What is it? Essentially pink chocolate
What does it taste like? The general consensus is a light, creamy texture with a hint of berries
Why is it pink? It’s made from ruby cocoa beans. No, that’s not a new type of cocoa bean; yes, they are ruby – but that’s the colour all cocoa beans are before they’re fermented. Frankly, the whole process is shrouded in mystery, but chocolate experts reckon ruby chocolate is unfermented, and that’s why it’s pink
Why now? Barry Callebaut says millennials want luxury and hedonistic indulgence (who doesn't?) and the marketeers reckon this ticks both boxes
Update: KitKit has become the first brand to incorporate ruby chocolate into a product, launching a limited-edition pink version on January 19. Designed to appeal to Valentine's crowds, it goes on sale exclusively in Japan and Korea.
Ruby chocolate – named for its dark pink shade – is the result of a discovery made by one of Barry Callebaut’s researchers “about 12 years ago” (the creators are intentionally vague on the matter). It has spent its time being refined ever since.
The wider press are saying it’s the first new chocolate form in 80 years (Nestlé dropped the white chocolate bombshell in 1930), but we beg to differ. In 2012, chocolatiers Valrhona launched Dulcey chocolate, which it marketed as the world’s first blond chocolate.
Never heard of it? Apparently it smelt like toasted shortbread, caramelised milk and unrefined sugar, and had the extra USP of being ideal for moulding and patisserie. Various forms of blond chocolate then went to market shortly afterwards.
But sadly it has faded into the confectionery abyss, seemingly missing the mark with consumers. So can ruby succeed where blond failed?
It’s what’s inside that counts
Despite its lurid colour, ruby chocolate contains no flavouring or colouring, which will go down well in clean-label land.
Beyond that though, Barry Callebaut aren’t giving much away about what it is or how it’s made, except that they’ve used a combination of processing techniques and specific cacao varieties to produce a milk chocolate that has a lightly fruity colour and flavour. So far, no-one has talked about its unique properties or possible suited uses. In other words, whether or not it has a niche (beyond being rose tinted) is very much up for debate.
Barry Callebaut is one of the world's biggest suppliers of chocolate and cocoa products, so that's in ruby's favour. As the company only sells to businesses, not consumers, it's hard to say when (if) it will hit the shelves. Kim Ghilardi, Callebaut’s media relations manager, says it could take between six and 18 months, but that could vary depending on the country and the vendor. All we know is that the proof may literally be in the pudding when it does.
Ruby chocolate fits with the current consumer desire for unusually coloured foods, and it does so in a natural product without additives, so it may have a niche growth period following that trend. However, I think ultimately it may be destined for innovative fine dining. There will be some clever chefs that make interesting desserts from ruby chocolate.
The trouble I have with ruby chocolate is that it is described as being berry flavoured and distinctly sour. This is not what is typically expected from a chocolate, and there is a whole branch of psychology that ultimately comes to the conclusion that not meeting people's expectations for a common food name is ultimately bad for the product. I think it might struggle to breach the standard confectionery market unless one of the big players designs products that fit with the unusual flavour profile.