Chocolate Trends 2016
New York’s first Big Chocolate Show (October 8–9) was inspired by the notion that much like wine, cheese or coffee, chocolate is becoming “a rarefied treat”, according to founder Matthew Saravay.
Indeed, the elevation of chocolate as an art form and complex food category was apparent throughout the show, as brands played up flavour profiles, drove home the importance of provenance and explored new functional formats. Here, we spotlight key themes from the event:
- New Lexicons: Chocolate producers are finding sophisticated ways to describe the flavour profiles of their products, borrowing language from categories like wine. Brooklyn-based artisanal chocolate brand Raaka, for example, details the “fruity, strawberry note on the finish” on its Coconut Milk bar on its website. Meanwhile, Minneapolis-based confectionery start-up K’ul includes “tasting notes” for its ‘Farm-to-Bar’ chocolates on its brand site. For instance, brown sugar, pineapple and lemon notes can be found in its Hacienda Limon bar.
To better appreciate the complexity of chocolate’s taste, companies like New Jersey-based chocolate maker Glennmade and Pennsylvanian producer Éclat are creating thinner bars that require minimal chewing, enabling the chocolate to immediately start melting on the tongue.
- Dialed-Up Dark: For an intense flavour hit, chocolate makers are producing bars that push the percentage of cacao to the maximum – tempering its bitterness to make edible sugarless products. In New York’s Hudson Valley, small-batch bean-to-bar chocolate brand Fruition creates a 100% cacao bar, while Ecuadorian chocolate producer Pacari has launched a 101% raw organic chocolate: the extra 1% comes from cacao nibs, which add crunch to the bar.
- Cacao Connoisseurship: Providing detailed product information, craft brands moved beyond claims of ‘single origin’ to specify the exact estates from which their cacao beans are sourced. K’ul and Harper Macaw from Washington DC both specify this high level of detail on their packaging, while Glennmade Craft Chocolate encourages fans to explore further sourcing details on its brand website.
- Performance Enhancing: Founded by a cyclist, K’ul sells ‘superfood’ chocolate energy bars in packaging designed to fit athletic-wear pockets. If the bar melts, the runner or rider can squeeze out the contents. Its Endurance bar earns its name with almost a gram of guarana (equivalent to two Red Bulls), while its Stamina bar includes maca root, and its Electrobar provides potassium and sodium electrolytes. The company’s tagline is: “Chocolate is not candy. Chocolate is food.” See Healthy Indulgence, part of our New Food Frontiers Industry Trend, for more on this theme.
- Fancy & Free-From: For the growing cohort of free-from eaters, brands utilised dairy and sugar alternatives. Brooklyn-based vegan chocolate brand Rawclates retails a white bar using coconut cream, and a 69% cacao ‘milk’ bar with coconut milk. Raaka, meanwhile, sells a yacon root bar sweetened solely with the Peruvian root.
- Alcohol Infusions: Raaka paired a Bolivian cacao with two types of hops for “micro-batch” bars sent to First Nibs subscribers, who pay a fee to receive two experimental bars from the company each month. Meanwhile, Japanese specialty brand Tablette offers a Kyokusen sake bar and a Beer bar; both are single origin. Italian brand De Martini has introduced its Praline di Cavour chocolate, infused with Barolo wine, to the US market.
For more on alcohol’s influence on flavour in wider food categories, see The New Afternoon Tea, or for wider trends in the chocolate realm, see Creative Confections: Chocolate Innovation Update.
For a more experimental approach to chocolate innovation, see Food & Colour: Visualising Flavour. Meanwhile, Evolved Packaging Aesthetics: Food & Drink and Contextual Packaging Trends 2016-17 explore inventive graphic treatments and brand narratives in the confectionery realm and beyond.