The global fine/specialty chocolate industry expects even stronger sales in 2018, driven by four underlying trends in product development, some of which confirm to be evergreen, others just gaining more traction than 2017:
- high cacao content,
- protein enrichment,
- floral flavors,
- spiced teas.
High cacao content
As it represents the most persistent association—and also the one considered more obvious—with dark chocolate, there is something new this time: as consumers are increasingly informed and determined to reduce the amount of sugar in their diet, they will also be much more likely to zero in on products richer in cacao. So, the “high cacao content” tag will be the trend characterizing even other types of chocolate, not just dark chocolate.
High cacao content will be the primary trend for all types of chocolate in 2018—and much, much beyond.
As you may know, there are various schools of thought claiming that even a moderate cacao percentage product can delight the palate, because “it depends on the cacao origin.” Well, this explanation has never convinced me, while the only one I agree with is that in the final percentage, you should consider a balance in cacao mass and/or cocoa butter. The fact is that the moderate cacao percentage assumption can absolve the medium-large chocolate maker who needs to compromise with higher production volumes to lower the retail price, but since you are probably one of those who does not want to compromise on quality, do not be persuaded by old excuses any longer. Find a cacao origin that can go outstandingly at high percentages, possibly finding a supplier that also gives some indications on how to best process it to obtain a desired result in the finished product, and be daring. The consumers are ready to get their mouths filled with great tasting and boldly rich cacao products.
But what if you already have a product with an “in average” percentage, as many others have? You might find this trick useful: instead of being forced to increase the cacao percentage, make the product trendier first by staying away from the addition of stevia or any other high-intense sweeteners, and then by pumping it up with one of the following ideas—and regarded latest food trends for 2018.
Different protein powders may improve taste and nutrition in the final chocolate product, while also enhance its texture at variable percentages.
The more appealing protein-rich ingredients and inclusions forecast in 2018 are:
According to a report by Innova Market Insights, kefir launches increased more than threefold between 2011 and 2016, compared to more moderate increases for overall yogurt and fermented beverages. Kefir is fermented for a more extended period than yogurt, resulting in less lactose (the naturally-occurring sugar in milk) in the final product. It also contains diverse strains and a higher number of bacteria culture. The fermented beverage, which is usually made by adding kefir “grains” (starters made up of yeasts and lactic bacteria) to cow or goat milk, boasts a myriad of health benefits. Now, the traditionally milk-based drink is making forays into the non-dairy sector too, providing valid vegan alternatives formulated with coconut milk or almond milk, thus giving consumers more options for consuming kefir.
Turmeric (and other plant roots) lattes
The ever-popular spice used in Ayurvedic medicine will gain even more traction in 2018 when added to milk or white chocolate, because pairing it with milk ingredients will result in a winning combination. In the same guise of turmeric, other plant-based root powders, such as masala, cardamon, and maca, will be the trend du jour for 2018.
Shoppers are buzzing about functional mushrooms, which are traditionally used to support wellness as an ingredient in dietary supplements. The earthy, creamy notes of certain varieties (reishi, chaga, cordyceps) pair well with cacao-based snacks and chocolate products.
Tahini, also known as Ardeh in the Balkan regions, is a condiment made from toasted ground hulled sesame seeds and the principal ingredient used in hummus as wells as in a variety of dishes, often mixed with lemon juice, salt, and garlic. It seems tahini also compliments particularly well with peanut butter. For that reason, you may think of blending a mix of white sesame seeds with peanut butter until creamy and then use it as a nutty paste for milk or white chocolate.
Floral notes are going to be in full bloom like never before! From adding whole flowers and petals to infusing botanical flavors into bars and fillings, this top trend makes for a subtly sweet taste and fresh aromatics. If you aspire to such a sophistication, combine a floral flavor with a tangy ingredient. (Following are just a few of such possibilities:)
- Lavender + Lemon
- Geranium + Raspberry
- Elderflower + Lemon
- Violet + Mango
- Rose + Pomegranate
Masala chai is a flavored tea—mixed in milk—made by brewing black tea leaves with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs, ranging from cinnamon to star anise, fennel seeds, peppercorn, nutmeg, cloves, black cardamom, chili, coriander, and rose!
As Japanese matcha green tea remains an evergreen alone for white chocolate, whole spice matcha chai may be a second cool option as a spiced tea flavor, including a mix of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and peppercorn.
As new product developments and flavors are expected to drive the industry of fine chocolate forward, here are two final tips you may want to consider:
- Better to concentrate your efforts on 1-3 product developments or flavors rather than more. Get your current products right before thinking of the next, or ditch one altogether if necessary.
- As ubiquitous and lose tags like “superfoods” are no longer hooking the attention of foodies and chocolate sophisticates, cleaner ingredient lists won’t grant alibis.
- Great storytelling on the label of the product will remain key to showcase the authenticity of your product. If possible, connect the cacao origin or idea behind a particular flavor with a personal emotion, inspiration, or experience that guided you through your latest creation.
Which of the mentioned trends are you planning to take on this year?