Cham­pi­oning choco­late

Hospitality News Middle East - - CONTENTS -


If you thought choco­late of­fer­ings were lim­ited to dark, milk or white va­ri­eties, it’s time to think again; to­day’s al­ter­na­tives are as di­verse as they are de­li­cious, en­com­pass­ing a vast range of ex­otic in­gre­di­ents and even a land­mark, fourth Ruby va­ri­ety. HN delves deeper into the lat­est devel­op­ments on the co­coa bean scene

Times have been tough for co­coa farm­ers in re­cent years, with an abun­dant sup­ply and weak­en­ing de­mand com­bin­ing to push down prices across the in­dus­try. While lower prices should spell good news at the other end of the chain for choco­late man­u­fac­tur­ers, they too have faced their own chal­lenges, which range from an in­creas­ingly health-con­scious con­sumer base to fierce com­pe­ti­tion within the sweet-treat mar­ket. Yet there have been pos­i­tive signs for the in­dus­try; an­nual global re­tail con­sump­tion of choco­late con­fec­tionery has re­mained steady, reach­ing 7.3 mil­lion tons in 2015/2016, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Euromon­i­tor, with fore­casts sug­gest­ing it will rise to ap­prox­i­mately 7.7 mil­lion tons by 2018/2019. Pro­duc­tion also looks to be ral­ly­ing. Fig­ures from the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion (FAOSTAT) in­di­cate that global pro­duc­tion of co­coa beans reached 4.4 mil­lion tons in 2017, down from 4.7 mil­lion tons in 2016, but an im­prove­ment on 2015, when vol­umes reached just 3.9 mil­lion tons. Choco­late con­fec­tionery still ac­counted for 43 per­cent of global co­coa con­sump­tion in 2017, ac­cord­ing to Statista, the statis­tics por­tal, sug­gest­ing that while pro­duc­ers face a chal­leng­ing land­scape of chang­ing de­mands from a new gen­er­a­tion of con­sumers, they are adapt­ing their of­fer­ings with suc­cess. The ev­i­dence is broad based and clear to see, tak­ing the form of creative new prod­ucts, com­bi­na­tions of imag­i­na­tive and in­dul­gent in­gre­di­ents, a fo­cus on topqual­ity of­fer­ings that con­sumers ap­pear will­ing to pay for, and a com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties longterm. Choco­late, in cer­tain forms, it seems, is hold­ing its own.

In­no­va­tive in­gre­di­ents

His­tor­i­cally, the ad­di­tional in­gre­di­ents used to give choco­late some va­ri­ety, such as hazel­nuts or dried fruit, were tasty, but some­what un­ad­ven­tur­ous and pre­dictable. Fast for­ward to 2018 and the of­fer­ings avail­able leave us spoilt for choice, with con­sumers won­der­ing just what to ex­pect next. En­com­pass­ing ex­otic herbs, fruits and spices, noth­ing, it seems, is off lim­its.

Ac­cord­ing to Mau­rice E. Feghali, CEO of EMF Trad­ing Ltd - Mid­dle East Co­or­di­na­tion for Barry Calle­baut, the leader in choco­late and co­coa re­lated prod­ucts, the world is get­ting smaller and as peo­ple travel fur­ther, they are be­com­ing more open to new ideas, hav­ing ex­per­i­mented with new fla­vors abroad. “To tackle this, pro­fes­sion­als try to in­clude strong Asian fla­vors - mostly sour - like matcha green tea, miso and wasabi in their truf­fles and bon­bons, us­ing caramel choco­late like Calle­baut’s new Gold to bal­ance the taste,” he said. “The same goes for cer­tain types of spices, like turmeric, which is tak­ing over choco­late lab­o­ra­to­ries and kitchens. Ad­di­tion­ally, to meet the con­sumer’s de­mand for new ex­clu­sive tastes, chefs are tend­ing to dif­fer­en­ti­ate their prod­ucts and per­son­al­ize their recipes through the use of un­con­ven­tional ex­otic and lo­cal fla­vors in their choco­lates, such as pas­sion fruit, rasp­ber­ries, cream cheese, tiramisu, pep­per, chili, karawiya and ous­malliya.”

