On what may eventually come to be known as “Ruby Tuesday”— Sept. 5, 2017— industry giant Barry Callebaut introduced what they claim is a fourth type of chocolate, joining dark, milk, and white ... Ruby chocolate.
I was selected to be one of about 30 guests to attend the launch and was one of only two guests from North America to see, smell and taste Ruby chocolate. Much of what has been written about Ruby since has focused on what Ruby is, how it might be made, and if Ruby is truly an innovation or just a marketing gimmick. Virtually all of that has been written by people who were not at the launch and have not tasted Ruby.
From my personal experience, I can report that the response to Ruby chocolate — by people who have actually had a chance to taste it, professionals and non–professionals alike — has been overwhelmingly positive.
When white chocolate was first introduced commercially — Nestlé's Galak a.k.a. Milkybar in the late 1930s — it created a new category of chocolate with exactly one member. It wasn’t until quite recently (Jan. 1, 2004) that white chocolate gained legal standing (CFR 21.163.124) in the United States.
In the intervening decades, the white chocolate category has grown to encompass hundreds of examples displaying surprising diversity; ones made with undeodorized cocoa butter; ones with goat’s milk; ones made with alternative sugars, exotic flavoring combinations, and/or inclusions. And that list does not include the myriad products that incorporate white chocolate as an ingredient.
Most of the innovation around chocolate in the last half–century or so has been related to processing technology and reducing the amount of time it takes to produce finished product. Because bean sourcing by most chocolate makers outside of growing countries has focused on well-fermented, brown-colored beans, developing a process that preserves and enhances the light-purple/lilac color of select unfermented beans — and that also delivers a new, non–chocolate, flavor profile — does represent innovation.
There is the expectation that sweet/dark chocolate must taste the most of cacao, milk chocolate less so, and white chocolate not at all. Why should there be any expectation that Ruby chocolate should taste like any chocolate before it? History suggests that when creative people — and confectioners and pastry chefs are crazy creative people as a group — get their hands on a new ingredient or piece of equipment, interesting things will happen. The new thing forms the basis for new lines of experimentation, often in directions that the original creator never imagined.
The concept of Ruby chocolate was introduced slightly more than a week ago. In the week since there have been global discussions about Ruby, which has turned out to be a very polarizing topic.
It’s therefore important to keep front of mind that Ruby chocolate, which is brand new, is not for every potential market or every user. That’s okay and is to be expected. After all, there are still chocolate professionals who argue that white chocolate in not really chocolate. Put in historical context, the discussions are good for the industry overall as it should spark people to think about and use chocolate in new ways.
In 2017, white chocolate sales are forecast to reach $17.5 billion globally as reported by BusinessWire. Reflect on the potential for Ruby chocolate in that context.
What was revealed on Sept. 5 is just the first entry in what Callebaut will champion to become an entirely new category of chocolate, one filled with many different variations and products.
Give Ruby chocolate 80 years or so and check back to see its full impact. But I don't think it will take nearly that long.
Clay Gordon is the author of Discover Chocolate: The Ultimate Guide to Buying, Tasting, and Enjoying Fine Chocolate, and founder of TheChocolateLife.com, the largest community focusing solely on chocolate in the world. Gordon has been seriously involved in the chocolate industry for nearly a quarter of a century, lecturing, writing and teaching about chocolate.