The 4th type of chocolate?
A 4th type of chocolate has been announced, the biggest breakthrough since the discovery of white chocolate 80 years ago; a bold claim. Angus Kennedy was invited to Shanghai to experience Barry Callebaut’s latest innovation – Ruby Chocolate. By Angus Kennedy
In my opinion, the absence of Ruby chocolate is equally intriguing as its presence. Ruby chocolate is clever stuff; a well thought out product for a highly researched and sophisticated market. An industry announcement that was punched with what I can only describe as a no-costs-spared, and quite spectacular launch. I felt privileged, and still today feel peculiarly guilty, as I continue to remain one of the few people to have actually tried it. So let me take you on a journey into the true story of this intriguing and somewhat made-mystical-by-its-rarity-product.
I arrived in Shanghai after a huge scramble to obtain my Visa and within a few days and from a standing start, I was explaining to my wife and children while booking my flights in the kitchen, that I was off to China to witness something. “Why are you going to China?” My wife asked. To be honest, quite frankly I didn’t know, to which we were both bemused. But secrecy duly attracts inquisitiveness. This launch was kept so much of a secret that it was on par with planet Earth’s pole shift!
On arrival to the most incredible hotel in Central Shanghai with electronic everything in the room (I mean everything), it was clear this was a very serious launch. After a morning’s quizzing in the hotel before the launch with selected ambushed members of the Barry Callebaut team, I was still just in the dark about their big annoncemt as I was 300 miles away back home.
We, a very select few journalists from all over the world, were invited to a studio to be witnesses to their ‘major’ announcement. And, as I introduced myself to other journalists to see how important they were, I made myself confortable to watch a show of dancers; what I can best describe as theatrical performance of great skill and an air of refreshing dexterity.
As I settled back into an extremely comfortable chair to enjoy the show (a Tango dance), I noticed that all the lighting was a shade of pink. The first clue. For something to be claimed the biggest discovery since 80 years ago, we all were guessing that it of course had to be a new type of chocolate.
We were made to wear VR headsets (an eye shaped box that fits over my eyes) and there I was then taken on a 3D journey - to music showing me figures of great inventors over our time; leading to obviously to the latest offering from our friends at Barry Callebaut.
The music stopped and as I was still sitting in my exceedingly comfy chair I was asked to remove my headset, and there in front of me waiters presented a cooled glass of Champagne. Considering the 38 degrees outside, things now were looking very attractive indeed, and of course I accepted this almost religious offering, as did everyone around me all smiling and feeling by now quite special.
A few sips later and the CEO of Barry Callebuat himself, Antoine de Saint-Affrique glides over and positions himself in front of me with a sliver tray of Ruby Chocolate. Can’t get much better than this! I am thinking. To be served by the man himself (who incidentally, I discover later is an exceedingly astute and personable gentleman).
Ruby Chocolate is now female I notice, as Barry Callebaut changed the gender of this chocolate to ‘she’. A curious addition, all adding to the play on the mind to make it that much more cerebrally unavoidable. Antoine was clearly very excited about our response. Over 10 years of research and a huge amount of planning had lead up to this moment of now releasing ‘her’ (Ruby) into the market.
“My daughter is called Ruby!” I exclaimed rather proudly, probably a bit too loud as the effect of the French Champagne in China for breakfast started to do its thing. The Ruby chocolate was next, I popped a small piece of this chocolate, which was indeed a purple pink colour into my mouth. A fourth type of chocolate we are told. But I am cynical. This is how I would best describe the taste.
Pop some quality white chocolate into your mouth then immediately a couple of two-thirds-ripe fine English Kentish raspberries, start allowing the melt and squeeze the flavour of the raspberry with your tongue and let the cocoa butter and raspberry mix and melt together. At this juncture, now add very small (20% of your total content in your mouth) amount of quality 45% milk chocolate. Now you have the taste of Ruby chocolate.
Why China for the launch? It’s a huge market for a start. Ruby is for the global young hedonistic millennials market I am told. Ruby is for consumers that are not afraid to be individual, and moreover not afraid to pay more. Ruby is for those that like the experience of the chocolate without the price tag; my head is spinning or is this the breakfast Champagne?
