‘Chocolate more than just a bar in a supermarket’

Consumers acquiring a taste for origin chocolate, says wine expert

Consumers interest in the authenticity of chocolate and cocoa origins growing, according to wine expert Frank Van der Auwera

Consumers are starting to view chocolate more as a cultured wine tasting and less as a sweet treat gone in seconds, according to a wine expert hired by Barry Callebaut.

Frank Van der Auwera, a wine writer for luxury magazine Sabato, twice named Wine World Ambassador of the Year, was hired by Barry Callebaut to develop a boxed collection of chocolates from various cocoa origins. He told ConfectioneryNews that consumers were beginning to take a more sophisticated view of consuming chocolate.

More to chocolate than milk, dark and white

“In Belgium I see that a lot of people are beginning to realize there is more to chocolate. Chocolate is something far richer, not only milk, dark and white,” he said.

“People are becoming more and more interested in origins – they are looking for the story behind the product, they are looking for authenticity.”

He said that supermarkets in Belgium now featured far more cocoa origins and varying cocoa percentages than in previous years - evidence of how preferences were changing.

Consumers are beginning to value food and drink the way wine is valued, he said. “Beer in Belgium is already making this transition. I believe that chocolate in the next big thing – it’s more than just a bar in a supermarket.”

Mini-tasting boxes

According to Van der Auwera, some groups in Belgium were already coming together for chocolate tastings. He said that supermarkets could go further by introducing origin tasting boxes.

“Why not make a mini-tasting that could be served after a meal in a restaurant? There’s room for expansion for many companies.”

He added that chocolate paired wonderfully with wine and a restaurant could serve a selection of origin chocolates with a glass of wine for dessert.

Barry Callebaut origin box

The wine connoisseur first worked with Barry Callebaut five years ago, but was recalled last year to conduct a chocolate tasting using his method for characterizing wines. He tested 17-20 different samples of milk and dark chocolates from varying origins.

Barry Callebaut had no input into the tasting and Van der Auwera had no knowledge whether his method differed from the company’s sensory analysis.

“Nobody from Barry Callebaut could attend our tastings. I don’t do it to avoid influence.”

“Wine is a very established and routine model for testing. We are more elaborate when we taste. Our vocabulary is different and we are sensitive to other elements,” he said, such as appearance.

Tasting and ‘crowd pleasing’ origins

Van der Auwera and his team conducted four chocolate tastings in around five weeks with panels of wine tasters and end consumers.

“From the beginning, the professionals had no problems with dark chocolate because we are used to intense flavors in wine. But sometimes the end consumers had problems with very strong chocolates.”

However, he said that when consumers focused on the tastings, there were fewer differences in the descriptions and preferences they gave compared to the professional wine tasters. “When they are forced to focus on the taste, they begin to like it,” said Van der Auwera.

The wine writer provided a report based on the tastings to Barry Callebaut, which then developed an origin box with a balanced mix of continents and dark and milk chocolate.

Van der Auwera was reluctant to name a personal favorite origin, but called the 66% cocoa chocolate from Mexico in Barry Callebaut’s selection box “the crowd pleaser”. “In our evaluation, everybody liked it,” he said.

The writer’s view on chocolate was shared by Jean-Marc Laurens, quality and R&D Manager at Cémoi, who recently told ConfectioneryNews that the sector would evolve like wine. However, the Cémoi scientist said he expected more origin blends for desired aromatic notes rather than single origins.

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