A Cocoa Expert Highlights 3 Chocolate Trends

Kristy Leissle wrote . . . . . . . . .

‘Tis the season to eat chocolate. And for the chocolate industry, there’s nothing sweeter, since this is the time of year when it enjoys a spike in sales and, at least for some, rising profits.

Globally, chocolate and its source, cocoa, are in a moment of dynamism and change. In some cases it’s for the worse, as the industry faces the realities of climate change. Other changes, however, are for the better, as cocoa producers, chocolate makers, researchers and even retailers offer creative new ways to interact with this beloved food and the people who bring it to us.

I’ve been researching and writing about all things chocolate for 15 years, from its politics and geography to its history and culture. Here are three fascinating trends I’ve been following that are reshaping the industry.

Craft chocolate explodes

One of the biggest changes has been the rise of craft chocolate.

For most of the 20th century, a few major brands like Hershey, Mars and Nestlé dominated the market. That began to change in 1997, when Scharffen Berger opened its doors in Berkeley, California, and became the first new bean-to-bar maker in decades.

To see how much things have changed, look no further than the Northwest Chocolate Festival, held every autumn in Seattle, which recently celebrated its 10th year. When I became education director for the festival in 2010, I knew maybe a dozen craft chocolate makers to invite. In 2013, the last year I held the role, I surveyed the market and was able to locate 37 bean-to-bar makers operating commercially in the U.S.

Today, there are more than 200.

The rise of craft chocolate has meant a true renaissance. These makers often take an artisanal approach, getting to know their materials well – in this case, cocoa and sugar – and shaping them carefully from bean to finished product. The results are lovingly crafted bars, many of them single origin that showcase cocoa’s natural flavor range.

Stories and labels

With this artisanal market shift has come rising consumer demand for education about chocolate.

My own analysis of the craft market shows that consumers now want more than just a piece of chocolate. They expect makers to also share a story, from who grew the beans to the flavor profile of the finished product.

But this surge in craft chocolate makers and stories can also create confusion at the grocery store.

A visit to a typical sweets section these days reveals dozens of new and attractive chocolate bars stretching down the aisle, bearing a dizzying array of labels: Fairtrade, direct trade, Rainforest Alliance, IMO Fair for Life, bean to bar, raw, handmade, craft and artisan – to name just a few.

Is there any real difference among these claims, or are they all simply marketing hype? And what does it really mean to be artisanal?

By and large, labels do one of two things: say something about a chocolate maker’s ethics or its process.

Fairtrade, for example, sets a price floor for cocoa. In a market where cocoa’s price can fluctuate dramatically, this introduces some budget stability for certified producer organizations, because they know in advance the minimum price they will receive. Fairtrade certified organizations also receive what is called the social premium – an amount paid over and above the price for the cocoa, which is reinvested into community development projects or, in some cases, distributed as cash payments to growers.

Direct trade, which Taza pioneered for chocolate, approaches things a bit differently, focusing on maintaining close and mutually supportive relationships with producers over the long term.

As for process, and consumer understandings of it, I examined how new chocolate makers use the term “artisan.” An artisan once was a person who spent long years as apprentice to a master, training in a craft, and “graduated” only when that master said the trainee was ready.

Opportunities for apprenticeship vanished in the U.S. because the few chocolate companies that dominated the 20th century guarded their manufacturing secrets so closely. But once Scharffen Berger began marketing its chocolate as artisanal, the number of makers calling themselves “artisan” grew at an astonishing rate.

In consumer surveys I conducted for this research, I found that people associated the term “artisan” with passion for chocolate making, rather than formal training in the craft. Furthermore, my findings suggested that consumers translate passion into good flavor. So the word “artisan” seems to sell a delicious chocolate eating experience, which may or may not be true.

I also concluded that terms like artisan are meant to do more than sell a product. The term, and the storytelling that accompanies it, is intended to educate consumers about what makes this chocolate different from mass-produced candies.

For consumers eager to get a story with their chocolate, these labels provide plenty of information. My advice is not to try to learn every story but to follow the ones that you find compelling. The more we learn about the people who bring us chocolate, the more mindfully we can enjoy it.

Melting in our mouths

One of the main reasons chocolate is so enjoyable and compelling to the human palate is because cocoa butter, the natural fat of the bean, melts at just below our body temperature, at around 93 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives it its distinctive mouth-feel, covering our taste buds thickly and evenly.

But it’s also a major headache for chocolate makers and retailers because it means their wares are susceptible to melting into mush in hotter regions and during the summer. And so the industry has been hard at work for decades on creating chocolate that doesn’t collapse in the heat.

