Ruby Clears a Temporary Hurdle in the US

Newsflash: Barry-Callebaut continues to represent Ruby in ways that are confusing to consumers and potentially damaging to craft chocolate

Those of you who've followed my coverage of Ruby – from the global launch in Shanghai in September 2017 – may recall that while I do respect some of the thinking behind the development of Ruby I am not at all a fan of the way Barry-Callebaut chooses to market Ruby.

Disclaimer: While Barry-Callebaut covered most of my travel expenses (airfare and hotel, airport transfers in Shanghai, some meals) to travel to Shanghai for the global launch event, at no point has anyone from B-C suggest that I hold specific views on Ruby or alter or edit my opinions about Ruby.

During the first week of June I attended the RCI conference in Hartford, CT. There I picked up a brochure B-C was handing out on their stand, most of which was dedicated to promoting Ruby. The photos accompanying this story are of spreads from that brochure.

Photo of center spread of the Ruby cocoa and chocolate brochure
Is it, really? Really?Clay Gordon

One of the first things I learned at RCI was that B-C has successfully applied for a TPM – temporary marketing permit – that allows it to legally call Ruby chocolate in the US. Prior to getting the TPM Ruby could not legally be called chocolate in the US because it contained too much residual acetic acid (used to prevent oxidation during fermentation). US regulations concerning what can be in chocolate and still be called chocolate are stricter than most other places in the world.

So – with the TPM, Ruby can now legally be called chocolate in the US. With the TPM in place, B-C is now actively marketing and selling Ruby in the US as chocolate, not [a chocolate-like substance]"made with Ruby cocoa."

My first objection to the language used on the center spread is that there is the implication there is a variety of cocoa beans called Ruby. Professionals and educated chocolate consumers know this is not the case. 

The next term in the following sequence ... {Criollo, Forastero, Trinitario} is not Ruby. 

One of the reasons why this may be confusing is because it could be argued that Ruby is the fourth term in the sequence {Dark, Milk, White} chocolate. Four types of beans, four types of chocolate. No. That's not how it works.

A Ruby cocoa bean is not a distinct genetic varietal. Ruby beans contain a specific profile of polyphenols that, when fermented in specific ways, do not oxidize and turn brown, retaining the purplish hue of fresh beans. 

They do acknowledge this shading by saying, “Only under unique climate conditions, [sic] will cocoa trees produce cocoa beans.” The reality is that ”Ruby beans” can be grown anywhere in the world that cocoa grows, and varieties that can be processed to make Ruby chocolate including CCN-51.

For the past couple of years I have been saying the small maker chocolate community needs to re-think their use of the phrase bean-to-bar because companies like Barry-Callebaut can legitimately use the phrase, undermining its usefulness as a way to differentiate industrial from “craft” chocolate.

As you can read in the last paragraph on this page, B-C is explicitly claiming Ruby to be made bean-to-bar without added colors or flavors. While we can spend all day debating the rightness or wrongness of B-Cs using bean-to-bar, they are using it, and rather than rail against B-C, a thoughtful response from the entire craft industry is in everyone’s best interests.

There is no doubt in my mind that B-Cs decision to use bean-to-bar will lead to even greater confusion in the minds of some, if not many, consumers as they try to make sense of the proliferation of buzzwords and phrases on packaging to help make their purchasing decisions. This is the language B-C is using to communicate to its business customers, who will, in turn, use this language on their packaging and promotional materials to communicate with their customers.

A rule to separate blocks of text in an article

As I have written many times, the market for Ruby is not chocolate connoisseurs. If you're making or are a devotee of single-origin two-ingredient chocolates then Ruby is not for you. That does not mean it does not have a place. White chocolate, introduced in the late-1930s, was labeled under TPMs until a decade or so ago and has grown to represent about US$17 billion in sales annually. 

More interestingly, to me, is that Ruby represents a “forget what boxes are” approach to chocolate by asking a simple question, "Why does chocolate have to be brown?"

On a final note, I have said that panned items I had at the Ruby launch were among the best panned items I have tasted, representing what Ruby can deliver in the hands of a talented chef. At RCI, B-C phoned home by serving up almonds panned with Ruby – some of the worst panned almonds I have ever had the misfortune of eating.

Comments (3)
No. 1-3
zrtownsend
zrtownsend

I assume the marketing information on the photo above was translated from French to English? If so, it would be interesting to see if the source language states it in exactly the same way. The marketing information on that label is not written well, plus it's obvious it's extremely oversimplified (and I'm admittedly no expert on Ruby at this point).

DiscoverChoc
DiscoverChoc

Editor

@SweetDriver1 - my best advice is to reserve full judgment until you taste ruby, and then remember that it may excite your customers when you add your unique take on it.

SweetDriver1
SweetDriver1

Yes, yes. I've looked at their site and been interested but unclear on the origins of Ruby so I did my homework on it. But not everyone will be willing to do that. It still is interesting to me, especially the flavor profiles, but I'm still not convinced enough to actually buy any. I really liked your take!