019,” she said.
Will Hershey produce Ruby KitKat like Nestlé?
Nestlé became the latest major manufacturer that took on the Ruby chocolate trend: it first launched Ruby Kitkat in Japan and South Korea, and later brought the product to the UK and Australia.
However, the fact that the KitKat brand is licensed by Hershey in the US could delay the launch of Ruby KitKat in the country, as the chocolate company currently has other business focuses.
Laura Renaud, Hershey’s spokesperson, told ConfectioneryNews recently at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago, “I think our innovation team is always evaluating trends out there in the world, and trying to find out how big that opportunity could be in the US.
“The reality is consumers are different: Asian consumers might love green tea, but that flavor might not be as popular in the US,” she said.
Renaud noted Reese’s dipped pretzels and popped snack mix, which Hershey launched last year, has better velocity than the segment leader. Therefore, with additional investment recently pouring into the KitKat manufacturing line in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, it makes more sense for Hershey to launch a similar snack mix product under the KitKat brand.
“Our core KitKat products including Big Kat continue to grow, so we need that expanded capacity to meet the demand… We also have KitKat snacks mix coming out later this year,” she said.
Moving forward, Hershey may still take on the manufacture of Ruby KitKat like Nestlé.
“I think we are already inspired by what Nestlé has been doing to KitKat in the rest of the world, and we are looking at what capabilities we have internally… but honestly, I can’t speak to that, even though Barry Callebaut is a partner of ours,” said Renaud.
“We don’t have any current plans, but that’s certainly a possibility.”