The effort began in 1937, when Hershey developed a heat-resistant bar for the U.S. Army, which resulted in over 3 billion Field Ration D units being distributed to solders during World War II.

More recently, in 2015, researchers at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences announced their discovery of the gene that determines cocoa butter’s melting point. If this gene can be manipulated, it may mean another route to heat-resistant chocolate.

Today, Barry Callebaut, the world’s largest chocolate maker, reportedly makes a bar that remains stable at up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Nestlé, Hershey and Mondelēz also have heat-resistant projects that aim to conquer the melt problem while maintaining the mouth-feel.

For the company that solves this challenge, and still keeps chocolate feeling silky smooth, the prize will be enormous: vast new potential markets throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

And for consumers, the result may one day be a planet covered in chocolate – sharp and square, in its most pleasing form, and ready to melt where it ought: in our mouths.

Source: The Conversation


Annual Survey Reveals Food Trends Among Consumers and Registered Dietitians

We’ve heard of the ketogenic (“keto”) diet, fermented foods, nondairy milks, and plant proteins, but what do they all have in common? They are some of the hottest food and nutrition trends to look for in 2019, according to dietitians surveyed in the 7th annual Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey. With 1,342 Registered Dietitians (RDs) responding, the survey divulges what leading RDs predict consumers are thinking and eating. While fermented foods hold steady as the No. 1 superfood for 2018 and 2019, some surprising newcomers have made the list, including beets, blueberries, and nondairy milks. And in a shocking switch, RDs predict that a “healthy” label will begin to surpass cost and taste when it comes to consumer purchase drivers. A not-so-surprising trend dietitians report is the rise of keto as the most popular consumer diet, ousting clean eating from last year’s top spot, with intermittent fasting making its debut as No. 2. It’s clear from these predictions that consumers are on the hunt for a flat belly and will take extreme diet measures in their pursuit.

“It’s not that ‘clean eating’ has declined in popularity,” says Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RDN, senior vice president of Pollock Communications. “We are still seeing the consumer push for cleaner labels, and the industry continues their work to deliver it. But what’s different here is that millennial consumers are going beyond eliminating a food group, like cutting gluten, to making more drastic changes that require real lifestyle adjustments.” Dr. Bell explains that this movement reflects a greater recognition of the importance of what we eat. She says, “it’s beyond food is medicine; now food is the core of wellness.”

Top 10 Superfoods for 2019

RDs predict fermented foods—such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, and miso—will continue to be highly sought after by consumers in 2019, likely for their powerful benefits from boosting gut health to blunting inflammation. Kale has fallen off the top 10 list, with nondairy milks nabbing the No. 10 spot. This underscores the rise in popularity of plant proteins and finding plant-based swaps. Other superfood list newcomers, beets and blueberries join this list of dietitian superfood predictions for 2019:

1. Fermented foods, like yogurt
2. Avocado
3. Seeds
4. Ancient Grains
5. Exotic fruit, like acai, golden berries
6. Blueberries
7. Beets
8. Nuts
9. Coconut products
10. Nondairy milks

“Plant-based eating has been a major focus in the dietetic community,” Bell says. “Now, consumers are hearing this message and it’s what they want.” This is apparent in the growth of seeds, nuts, and nondairy alternatives. The supermarket milk case has gone from cow to soy, rice, almond, coconut, walnut, and oats. Consumers are fulfilling their health and protein needs with a diverse number of dairy and nondairy products.

To Eat or Not to Eat — That Is the Trend

Consumers realize that what they eat affects how they feel, and based on the trends reported, RDs think that consumers are looking for diets that primarily drive weight loss. As RDs predicted, keto was a diet trend to watch in 2018, and it has soared in popularity. RDs agree the keto craze will continue in 2019, with consumers significantly reducing carbohydrates, grains, and sugar in favor of vegetables, animal fat, and meat. According to the survey, RDs believe the next big diet—or lack thereof—will be intermittent fasting, with clean eating coming in as third most popular.

“We have witnessed a progression in consumer demand for ‘health’ and ‘clean’ throughout the seven years of our survey and as millennials have been moving into their 30s,” says Louise Pollock, president of Pollock Communications. “We have seen the food industry respond by changing their strategy from a taste, cost-driven approach to one that appeals to these powerful health and wellness-seeking consumers.”

Choose Wisely — ‘Healthy’ Holds the Halo

One of the most interesting findings for 2019 is RDs predict that consumers will be more concerned about the healthfulness of food products than the cost and taste when making purchasing decisions. Healthfulness has hovered near the top three purchase drivers in recent years, but it’s notable that for the first time it has moved up to the No. 2 spot, reinforcing the demand for better-for-you food choices. Convenience remains a steady stronghold at No. 1, with cost and taste at the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, followed by natural, organic, and gluten-free.