The cur­rent ob­ses­sion with pho­tograph­ing food is al­ter­ing the way the restau­rant in­dus­try and food pro­duc­ers around the world eval­u­ate their prod­ucts. This is af­fect­ing the level of the shape and de­sign of any creation, which is the first im­pres­sion. Be­cause of this, pro­fes­sion­als can­not ig­nore any­more the need for el­e­vat­ing the level of their cre­ations with­out com­pro­mis­ing also on the taste. This is lead­ing to pos­i­tive com­pe­ti­tion on­line and is af­fect­ing us by lead­ing pro­fes­sion­als to com­pa­nies like Barry Calle­baut & EMF who can pro­vide proper so­lu­tions to both the taste and to the shape/de­sign/dec­o­ra­tions… by giv­ing pro­fes­sion­als the right tools, in­gre­di­ents and base which is only lim­ited by their imag­i­na­tion. Mau­rice E. Feghali, CEO, EMF Trad­ing Ltd - Mid­dle East Co­or­di­na­tion, Barry Calle­baut

Bi­lal Ball­out, part­ner and CEO at BMB, the Dubai-based con­fec­tionery busi­ness and pro­duc­ers of the Benoit brand, agrees that to­day’s con­sumers are look­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent, prompt­ing pro­duc­ers to add twists to orig­i­nal recipes and be more imag­i­na­tive in their of­fer­ings. “With this in mind, we are al­ways de­vel­op­ing some­thing new with unique in­gre­di­ents and a fu­sion of un­con­ven­tional fla­vors, such as choco­lates with 'riz b halib' (rice with milk), cof­fee bis­cuits and de­li­cious choco­late fill­ings,” he said.

Ma­jor role for method­ol­ogy

These ex­cit­ing lev­els of cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion ev­i­dent across pro­duc­tion have been made pos­si­ble by the in­tro­duc­tion of highly so­phis­ti­cated method­ol­ogy and re­search end to end.

Ser­ine Jaroudi, mar­ket­ing man­ager, BANO Trad­ing, sup­pli­ers of raw ma­te­ri­als for the choco­late in­dus­try, along­side oth­ers, high­lighted the pro­cesses used by Bel­gian brand Bel­co­lade when cre­at­ing its ex­clu­sive Ori­gins col­lec­tion, ex­plain­ing that ex­clu­sive fla­vor pro­files have been care­fully mapped and cre­ated by fer­men­ta­tion mas­ters us­ing unique sci­en­tific method­ol­ogy, ti­tled ‘Les Arômes de Cyrano’.

Ac­cord­ing to Bel­co­lade, rec­og­niz­ing and un­der­stand­ing the essence of var­i­ous choco­late fla­vor pro­files al­lows its ex­perts to help cus­tomers cre­ate unique prod­ucts, which pro­vide ex­tra­or­di­nary taste ex­pe­ri­ences. The nat­u­ral rich­ness and fla­vor of co­coa is de­ter­mined by botan­i­cal, ge­o­log­i­cal and cli­matic con­di­tions, com­bined with lo­cal prac­tices, such as fer­men­ta­tion

and dry­ing tech­niques, the brand stated.

Painstak­ing pro­cesses are also adopted at French pre­mium choco­late man­u­fac­turer Val­rhona to en­sure the de­sired qual­ity is achieved, ac­cord­ing to Guil­laume Roesz, the Val­rhona School’s pas­try chef cov­er­ing the Mid­dle east and Mediter­ranean area. “More than 200 sam­pling ex­perts, split into four in-house tast­ing pan­els, en­sure that we up­hold the high­est stan­dards of tech­ni­cal skill and fla­vor,” Chef Roesz told HN. “Since the very be­gin­ning, we have de­vel­oped a unique mas­tery of our ma­te­rial, with one am­bi­tion in mind: to put fla­vor at the cen­ter of all our in­no­va­tions.”

