By Bernard Pacyniak
Editor-in-Chief
Candy Industry
pacyniakb@bnpmedia.com

getting fresh: Raw chocolate: the next big thing?

Forecasting isn’t usually my forte; just ask my colleagues here at work when it comes to betting on sports. Oftentimes I’ll get carried away with being a “homer” and bet with my heart (and money) and not my brain.

As both a participant and an observer of all things chocolate, I’ll admit to such homer-like tendencies. Nevertheless, I’ve been noticing a growing, albeit still very small, interest in raw chocolate.

My first encounter with raw chocolate came with a visit to Dagoba Chocolates back in 2006, where founding alchemist Frederick Schilling waxed eloquently to me about the raw chocolate he found in Mexico, sharing some samples during the interview.

Surprisingly, my son Gabriel – an avid foodie – was the next person to introduce me to another sample of raw chocolate, several pieces of gritty chocolate from Oaxaca, Mexico, which he picked up during a student trek of the area.

More recently, we highlighted Pacari’s debut into Raw Chocolate with its 70% and 100% cocoa content varieties. And last month we featured Paul Mosca and his Nahualli Trading Co.’s Chocolate Seeds product in Candy Industry’s Candy Wrapper profile.

Then, just the other day, I received an e-mail about “a fascinating chocolate company” called Gnosis Chocolate (www.gnosischocolate.com). The e-mail explained the origins of Gnosis, which is Greek for knowledge.

It seems that a young woman by the name of Vanessa Barg, a former holistic health counselor, wanted to provide her clients with a reward for maintaining a healthy diet. In doing so, she decided to experiment with chocolate, which she said in a radio interview “provides lots of love” while creating “more neurotransmitters.” The basis behind raw chocolate is that the beans are minimally processed (not heated above 112º F) and that no vegetable fat, milk or sugar is introduced into the final product.

Barg’s Gnosis Chocolate line of raw chocolates touts the fact that it is entirely vegan and free from milk, gluten, soy and peanuts. In addition, the 13 varieties, which range from Almond Fig Spice to SuperChoc, all contain Crystal Manna, a blue-green mineral rich algae found in Klamath Lake, Ore. that is said to help improve mood, mental focus and one’s general state-of-being.

As with most startups, Barg’s success came in small steps, first by posting availability on her health counseling Web site, followed by word-of-mouth approval. Eventually stores in New York City began asking for the product. Today, Whole Foods – always a trendsetter in all things organic – has requested the product.

Although I’ve never met Barg (Chocolate Girl), it’s obvious from the videos and radio interviews on her Web site that she’s both passionate and intense about her products, their authenticity and promise.

Yes, I suppose that could be said about most chocolate entrepreneurs, but I believe this holds even more so for raw chocolate types. And while I haven’t tasted every raw chocolate product that’s out there, I have a sense that this niche segment has a bright future ahead of it. Bet on it.

Glee Gum launches new flavor, size

Providence, R.I.-based Verve, Inc. has introduced a mini version of its all-natural Glee Gum called Wee Glee. A single box of Wee Glee contains an assortment of mini pieces of gum in Tangerine, Bubblegum and Triple Berry flavors, along with a new Banana flavor. Like the rest of the Glee Gum line, Wee Glee is all-natural, vegetarian, additive-free, lactose-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, casein-free, egg-free, yeast-free and nut-free, and contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. For more information, visit www.gleegum.com.





Ethel's Chocolate closes five stores

After closing five Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge locations last summer, Mars Retail Group will close five more in the Chicago area by the end of this month.

Citing underperformance, Mars is closing three locations in Chicago, one in Evanston and one in Naperville, leaving just the Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge at Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, Ill.; it, too, will eventually close.

Ethel’s employees will receive separation pay and job placement assistance. Eight Ethel’s Chocolate Lounges in the Las Vegas area will remain open. Ethel’s Chocolates also will be available through the Ethel’s Chocolate Web site, www.ethelschocolate.com.

D.D. Williamson develops first certified-organic annatto extracts

Louisville, Ky.-based D.D. Williamson has launched its first certified-organic annatto extracts for coloring. The new annatto extracts, which range in hue from yellow to orange, are available in water-soluble and oil-soluble versions, the latter of which can be applied to confectionery coatings.

“Customers of our ‘organic compliant’ annatto products asked us to develop a range of ‘certified organic’ annatto so they could offer 100% certified organic food products,” says Campbell Barnum, global vice president, marketing. “DDW’s Science and Innovation Team responded with sourcing and extracting certified organic colorings to cover a broad range of organic food applications.”

D.D. Williamson’s processing facility in Port Washington, Wis. was certified by Quality Assurance International, an agent for the USDA’s National Organic Program.

For more information, visit www.ddwilliamson.com.

Barry Callebaut announces appointments

Barry Callebaut’s Board of Directors has appointed David S. Johnson as president & CEO, Americas, and a member of the senior management team, effective May 1. Johnson will succeed Massimo Garavaglia, who relocated from Europe to hold the position for three years. Garavaglia will return to Europe to succeed Onno Bleeker as president, Western Europe, starting June 1.

After more than 20 years with Barry Callebaut, Bleeker plans to retire and take on a strategic position within the company. Specifically, Barry Callebaut hopes to include Bleeker as a company representative on the Board of Directors for the new Natra, which is expected to result from the companies’ signed memorandum of understanding, integrating Barry Callebaut’s European consumer business into Natra, after the closing of the transaction this summer.

For more information, visit www.barry-callebaut.com.

sweet of the week: B.T. McElrath artisan chocolate bars

Minneapolis-based B.T. McElrath has introduced an artisan line of five 3-oz. chocolate bar varieties, blended from American, European and Colombian chocolates. The flavors are 70% dark, 40% milk, Chilé Limón, Passion Fruit & Tangerine and The Salty Dog (toffee pieces covered in 70% dark chocolate, sprinkled with sea salt). Additionally, this line features new packaging produced from Sustainable Forestry Initiative paper materials, which also carries over to the company’s truffle packages. The packaging, designed by Duane Dickhaus of Scales Advertising in conjunction with B.T. McElrath, features a contemporary look and displays text written by Minneapolis writer Dennis Cass about the life of chocolate and the chocolatier that created each piece. For more information, visit www.btmcelrath.com.