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Talking ‘bout second generation chocolate: Barry Callebaut’s renaissance moment in Venice

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Barry callebaut Chocolate Cocoa Sustainability Venice

The Italian city of Venice has a long and interesting history dating back to the 5th century. Venetian merchants traded across the globe and were famous for making sails, ropes, ordinance, glassware, carnival masks – but never chocolate. So why did Barry Callebaut choose it for the launch of its latest innovation – second generation chocolate? ConfectioneryNews was there to find out ...

With its decline in status in power from the 18th​ century onwards, Venice had to reinvent itself as a tourist destination – but today with 22 million visitors a year and only 50,000 residents, Venice once again must find a new balance. Its famous artisans and planners are creating contemporary designs for contemporary times that incorporate sustainability and conservation into modern city life. For Venice to be sustainable, mass tourism has to be somewhat controlled, the city must work for those who still live in it as well as those who visit, and it is often a symbiotic relationship as the latter provides a large portion of its annual income.

Officials submitted a plan last year for relaunching the tourism-dependent city to make it more resident-focussed, encouraging startups, limiting apartment rentals and protecting Venetian artisans.

The proposal will aim to make Venice a ‘world sustainability capital’, and it hopes to access some of the 222 million euros ($265 million) in EU recovery funds to help communities relaunch after the pandemic.

As Global Vice President Marketing of Barry Callebaut Group, Bas Smit also looked at Venice through a different lens and recognised a similar story of a sustainable renaissance with that of the chocolate industry.

With its latest innovation, Barry Callebaut claims to redesigned the making of chocolate – known as the Cocoa Cultivation & Craft principle (CCC) – to recognise the special qualities of each cocoa bean and coax out the nuances of flavour.

Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, Smit said: “The renaissance of Venice to be fit for future tourism, is comparable with the renaissance of cocoa leading the second generation chocolate … both have to be fit for the future. Fit to meet the changing consumer attitude to life – for the consumer who wants to live mindfully.

“Every April, Venice hosts the month-long Homo Faber, a world renowned exhibition of contemporary craftsmanship, which was another reason for us to organise the launch in Venice.

“Since the second generation is a product of the redesign of the making of chocolate, from the redesign of the farming, fermenting … to the roasting of the cocoa bean along CCC principles, which is basically all about engineered craftsmanship. The traditional techniques are future-proof engineered and are celebrated at the Homo Faber, too.”

Working with Amsterdam-based design agency, SGK which created the branding for Barry Callebaut’s previous innovations Ruby Chocolate, WholeFruit and ELIX, Smit chose a former industrial warehouse, near the Venetian lagoon, in an area where tourists rarely tread, to launch second generation of chocolate.

To capture the next generation of chocolate. We at Barry Callebaut had to rethink our job, to redesign the product itself and the critical steps that have been there for decades​,” Smit said.

You see car brands making electric or hybrid models more accessible, or mainstream brands like Levi's innovating so people can buy better and wear longer … sometimes made from upcycled material - all to stimulate a circular economy​.

The changing attitudes to life impacts on what what we consume, what we buy, what you drink," ​Smit said. “People want to live a symbiotic life, in a kind of sweet spot between living consciously and celebrating life. Consumer attitudes, to life, change and have been changing. You see this across generations, across demographics and places … across the world, which is not that surprising since all of us are connected​.”

Artistry and alchemy in the air 

With the Venice Biennial taking place at the same time, there was a sense of artistry and alchemy in the air in a city where Leonardo da Vinci once lived and worked. Innovation is the keyword and at the launch of the second generation of chocolate, Barry Callebaut claimed to have re-engineered chocolate completely: ‘putting cocoa first, sugar last’.

The recipe of the second generation of chocolate is as pure as it can be and contains 60-80% more cocoa. Dark chocolate is made of two ingredients: cocoa to which only sugar is added. Milk chocolate is made of cocoa, milk and sugar.

The new product design is not only a testament to nature’s flavours, but also to the mindfully living consumer. The chocolate contains 50% less sugar than 80%+ of the chocolate consumed across the world, Barry Callebaut claimed.

Peter Boone, CEO of Barry Callebaut, told ConfectioneryNews that second generation chocolate is not a new product. “It’s bigger than that … an entirely new way to look at making chocolate​.”

He was also quick to point out the new sustainable and premium chocolate should be the norm for everyone, “not for the haves and the have-nots​”.

But he also admits Barry Callebaut’s latest chocolate innovation “will probably cost a little bit more, which will also slow down the initial uptake, therefore, we have to leave it to our customers to see in the end how quickly this will convert​.”

As the world’s largest supplier of premium chocolate, what Barry Callebaut can bring to the table is scale, which in time will mean it is not just available for the “happy few​.

We have, of course, big customers, some of whom we have already talked to - and they  are very intrigued​.

Okay, maybe it won’t replace the big brands that we have grown up with but it could become a new label in their portfolio or a sub-brand. If I was a marketeer of a big brand, I would be clapping my hands right now and thinking ‘how to bring this to my consumers’​.”

Marcello Corno, Barry Callebaut’s head of R&D, said the group has been working on the new recipe since early 2000.

We have been optimising the fermentation process. The insights based on research recently have led us to a new fermentation protocol. Beans are fermented in their own pulp. We leave it completely up to nature with no starter culture added and we monitor everything from start to finish. This is the process that has been fine-tuned​.

Until now, these production steps have been difficult to manage. Most of them have been in the hands of farmers and we had minimal quality control. You have to be really close to the ground in the country of origin to influence these steps, and fortunately for us, we are and we can have an influence​.”

Sustainable chocolate

The beans for second generation chocolate are sourced from the Cocoa Horizons programme at farms in Ecuador, as part of the group’s wider remit to make 'sustainable chocolate the norm'.

To make a new generation of chocolate we ferment and roast the beans in a specific way so that they get a consistently mild and balanced chocolate taste throughout the total eating experience​,” said Gabi Kopp Global R&D Head of Special Projects.

Her team firstly worked with farmers to grow beans for better flavour potential. Then an ideal time-and-temperature curve during fermentation was found. Finally, roasting techniques preserved floral notes and fruity notes while stripping acidic compounds -she told journalists at the launch.

Barry Callebaut also gained new insight from a long-term research programme in collaboration with the Jacobs University Bremen, Germany. Advanced detection technologies, combined with new sensory methods, enable the identification of unique characteristics in the cocoa beans.

Through countless studies and research, we now know that both the length of time and the temperature are critical if you want a consistently high-quality result. We also need the right level of sugar during fermentation​,” Corno also added, as journalists were ushered into another area of the event space or a tasting session.

Martin Diez, a chef from Barry Callebaut’s own Chocolate Academy, told ConfectioneryNews that when he first tasted the chocolate, he knew he had a product with its own identity.

The way to translate that into creation is to respect that identity, but at the same time I have all doors open – that’s fantastic. I don’t need anything to cover a taste – it’s really about enjoying the pure taste of chocolate​,” he said.

Barry Callebaut said it takes about 12-18 months before consumer brands and artisans introduce their applications so it may be a while before the chocolate becomes a treat for tomorrow’s mindful generation.

Look at wine and coffee …​ “ said Boone. “Chocolate is richer than those two categories, so why can’t we romanticise chocolate more?​”

This a good question and another good reason to launch a new type of chocolate in Venice, after all, it is also one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Related topics R&D

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