See­ing red

In­dus­try in­sid­ers agree that Ruby choco­late is one of the big­gest talk­ing points right now. Touted as the ‘fourth type of choco­late’, Ruby is tak­ing its place along­side the dark, milk and white va­ri­eties with which we are all fa­mil­iar. This ex­cit­ing creation, in­tro­duced re­cently by Calle­baut fol­low­ing its de­vel­op­ment over more than a decade, marks a huge mile­stone for the in­dus­try, ac­cord­ing to Feghali. “The choco­late world has not wit­nessed an au­then­tic new in­no­va­tion for more than 100 years, since ev­ery­thing was just a com­bi­na­tion of dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents or an in­crease/de­crease in cer­tain raw ma­te­ri­als,” he said. Feghali ex­plained that this new va­ri­ety is made from the ruby

co­coa bean (va­ri­eties of ex­ist­ing botan­i­cal co­coa beans) that have been iden­ti­fied as hav­ing the right at­tributes to be pro­cessed into ruby choco­late. “The choco­late’s taste is de­scribed as ‘sweet, yet sour’ with ‘lit­tle to none’ of the co­coa fla­vor tra­di­tion­ally as­so­ci­ated with other va­ri­eties of choco­late,” he said. “It is an in­tense sen­so­rial de­light with a ten­sion be­tween berry-fruiti­ness and lus­cious smooth­ness.”

One of the at­trac­tions of Ruby choco­late is that its fruity fla­vor acts as a nat­u­ral sweet­ener, which goes down well with to­day’s health-con­scious con­sumers, ac­cord­ing to Nick Pat­ter­son, pâtis­serie teach­ing chef at Le Cor­don Bleu, Lon­don. “The use of ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers in choco­lates is be­ing ex­plored more - due to heath­ier life­styles,” he told HN. “Nat­u­rally fla­vored choco­lates are be­ing pro­duced – this be­ing achieved us­ing dif­fer­ent re­fined sug­ars which im­part a dif­fer­ent fla­vor, or via the in­tro­duc­tion of a nat­u­ral fla­vor dur­ing a sec­ond fer­men­ta­tion process. For ex­am­ple, fruit pulp is placed with the beans and the fla­vor is im­parted into the beans, re­sult­ing in nat­u­ral pas­sion fruit or straw­berry-fla­vored choco­lates.” Ball­out be­lieves man­u­fac­tur­ers can­not af­ford to ig­nore the grow­ing num­ber of con­sumers look­ing for healthy sub­sti­tutes and freefrom op­tions in their sweets and desserts. “For Benoit to ac­com­mo­date the change, we pro­vided so­lu­tions that sup­port ‘good­for-you’ sweets, in­clud­ing no-added sugar choco­lates, all-nat­u­ral agave pow­der, ikal - a 100 per­cent ve­gan raw choco­late - and an ex­ten­sive line of su­per foods, such as matcha pow­der, chia seeds and macca pow­der,” he said.

So­cial me­dia has come to rep­re­sent the need for cre­ativ­ity. As con­sumers are bom­barded with so­cial me­dia posts daily, our con­tent is aimed at en­gag­ing cre­atively and of­fer­ing added value to our fol­low­ers and sub­scribers. In ad­di­tion, con­sumers nowa­days have a shorter at­ten­tion span due to the heavy in­take of so­cial me­dia. We have a short win­dow of be­tween four and five sec­onds only to grab cus­tomers’ at­ten­tion or lose them. This is why our over­all strat­egy re­volves around cre­at­ing catchy and vis­ually ap­peal­ing con­tent. Bi­lal Ball­out, Part­ner/ceo, BMB

With so­cial me­dia in­creas­ingly in­flu­enc­ing all walks of life, in­di­vid­ual pro­duc­ers are now post­ing short videos of items be­ing made in their work­place. These get taken onto more widely viewed so­cial me­dia pages and sud­denly their com­pany or prod­uct can be seen by mil­lions world­wide within min­utes of be­ing posted. This can re­sult in that par­tic­u­lar prod­uct sud­denly be­ing in high de­mand very quickly and can also set the trend for that par­tic­u­lar sea­son which oth­ers will fol­low. Nick Pat­ter­son, Pâtis­serie Teach­ing Chef, Le Cor­don Bleu Lon­don

Pro­mot­ing sus­tain­abil­ity

With to­day’s con­sumers also keen to know as much about the ori­gins of their food and its in­gre­di­ents as pos­si­ble, many choco­late man­u­fac­tur­ers are tak­ing the op­por­tu­nity to high­light the part they are play­ing in not only im­prov­ing the fi­nal prod­uct, but also the liveli­hoods of farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

Chef Roesz told HN that Val­rhona’s sourcers scour the Trop­ics, from South Amer­ica to Ocea­nia, to cul­ti­vate co­coa, along­side their part­ner planters, and es­tab­lish long-term part­ner­ships.

“We cur­rently work in over 30 ter­roirs in 18 coun­tries,” he said. “We sup­port our part­ners from the ini­tial sourc­ing stage right up to the var­i­ous pro­cesses in­volved in pro­duc­ing co­coa. We are also in­volved in plenty of cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity com­mit­ments, such as de­vel­op­ing agro­forestry in Haiti and sup­port­ing a Bali co­op­er­a­tive as it ups the qual­ity of its co­coa and lo­cal tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise. Our work is not just about launch­ing new choco­lates, but in­creas­ing aware­ness around new ter­roirs so that we can de­velop crops with im­mense po­ten­tial, sup­port pro­duc­ers and se­cure the co­coa in­dus­try a long fu­ture.”

Jad An­taki, from Polygel SAL, dis­trib­u­tor of Ca­cao Barry prod­ucts in Le­banon, ex­plained that to meet ris­ing de­mand for in­for­ma­tion from cus­tomers on in­gre­di­ents and other as­pects of pro­duc­tion, the brand had sharp­ened its fo­cus on com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­no­va­tive de­sign via pack­ag­ing.

“As an ex­am­ple, in 2015, Ca­cao Barry launched a whole new range of pack­ag­ing that is meant to en­sure the pro­tec­tion of co­coa fla­vors and high­light co­coa knowl­edge,” he said.

Go­ing solo

De­mand for top qual­ity prod­ucts has seen sin­gle-bean va­ri­eties of choco­late be­come an­other in­dus­try buz­zphrase. Chef Pat­ter­son told HN that in­creas­ing num­bers of man­u­fac­tur­ers are now in­clud­ing ex­clu­sive choco­lates within their range to honor a spe­cific re­gion in the world. “These choco­late de­lights are not blended with var­i­ous other choco­lates, but are made from a sin­gle coun­try’s har­vested beans,” he said. “They show­case a coun­try’s or re­gion’s many fla­vors and are wel­comed as a 'grand cru' prod­uct.”

Feghali agreed that the de­sire for unique, au­then­tic fla­vors which give the con­sumer a unique ex­pe­ri­ence had en­sured Calle­baut and Ca­cao Barry’s ‘sin­gle-ori­gin choco­lates’ are very much in vogue. “These prod­ucts are unique be­cause they owe their fla­vor and qual­ity to their ‘noble breed­ing’ or ‘ge­netic in­her­i­tance’, and fre­quently also to the con­di­tions in the

