Color me chocolate: Bright hues enliven traditional cocoa flavors
19 May 2023 --- Consumers are reaching for brighter and bolder chocolates as the category sees increasing segmentation and limited-edition innovation.
“In the last five years, you see a lot of colors in chocolate,” observes Ad Vergauwen, partner at Visser Chocolade, a Dutch manufacturer of premium chocolate and ice cream.
“We started in 2017 using colors on our chocolates. And back then, everyone was saying: ‘What are you doing? There’s only milk, dark and white.’ Now you see everyone has colorful chocolate.”
Maartje Hendrickx, market development manager at GNT Group, agrees that more color is popping up as brands seek to carve new niches of the chocolate market – whether it’s a vegan offering or a cocoa-free alternative.
She also notes brilliant and bold hues like purple are appearing in foods as the digital world becomes increasingly integrated into consumers’ everyday lives. This is particularly true among Gen Z consumers who immerse themselves in alternate worlds through online games.
“You see more purple and dark colors in virtual reality, and that gamification is also important in food,” she explains.
healthy hedonism,” which identified a departure from earthy tones to signal naturalness or eco-consciousness. Instead, soft pastels, deep psychedelic tones and bright, bold colors are in the spotlight among planet-friendly Gen Z consumers.The coloring foods company recently released three color palettes under the banner of “
“We definitely see more colors in chocolate,” affirms Hendrickx. Exberry by GNT demonstrated its healthy hedonism palette and natural coloring capabilities on chocolate at ProSweets 2023.
While going toward bolder colors, Hendrickx adds that naturalness is paramount and Exberry is now increasing its focus on its organic range of coloring foods.
Starting from a blank canvas
The secret to getting a beautiful color seems to lie in the base product. Starting out with a purely white product will lend itself to the most vibrant top layer.
“How beautiful or bright the chocolate is all depends on the cocoa butter,” continues Vergauwen.
“The better the cocoa butter, the better appearance you can get on your chocolate.”
Responding to the desire for purity in white chocolate, ofi introduced Moonlight cocoa butter, which can give an “extra white” color for increased contrast.
“The real applications come in when you want to paint bonbons,” reveals Naveen Pessani, technical category manager chocolate and confectionery at ofi. “Regular cocoa butter will have a yellow or golden tint that comes through. But when you use moonlight cocoa butter, you can expect true, vivid colors on the final product.”
Moreover, moonlight cocoa butter is an “all-natural” product. “We don’t add anything to the product to make it white – we filter it through diatomaceous earth,” he says. “It’s like a sand bed that absorbs the color.”
“We play a lot with colors and contrasts because seeing is believing. Visual appearance lets consumers feel an immediate connection to their food.”
Advancing the possibilities
Capol is also bringing bolder, brighter colors to chocolate with its Vivapigments brand of natural pigments.
The company uses a patented microencapsulation technology that uses rice protein, which provides more opacity than what’s normally achieved with natural colors, explains Pablo Elizondo, head of R&D at Capol, Inc.
“Natural extracts look great on white, but as soon as you go onto a dark surface – like in hard sugar panning – confectioners need something like titanium dioxide to cover the dark color first.”
“With the opacity of Vivapigments, you can skip that step altogether and go straight to covering chocolate very well with color.”
Industry has grappled with finding replacements for titanium dioxide following the EU’s directive to ban the whitening agent foods. Elizondo anticipates brands will continue to seek alternatives.
“Even if the ruling gets overturned by the European court, consumers are now aware and once consumers are aware, it’s really hard to get them 'unaware' of any specific change – so they are already steering away from titanium dioxide on the label.”
He adds that visual appearance is vital because it’s what initially draws consumers in, whereas taste will drive a repeat purchase.
Providing more solutions in the whitening arena, Cargill launched its bright white chocolate in 2021, using a patented process to create “whiter than white” chocolate creations.
Expanding on limited-edition creations
Within the mature confectionery category, brighter colors can also provide more options for limited-edition creations to pique consumer interest.
Bulgaria-based Bernard Maitre Chocolatier is one brand tapping into visual appeal to encourage children to consume darker and, therefore, healthier versions of chocolate.
“We saw a gap in the market to give healthier chocolate to children,” says Svetlana Sotirova, manager at the company.
“So we combined two foods beloved by children – chocolate and pizza – and created the chocolate pizza.”
The company conducted direct consumer research, which found that children “loved” dark chocolate in a pizza format, whereas they showed little interest in plain dark chocolate versions.
Tapping into continued novelty, the company runs five limited editions throughout the year in addition to its three permanent offerings.
By Missy Green
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