Dubbed the fourth type of chocolate (after dark, milk and white), ruby chocolate was unveiled by Barry Callebaut in late 2017 approximately 80 years after white chocolate first came on the scene. That’s a long time to wait for a new category of one of the world’s most indulgent foods, and the launch was unsurprisingly accompanied by much fanfare.
Made from the ruby cocoa bean, and containing no added flavourings or preservatives, ruby chocolate was notable for its distinctive fruity taste and striking colour. A number of manufacturers aimed to strike while the iron was hot by developing their own products, with Kit Kat first to market with a launch in Japan, where ruby chocolate has been particularly well received.
“In the past year alone, we have witnessed the market embracing ruby as a breakthrough innovation and is leading the world with ideas and applications that are setting a new standard for creativity and expertise in the market,” Barry Callebaut’s manging director for Japan, Pascale Meulemeester, said earlier this year.
The British public had to wait a little longer until the chocolate obtained the approval of the Food Standards Agency, but in the following months UK retail brands wasted no time in experimenting with the new ingredient. It seemed ruby chocolate was on course to become the gamechanger Barry Callebaut always thought it would be.
Time to shine
Fast-forward two years and ruby chocolate has yet to really enter the confectionery mainstream though, despite being highlighted as a key innovation in Callebaut’s 2019/20 sales report.
“In January there was a humungous hike in price [of ruby chocolate],” Lucy Elliot, creative director at artisan chocolate operation Creighton’s, told Food Spark recently. “We make one or two ruby bars and we find that we're constantly getting in the same batch (amount) of ruby chocolate in a year, which tells me it’s probably not that popular.”
Some would argue having only one company manufacturing ruby chocolate – Barry Callebaut's product methods still remain a trade secret – is potentially stifling just how widespread can become. However, there are now signs ruby chocolate is beginning gain significantly more traction and could be finally ready to enter the mainstream.
In November, for example, Barry Callebaut was granted a Temporary Marketing Permit by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US to allow ruby to be marketed as chocolate. Ruby chocolate products have already entered the US market in this short space of time.
Now, more chefs than ever before are experimenting with the ingredient too, including incorporating it into their Valentine’s Day menus, and Callebaut have been keen to talk up the possibility of using it for some unusual pairings. Meanwhile, numerous retail products have also been launched in the UK, meaning dozens of brands are now live with a ruby-themed item.
With Ruby Chocolate Week now in full swing, below are three of the biggest to hit the high street in recent weeks:
Unilever’s Magnum became one of the first ice cream brands to unveil a paring of ruby chocolate and ice cream. The product, which retails in supermarkets for £3.69 for three full-size sticks, consists of Magnum’s white chocolate ice cream covered with ruby chocolate, with a pink raspberry sauce swirl found in the middle. In January, Häagen-Dazs also launched a range of Ruby Cacoa products in the US first time.
Fortnum and Mason Ruby Chocolate Easter Egg
Easter is just around the corner and most of the big retailers have now unveiled their product range for one of the most important dates in the food industry’s diary. And this week, Fortnum and Mason added its Ruby Chocolate Easter Egg to its collection for the first time. Doubling down on the theme, the egg is also filled with salted caramel truffles coated with ruby chocolate.
Ruby Cocoa Hot Chocolate
British coffeehouse Costa Coffee recently added Ruby Cocoa Hot Chocolate to its menu in time for Valentine’s Day. Priced at £3.35, it was described as being Costa’s most “Instagramable drink” around, with the new item made with ruby cocoa beans and topped with a swirl of cream and red chocolate curls.