Ev­ery year, our four Écoles Val­rhona and our 30 pas­try chefs sup­port over 15,000 pro­fes­sion­als across the world. This sup­port is re­flected on a daily ba­sis in our in­di­vid­ual and group tech­ni­cal con­sul­tancy, as well as in our over­ar­ch­ing ap­proach that aims to con­stantly en­cour­age pro­fes­sion­als’ cre­ativ­ity. The Cité du Cho­co­lat, with its sen­so­rial and ed­u­ca­tional re­mit, al­lows us to pro­vide a place where all ama­teur choco­late lovers can dis­cover, learn and ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing new. In this dig­i­tal era, Val­rhona is de­vel­op­ing new dig­i­tal tools and so­cial me­dia pres­ence to up­date and share cre­ativ­ity, but also to high­light tal­ents and chefs’ cre­ations. We have re­gional pres­ence, #my­val­rhona, #val­rhonausa, #val­rhonafrance, #val­rhonaasi­a­pa­cific in or­der to be closer to all the mar­kets and in­no­va­tions. For us it is a plat­form to ex­change, share ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­per­tise and creation with 100 per­cent trans­parency and in­stantly, spread­ing the word. Guil­laume Roesz, Val­rhona School’s Pas­try Chef cov­er­ing the Mid­dle East and Mediter­ranean area

re­gion where they are cul­ti­vated or pro­duced,” he added.

Shar­ing in­for­ma­tion about a prod­uct’s ori­gins with con­sumers and high­light­ing fac­toids, such as nu­ances in taste, makes sense, given the ex­pe­ri­en­tial ap­proach to food and in­ter­est in where it comes from favoured by the younger gen­er­a­tions. “We aim to be trend­set­ters, shar­ing in­no­va­tion and ex­cel­lence with our cus­tomers,” Jaroudi said. “When set­ting trends, our vi­sion for the choco­latiers and choco­late lovers re­sides in at­tain­ing choco­late ori­gins that are con­sid­ered the ul­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence of real Bel­gian choco­late, re­flect­ing the dif­fer­ences of the re­gions where they are grown. This will def­i­nitely dom­i­nate the taste pro­file of the choco­late mar­ket in the fu­ture.”

While lux­ury op­tions are un­doubt­edly mak­ing waves, Chef Pat­ter­son be­lieves that tra­di­tional fla­vor com­bi­na­tions or nos­tal­gic fla­vors “are and will al­ways be” the most pop­u­lar. “How­ever, this is evolv­ing with each gen­er­a­tion, as those nos­tal­gic mem­o­ries change,” he noted. “What was a pop­u­lar fla­vor 20 years ago may not now be the fla­vor of the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion.”

Man­u­fac­tur­ers also have to deal with the fact that trends can dis­ap­pear as quickly as they ar­rive and be re­placed by new ideas.

“Con­sumers are al­ways look­ing for the ‘next big thing’,” Ball­out ac­knowl­edged. “Pre­vi­ously, the Oreo fla­vor was on the rise in the dessert sec­tor, but lately the specu­loos fla­vor is over­rid­ing it, which is why Benoit de­vel­oped the first specu­loos cake mix for bak­ery and cake so­lu­tions.” An­taki agreed that stay­ing on top of new trends and be­ing suf­fi­ciently flex­i­ble to em­brace them swiftly was key to suc­cess. “To­day, top qual­ity choco­lates, such as Ca­cao Barry, are able to set them­selves apart from the oth­ers be­cause of the de­ter­mi­na­tion they have to adapt to the mar­ket changes and the con­stant re­search of new tech­niques and meth­ods within the world of co­coa and choco­late,” he said.

So­cial me­dia has a sig­nif­i­cant role in bring­ing closer the ideas, con­cepts, trends and in­no­va­tion be­tween the dis­trib­u­tor and its cus­tomers or 'choco­latiers'. We de­pend on de­liv­er­ing the trends we set through our so­cial me­dia plat­forms due to the high level of in­ter­ac­tion we have with our cus­tomers. Ser­ine Jaroudi, Mar­ket­ing Man­ager, BANO Trad­ing

88 Cover photo: Ruby choco­late from Calle­baut

EMF Trad­ing




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