Pink cocoa creators want treat recognized as new chocolate

A mysterious pink-hued treat made from cocoa beans is officially debuting in North America this week. But don't call it chocolate just yet.

Canada officially has dark, milk and white chocolate. Could ruby be next?

These are ruby volcanoes, treats made from ruby chocolate, coconut, raspberry, cherry and other ingredients. The so-called ruby chocolate is officially launching in North America this week. (Barry Callebaut Group)

A mysterious pink-hued treat made from cocoa beans is officially debuting in North America this week.

But don't call it chocolate just yet.

In Canada, there are officially only three types of chocolate: milk, dark and white.

A fourth would have to be approved by Health Canada, and the federal agency says it hasn't received any request yet.

International chocolate producer Barry Callebaut invented a new way to process cocoa beans to create what the company calls "ruby chocolate."

It's pink, tastes slightly sour and sweet and like berries, but all without any colouring or additives. 

"It is pretty hyped up. There's a lot of mystery around the pink, the ruby chocolate," said Anne Sellmer, owner of Cochu Chocolatier in Calgary. "With that comes a fair amount of speculation about how they get it to have that pink hue and the flavour."

You can taste-test it now, as it's being sold on a dipped ice cream cone at Chocolats Favoris in Quebec, Ontario and B.C., and by Nestle for the Ruby Kit Kat.

The Canada-wide roll-out starts now, following its official North America launch this week in Chicago at the Sweets and Snacks trade show. The company hopes to file for chocolate designation soon in both Canada and the United States.

If approved, ruby would mark the first new official chocolate type since Nestle debuted white chocolate in 1930.

Could ruby chocolate join the ranks of dark, milk and white? (Barry Callebaut Group)

So it's called ruby couverture, at least for now.

"Ruby is a totally new taste experience, a totally unique sensory profile," said T.J. Mulvihill, the company's North America vice-president of marketing.

"Having a specific standard of identity of 'ruby' as chocolate allows us to communicate effectively and impactfully with the consumer in the same way that we speak about milk, white and dark."

Company lawyers are still working on the applications to regulators to market it as chocolate, he said.

Barry Callebaut, which is not associated with Calgary chocolate maker Bernard Callebaut, is the only source at the moment to buy ruby chocolate, and those who want to use it must take training from the company.

Mulvihill said the company wants to roll it out consistently, and encourage quality. For instance, the chocolate is better used as a dip for scones, for example, than as a baking ingredient, due to its consistency.

Brian Beck, president of Cococo Chocolatiers, and Anne Sellmer, owner of Cochu Chocolatier, will soon train on how to best use the new ruby couverture. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

The process to create ruby chocolate is a trade secret but not a trademarked one. Mulvihill would only say it's made from cocoa beans and without additives for colouring or flavour.

That's the breakthrough that's exciting Canadian chocolate makers.

"This whole change takes us down to what is chocolate and how do you make it and what can you taste," Calgary chocolatier Brian Beck said.

Typically, cocoa beans are allowed to naturally ferment and go dark brown in the field "in kind of a wild west way," he said.

That creates the flavour of chocolate that most people are accustomed to today.

"With this ruby process, they're doing something different," said Beck, who is president of Cococo Chocolatiers. "They do that with lots of different secrets that they're not going to share with you."

This photo shows cocoa pods growing on a tree on a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)

He said he thinks they're taking the raw bean and either avoiding fermentation or under fermenting, and perhaps using citric acid to do so.

Beck and Sellmer said they look forward to the ruby course, which they're taking in June, and to experimenting with it, perhaps by layering it on sweet treats.

"You can picture this with a sweet champagne, a rosé. It's meant to be paired with cheeses," Beck said. "So it's just a different avenue of learning chocolate, and that's as big a world is as wine is."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener