By Rae Hadley

Chocolate aficionados, smile and be joyful for the arrival of RB1 (Ruby) the newest addition to the Cacao Family, and she sure is pretty. Blush pink and smoothly textured, this chocolate is the fourth type of chocolate to be globally recognised–following dark, milk, and white chocolates. Each with their signature ratio of cacao mass: coco, a milk derivative, and sugar.

Following an 80-year hiatus since the unveiling of the last of the clan, ruby chocolate is creating something of a sensation.

Amidst great excitement and global interest, September 2017 saw a select group of journalists and industry players descend on Shanghai, China where Barry Callebaut, master chocolatiers, introduced their latest protégé.

As far back as 2007, the R&D department at Barry Callebaut has been working on this creation. It is known to consist of ruby beans from the Ivory Coast, Ecuador, and Brazil. The quantities of the bean and method of production are a closely guarded trade secret with the filed application for an international patent as generic and unspecific as it is visible to prying eyes.

The impactful aspect of this chocolate is a striking pink colour. A colour that is derived naturally from the initial processes that the cacao bean goes through–or rather the processes it doesn’t go through. The oxidation process of the bean is what gives chocolate its characteristic brown colour and produces the warm, buttery flavours we have all come to know and love. Beans utilised for ruby chocolate have a shorter oxidation process than beans for the other three types. This ensures that the naturally occurring purple, red, and pink colours found in the unprocessed beans are not stripped out of the bean or darkened, as is characteristic of the longer process. 

Sofia Popova, Director of Marketing EMEA at Barry Callebaut stresses that ruby chocolate is not based on a particular botanical variety. The focus for the developers was in locating beans that have a high percentage of a single specific molecule among the 20,000 compounds contained in the beans.

Unfortunately, for some palettes, this change in the process also appears to be softening and reducing the traditional flavours we have all come to expect from anything called ‘chocolate’. As with all new inventions and upgrades there have been reviews bemoaning the flavour ‘uniqueness’ of this confectionary in a less-than-positive manner.

Taste Test

The reviews of Ruby’s flavour for virgin or standalone consumption have been mixed. Some reviewers revel in the clean, fresh ‘berry’ notes and some wail at the lack of fondly remembered cocoa flavoured softness. As with everything, it comes down to a matter of personal taste and a consideration of what you want the role of the chocolate to play in any given situation or pairing.

For some, the lack of similarity is a deal-breaker, and they have heralded this new product as a ‘cheap’ marketing stunt aimed at seducing the visually dominated, social-media-focused Generation Y. Unfortunately, this really doesn’t place Ruby where she deserves–‘no one puts Baby in the corner’.

Its characteristic colour is, however, proving highly popular with culinary artisans and Instagramming millennials. Tens of thousands of pretty pink posts attest to the interest. It’s vibrant, visual appeal is utterly stunning which, when coupled with the smooth texture it imparts, might be precisely what is needed for your latest creation. It does these jobs admirably, with plenty of flair and, more importantly, in our health-conscious age, naturally. The rosy hue is achieved without the inclusion of any additives–artificial or not. 

It has to be said, a quick search on the IG hashtag #rubychocolate brings up a visual feast beyond the norm. This is an ingredient which oozes subtle sophistication on one post and flouts all the colour rules to look startlingly delicious in the next. The colour pairs well with any number of other textures and tones and enlivens the look of a multitude of old favourites. Charming cakes in muted tones, cute over-the-top girly-pink confectionary or slap-in-the-face acid green kiwis with soft pink frosting, the images speak for themselves. The visual appeal is simply undeniable.

Sophisticated Mix And Match

Barry Callebaut has produced an extensive ‘flavour pairings’ guide, and there are some unusual and exciting food and drink ideas to be had, from sweet to sour to savoury.  The Bloody Mary caught my eye as an interesting twist on an old favourite, and the eel and caviar choices might not be to everyone’s taste but show the breadth of possibility beyond the general expectation of patisserie and confectionery.

ISM Cologne 2019 saw an influx of 11 chocolate brands debuting new ruby chocolate products, with a flavour pairing for the Ruby the major focus of the sweets and snacks conference. As noted by Sofia Popova, Director of Marketing EMEA, “In the chocolate world, it really is a new flavour where you have somewhat of a sour note.” Popova further explains, “What pairs very nicely is coconut and raspberry. When paired together with Ruby, you have a fruity note that is reinforced by the raspberry and next to that you have coconut, which is reinforcing the new keynote. Things like exotic yuzu pairs well with the citrusy note.”

In short, the reduction in the ‘traditional’ chocolate flavour seems to have opened up the creative vaults. Professional and amateur chefs, alongside food bloggers, can now utilise this ingredient as a companion element or even as a vehicle for other stronger flavours while capitalising on the textural and visual impact. Those who love it are revelling in all its rosy glory. 

It’s price, however, may not be quite as popular. It’s an original and exciting new product and with this comes a hefty price tag. Is it prohibitive? Not when the opportunities for its uses are this undeniably varied and artistic as well as commercial.

Availability for Ruby chocolate globally is currently limited; however, it may be found at small, independent artisanal confectioners and distribution is set to increase as more brands develop their take on RB1.

For Ruby at least, the future is bright–bright pink that is.