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Dark Chocolate Sees the Light

Kristen Walker, Mintel.

By: Kristen Walker, Mintel
Posted: May 18, 2009

Dark chocolate has garnered much attention in recent months as consumers search for small treats and affordable luxuries in tough times. Not only does this treat provide consumers with a simple yet flavorful way to indulge, but it also packs a potent dose of good-for-you antioxidants and health benefits. In the global chocolate confectionery category, dark introductions grew 69% between 2006 and 2008, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), with more manufacturers experimenting with unique flavor combinations and price points in order to appeal to a broad range of consumers. Perhaps some of the most notable formulation innovations in dark chocolate have occurred outside the confectionery segment, with categories such as pasta, soup and even personal care using dark chocolate to boost the flavor, functionality and premium appeal of a variety of products.

Unique Combinations and Applications

With its subtly sweet and often bitter flavor, dark chocolate has proven to be a creative accompaniment to ingredients not generally associated with sweet desserts and indulgence foods. From fiery spices to exotic fruits, it appears that no ingredients are off limits when experimenting with creative dark chocolate formulations.

In the United States, niche chocolate manufacturer Vosges touts a line of premium chocolate bars that are flavored with unusual savory ingredients and spices. Included in the range, for example, is a Black Pearl Exotic Candy bar with dark chocolate, ginger, wasabi and black sesame seeds. Other noteworthy variants in the line include a Red Fire Exotic Candy Bar with Mexican ancho and chipotle chilies, Ceylon cinnamon and dark chocolate, as well as the Calindia Exotic Candy Bar, which contains cardamom, walnuts, dried plums and Venezuelan dark chocolate.

Mainstream manufacturers are also experimenting with unusual offerings. For instance, in Switzerland, leading chocolatier Lindt recently introduced Lindt Creation 70% Hot Pomegranate and Chilli Dark Chocolate, which mixes sweet and spicy flavors for a unique chocolate experience.

Outside of confectionery, dark chocolate continues to gain momentum as a differentiating flavor in a number of savory meal categories. In fact, between 2006 and 2008, global dark chocolate instances in food and beverage categories outside of confectionery grew 92%, according to GNPD, with this ingredient appearing in products ranging from tea to cheese.