I am confident Ruby chocolate will come with a loaded price tag, as it’s clearly being launched as a premium product with curiously no mention of any recipes. We were not told of cocoa content or exact origins, more of the emotional values of the product and how ‘she’ will appeal.
“She goes very well with Champagne doesn’t she Angus ?” adds their C.E.O. Antoine de Saint-Affrique. I agree with him of course and add that most things do, to which we both amuse ourselves with my comment as the Barry Callebaut team deliver a spectacular display around us. All around are world class artisan chefs in full swing producing an impressive range of excellent products with Ruby chocolate including jewellery.
Ruby chocolate comes from particularly sourced cocoa beans around the world and processed in such a way that the colour (a milky purple) is naturally retained, moreover the taste is smooth light and very fruity. So much so, it almost doesn’t taste of chocolate.
It’s market is well defined for a particular market, and we learn, has been tested and validated with extensive consumer research conducted by the research agencies Haystack and Ipsos in the UK, US, China and Japan.
Though we understand there are some known pink chocolates already on the market, this is a specific claim to the Ruby bean. It’s claimed to be a discovery of the quality of this bean. I was unable to get any further on its origin as this along with the recipes at present, are (understandably) a heavily guarded secret.
However, Barry Callebaut’s test on Ruby’s consumer appeal and purchase intent, indicate consumers would buy Ruby chocolate at different price points.
Peter Boone, Barry Callebaut’s Chief Innovation & Quality Officer, told us: “Consumer research in very different markets confirms that Ruby chocolate not only satisfies a new consumer need found among Millennials - Hedonistic Indulgence - but also high purchase intent at different price points.”
Bas Smit, Head of Global Marketing added. “Angus we are really excited about Ruby here at Barry Callebaut, the light and milky taste is perfect for the new market that we have identified, and we are looking forward to working with our partners across the globe.”
I arrived at London Heathrow with possibly the only samples of Ruby chocolate in the United Kingdom at that time, and a quick call to the Sun Newspaper and ITN news and the rest was history. Within hours I was on television myself.
I come back down to Earth and produced the infamous chocolate for my daughter who was in the kitchen doing her art homework, (Ruby Kennedy). “Nice,” she says, (pronounced noiice). “Cool,” she adds as she takes a picture and has Ruby Chocolate now as her screen saver.
“What does it taste like then Ruby? “Noiice” I hear again. But it is nice, I agreed. Now the entire family is rushing in to our kitchen including the new kitten, sausage dog while the guinea pigs squeaking to add the ceremonial chorus. The occasion to scoff (correction) test, the rarest supplies of chocolate in the UK.
It’s a light creamy product that tastes good (I am eating some now as I write). Can it complete with a fine French Champagne truffle? Time will tell.
We also predict a lot of me-too copies to enter the market. Not least flavoured white chocolate bars to jump on the bandwagon. Or even candy bars (non-chocolate) to enter at a fraction of the price. Ruby is still a secret and difficult to get hold of and we expect the industry’s appetite to potentially wain if they are not able to try it.
But one thing is for sure, there is a market for this product in Asia, it will be a high end chocolate, and fitting in with where many see the trends for growth lie. And with global chocolate sales reported to be dropping at the London Chocolate Forum in October, this is a perfect time to welcome a new development like Ruby chocolate
A product that in my opinion, will not allow itself to just focus on its sugar content, but more to focus what WE ACTUALLY ENJOY EATING and believe it or not we even like to taste without guilt.
I like it. It’s a smooth product and a bold one in a market that needs to stop punishing itself over sugar and therefor, Ruby is worthy of these pages.
Whether it is actually a 4th chocolate is arguable, (I am hugely cynical). I see both sides. But it certainly got the attention of the media, and you can’t fault Barry Callebaut on its launch. The magnificent industry launch and subsequent effect of it was a brilliant manoeuvre by the company’s marketing team on a very clever product that comes at the right time.
I look forward to following up with them in our Jan 2018 ism issue next year to see how ‘she’ is doing. Stay tuned!
Editor’s Log : Shanghai is a wonderful safe and friendly city. I included a couple of personal snaps as it’s just an amazing place with truly lovely people. I could learn so much more from the Chinese. I look forward to going back one day and I thank Barry Callebaut for allowing my experience.