Advice From the Experts — RDs Know Best

According to RDs, Facebook is still the No. 1 source of where consumers receive nutrition misinformation, followed by blogs and Instagram. And celebrities and friends/family remain the top sources of who consumers get nutrition misinformation from. But when in doubt, RDs feel that it’s always best to ask the experts—RDs—who agree that consumers should eat more servings of vegetables per day and increase fiber intake, which helps promote a healthy gut and improve overall well-being.

“RDs are experts at predicting trends because they consistently know what to expect from consumers,” says Mara Honicker, publisher of Today’s Dietitian. “Their trustworthy nutrition knowledge educates and improves consumer wellness, and their insights drive the future of food in industry and public policy.”

Source: Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian

In Pictures: Food of 360 Restaurant in Toronto, Canada

Continental and Canadian Cuisine

The Revolving Restaurant at the CN Tower

U.K. Report Identified Ten Ingredients that Led the Way​ in 2018

  1. Jackfruit:​ Grown in South East Asia, Brazil and Africa, jackfruit has established itself as a meat-substiture, making its way into burgers, tacos and pulled pork recipes.
  2. Miso:​ Sales of miso increased 28% over the past year. Waitrose attributed this growth to the increasing use of miso in non-Japanese dishes, such as miso glazed parsnips.
  3. Turnips:​ The inclusion of this traditional seasonal veg in Waitrose’s top ten food ingredients for 2018/19 might seem like a turn-up for the books, but according to the retailer the humble turnip is appearing in everything from gratin to vegetarian meatballs and mash.
  4. Crispy chicken skin:​ A snack going for indulgence over health, crispy chicken skin can be used to dip or served as canapé. Waitrose suggested. People have also been whipping it into butter and crumbling it over seafood.
  5. Modern Mexican:​ Fresh and zingy Mexican flavours have “rocketed” in popularity, Waitrose said, boldly predicting: “The taco is the new sandwich”.
  6. Sourdough bread:​ Boosted by the ever-growing popularity of brunch, sales of sourdough loaves have soared by a third, Waitrose revealed.
  7. Aquafaba:​ Chickpea water has gained popularity as an egg replacement in vegan meringues and mousse thanks to its viscous quality. Waitrose noted that it is now mainstream enough to have entered the Scrabble dictionary
  8. Apple cider vinegar:​ The trend towards fermented foods and the purported health benefits of apple cider vinegar have resulted in a 60% increase in sales this year, Waitrose said.
  9. Herby desserts:​ Think lemon thyme mouse or tonka bean and thyme panna cotta.
  10. Kefir:​ Again boosted by demand for fermented foods and healthy associations, this naturally fermented drink, similar to yogurt, has seen UK sales almost triple this year, according to Waitrose.

Read also at Waitrose:

Food and Drink Report 2018-19 . . . . .

Food Trend: 2050 China Food Tech Summit

Chen May Yee wrote . . . . . . . . .

China turns to tech for better and safer food.

With its huge population and history of famines, China’s food challenges in the past were centred on with how to feed a multitude of people. The future will be more about feeding them well.

An unusual collection of players—from vegan evangelists to cultured-meat scientists, chickpea proponents, blockchain startups and venture funds—converged last week on the PwC Shanghai Innovation Centre, for what was billed as the country’s first food tech investment conference. The 2050 China Food Tech Summit—2050 is the year that the world population is expected to exceed 9.6 billion—was organized by Bits x Bites, a food-focused accelerator and venture fund.

“In the last five years, we have seen a shift from thinking about quantity to quality, with new technologies,” said Vincent Martin, China representative of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, and a panelist at the meeting. “Whatever is done here in China will have repercussions for the rest of the world.”

Attendees came from across China and as far away as Germany, Switzerland, Israel, the United States, Australia and Singapore. Many were looking at China as a market and production base as well as a real-life test site for new ideas at significant scale.

But scale isn’t the only challenge. Food safety scandals in recent years have prompted new regulations in China as well as a wider rethinking of which food supply systems are sustainable. Consumers—especially those in top-tier cities—are increasingly health conscious and demanding more nutritious food with traceable origins.

“Millennials and flexitarians will be the driving force of the market in the future,” said Hazel Zhang, founder and CEO of VegPlanet, a vegan and sustainable living media platform in China with 330,000 followers on WeChat. “We already see this happening in the West. In China, it will be the same—they care not only about the environment, they care about their health, they care about their body. If we have plant-based protein that tastes really great and is hopefully cheap, I see this trend is really coming. The tipping point may come in 10 years.”

Others saw a more diversified market. “I see a place for cell-based, a place for plant-based,” said Rom Kshuk, CEO of Future Meat Technologies, a cultured meat startup. “It doesn’t have to be around ideology—vegetarian, flexitarian—people will just move from one to the other.”

Key trends in the day-long conference included:

Future protein

While meat consumption has plateaued in the United States, it continues to soar in China. But raising livestock uses a lot of land and water—resources that China can ill afford.

Scientists have been experimenting with growing meat cells in labs for several years, but at very high cost. Future Meat Technologies has developed a way of dramatically cutting the cost of culturing meat cells in a lab—by combining a bioreactor with an artificial liver and kidney. Unlike earlier iterations of lab-grown meat, this version includes the all-important streaks of fat, the bits that sizzle on the grill with an aroma that can trigger the mouth-watering reflex in even long-time vegetarians, said Yaakov Nahmias, founder of the Jerusalem-based startup.

Future Meat Technologies received early funding from Bits x Bites and, in May, attracted $2.2. million in seed investment, co-led by Tyson Ventures, part of Tyson Foods, a Fortune 100 company.

Israeli startup InnovoPro has developed chickpeas as a protein-rich ingredient for food products and is targeting consumers who are looking for cleaner food labels, said CEO Taly Nechushtan. Chickpeas also act as an emulsifier and can take the place of modified starches and other additives. InnovoPro has developed a range of chickpea puddings, yogurts, egg-free mayonnaise, protein bars and savory snacks, and is looking for food companies as partners.

San Diego-based Triton is promoting green algae—Chlamydomonas reinhardtii—in powdered form as a protein-rich food ingredient. In May this year, Triton invited celebrity chef Brian Malarkey to cook a five-course meal for 120 diners, using the algae. The menu included nori algae butter, algae bucatini, algae pesto, algae lime cookies and a Chlamy Cocktail.

Whether any of these ingredients will take off in China depends on whether they can be adapted to Chinese cooking styles. “At the end of the day, food is more about culture than anything else,” said Kshuk.

Fresh is best

Chinese consumers buy more than 20% of their food online, the highest proportion in the world, said Thierry Garnier, President and CEO of Carrefour China. In Europe and the United States, the food e-commerce market is in the low single digits.

Carrefour recently openedits first Le Marche “smart store” in Shanghai, with digital innovations supported by Chinese tech giant Tencent, parent company of WeChat. Tencent also has a stake in Carrefour China. Shoppers have the option of scanning and paying online or at self check-outs. Tencent rival Alibaba has a chain of similar grocery stores in China under the Hema banner.

“You don’t go to a store only to buy, you have to go to a place and enjoy it,” said Garnier. “In France, I take pleasure in choosing cheese—maybe for you, it is crabs, or fish. Fresh is still a pleasure.” Stores are also places for shoppers to discover new products that they might not be actively looking for.

Freshness is also a focus for e-commerce startup 321Cooking, which delivers fresh, pre-packaged, ready-to-cook ingredients to Chinese homes.

“We take away the complicated and boring parts. We buy all the raw ingredients and wash them, and consumers keep the most enjoyable part—the cooking,” said Xiayue Pan, cofounder of 321Cooking. The brand’s customers are 75% female, aged between 25 and 35 years, and live in the first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, she said.

Consumers want fresh ingredients, which means a shorter shelf life, Pan said. At the same time, they don’t want additives or preservatives. “It’s a double-edged sword,” she said. “An opportunity and a challenge as well.”

Food as medicine

Some food companies are tackling issues such as rising obesity and diabetes rates in Asia. Singaporean startup Alchemy Foodtech has created a technology that lowers the glycemic index of white rice to the level of brown rice, and has just received venture funding from Bits x Bites.

Selling a healthy option in China will require more than scientific facts and figures, said Loris Li, associate director of food and drink at Mintel. “You can’t just give stats. You need to provide an interesting story. Numbers are not enough to convince Chinese consumers, especially the elderly ones,” she said.

Finally, several panelists were asked to picture an ideal intersection of food, technology and health in the year 2050.

“In 2050, I’ll be in my 70s,” said Ryan Chaw, who leads technology acquisition for the APAC R&D team at Coca Cola. “I’ll be at home, wearing a belt that can measure my gut health. I’ll walk into my indoor vegetable garden, blend my own shake and consume it.”

Source: J. Walter Thompson Intelligence