Barry Callebaut underscores dairy-free with new 'M_lk Chocolate' range

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Barry callebaut dairy-free vegan plant-based

Group launches 'M_lk Chocolate' at ISM2020 in Cologne, as part of a new 'Plant Craft' range that spans chocolate, cocoa, nut products, fillings and decorations. Chief innovation officer Pablo Perversi and marketing VP Bas Smit talk exclusively to CN about the dairy-free and vegan trends.

"The next generation of consumers is looking for experiences that are tasty, good for them and good for the planet​," said Pablo Perversi, Barry Callebaut's chief innovation, sustainability and quality officer and head of gourmet.

Perversi was speaking to ConfectioneryNews at ISM2020 in Cologne where the group announced the introduction of its 100% dairy-free 'M_lk Chocolate' as part of a 'Plant Craft' indulgence range.

'Plant Craft'

The new chocolate is now included in the Swiss-based cocoa supplier’s wider portfolio of ‘Plant Craft’ products ranging from chocolate, cocoa, nuts and fillings to decorations.

In the world of the future, plant-based and dairy-free are a very big part of the things that are happening already - Pablo Perversi


It took a Barry Callebaut R&D team two years to develop its latest innovation, following successful launches of Ruby Chocolate (2017) and Wholefruit Chocolate (2019), which cuts waste by using the entire cacao fruit.

Perversi told ConfectioneryNews the company is “trying to prepare ourselves for the things that are going to be important issues in the future – sustainability, plant-based, dairy-free - alll of these areas are pretty much the same​.

"The next generation of consumers is looking for experiences that are tasty, good for them and good for the planet. With that in mind, we aim to accompany the industry in this plant-based revolution," Perversi said.

"With more than 175 years of experience in mastering chocolate, creating indulgent experiences is at the heart of what we do. Through this innovation, we’re proud to offer chocolate creations with all of the creaminess consumers love, 100% dairy-free​."

To support artisans and brands across the world in creating plant-based indulgent experiences, Barry Callebaut has introduced ‘Plant Craft’, a wide range of dairy-free and vegan ingredients: chocolates, cocoa powders, nut products from paste to fillings as well as decorations.

Perversi said Barry Callebaut’s new innovation in chocolate satisfies the growing demand for plant-based indulgence, particularly among millennials and centennials.

New generation

As the new generation goes ‘flexitarian’, millennials and centennials claim they 'want to live a happy, healthy life,' in symbiosis with the world around them.

They want food and drinks that are tasty and good for them, and also good for the planet and its people​, ” he said.

The launch, at Barry Callebaut's studio booth at ISM2020, comes at a time when sustainability-conscious consumers, especially millennials and centennials, are increasingly adopting a 'flexitarian' or 'freegan' lifestyle – navigating seamlessly between plant-based products one day and animal products the next, or taking part in milestones like the recent 'Veganuary'– a month of an exclusively vegan diet – to reduce their carbon footprint.

Dairy-free factory for the future

Although Barry Callebaut owns 62 factories around the world, Perversi said, in order to bring its plant-based products to market, it is in the process of building a new factory in Germany that, when it opens in 2021, will be the group’s first facility capable of supplying dairy-free chocolate to the European market, with annual production capacity expected to reach tens of thousands of tons.

"This is part of how the group prepares itself for the future, and how we are actually setting the portfolio of the future - not only for ourselves but also for our customers and for their consumers​," Perversi said.

"In the world of the future, plant-based and dairy-free are a very big part of the things that are happening already. Now, if you want dairy-free and you want to make sure you don't have anything else in your chocolate, and that's the most stringent of all definitions of plant-based, then you need to separate the factory, and that capability is one that nobody has really done to the level that we've actually taken it to​."

Perversi claimed the new facility will be a factory "for the future"​ and it was necessary to segregate a dedicated dairy-free production line to avoid contamination from milk chocolate as the milk powder can spread throughout a factory, via pipes or the air-conditioning systems, for example.

"You need to make sure there is no dairy in a dairy-free factory,”​ he said. “Setting up a whole new operation is a bet into the future because you start with zero volume and you have to build it up. You also need a very good product, of course …"

Perversi said quality is defined by innovation and consumers will remember or recognize a product through its quality.


Another way consumers remember Barry Callebaut's products is through its marketing: think Ruby chocolate​ ('the fourth-type of chocolate') and Cacaofruit​.

Perversi works closely with Bas Smit, the group’s global vice president marketing, on new product launches. "Bas is the master of creativity​," he said. “When you're talking about plant craft, the milk element comes from plants - like almond milk or rice milk, soya - what we actually have is a unique ingredient that gives you a milk product without the milk. And it's marketed as M_lk​.

WATCH - Bas Smit, VP maketing, Barry Callebaut, talks about redefining milk chocolate 

"Bas has done a good job in trying to create some sort of concept out of it. I think the really fun thing about some of our marketing is that we try own certain concepts as much as we can and, with these types of designs and naming conventions, we try get people to remember it. So if it's working, it means he is doing is job​."

Perversi's numerous job titles reflect the inclusive culture at Barry Callebaut and his roles are intertwined with the group’s daily operation. He said he feels "very buoyant very confident working with natural and sustainable ingredients" ​and because of its size and sheer manufacturing volume, the group has an advantage over competitors in the market.

"When I plan the innovation for the group, I plan it so we can fulfil trends​. Where trends manifest themselves most is gourmet. It's the artisans that are playing around most with the product. They're the ones that can take risks without having huge costs. And they're the ones that face the consumer every day for continuous feedback. So, innovation and gourmet are completely intertwined."

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