Ritter Sport calls for revamp of German food legislation over latest 100% cacao bars
Premium confectionery brand Ritter Sport has called for German food legislation to be re-examined surrounding the launch of its new confectionery bar – which cannot legally be called chocolate, writes Neill Barston.
The company, which insists on using only natural ingredients, has just released its latest foray into producing a 100% cocoa-based range, named Cacao y Nada, but has run into barriers impacting on its marketing.
As the German-founded company explained, it has used the cacao fruit juices as a sweetener which has been undertaken on its own plantation in Nicaragua.
However, as the business noted with frustration, chocolate without any added sugar cannot in fact be called chocolate under German law. “That’s absurd”, claims Ritter Sport CEO Andreas Ronken in response to the situation.
Although the juice of the cocoa fruit has been approved as a foodstuff in the EU for the past year, chocolate without sugar is not regarded as chocolate in Germany. Even if it is naturally sweet, tasty and is made from 100 per cent cocoa fruit.
“Our food legislation needs to keep pace with innovations such as this”, demands Ronken. “If sausage can be made of peas, chocolate does not need any sugar. Wake up, This is the new reality.”
According to the business, its Cacao y Nada variety contains nothing but cocoa. It comprises: cocoa mass, cocoa butter, cocoa powder and cocoa juice. Unlike other chocolate varieties with 99 or 100 per cent cocoa content, it does not have a bitter taste, but has reportedly been crafted with a sweet flavour profile.
As one of the few confectionery businesses operating with its own plantation, El Cacao, the company said that this had enabled it to have close control and insight into the production of its crops. This inspired the company to use the natural fruit sweetener from the cocoa fruit to produce what Ritter Sport can only officially refer to as “cocoa fruit bars”. Or cocoa fruit squares.
This square shaped innovation will soon be available as a limited edition in EU countries only. It will not be sold in the UK due to the concentrated juice from the cocoa pulp only being permitted in products sold in the EU and USA at present.
A limited number of Cacao y Nada – the “chocolate” which must not be called chocolate – will be available in the Ritter Sport ChocoShop in Waldenbuch, Germany and online from early February as 57g square bars (retail price of €4.99). In line with Ritter Sport’s sustainability commitments, the limited edition bar will be hand wrapped in a paper wrapper, sealed with a paper sleeve and a paper sticker.
Background: “From leaf to root”
As the company noted, depending on the variety, a cocoa fruit can be green, yellow, orange, red or purple and is about the size of an American football. The hard shell is opened to reveal the white, somewhat slimy, pulp which surrounds the seeds of the cocoa fruit, i.e. the cocoa beans.
Usually, only these beans are used. They are fermented, dried and processed to become cocoa mass or cocoa butter which then becomes chocolate. Only a small part of the cocoa fruit is actually used in this process, the rest is waste. “Not exactly in keeping with the times”, is what the cocoa experts at Ritter Sport thought as they endeavoured to find possibilities for using the entire fruit. In line with the “from leaf to root” principle in modern cuisine. As Confectionery Production has covered, It is a process that was recently adopted by Barry Callebaut with its Cacaofruit chocolate series.
On El Cacao, the Ritter Sport cocoa farm in eastern Nicaragua, the shells are composted, thereby returning important nutrients for the cocoa trees back into the soil. And they also offer habitats for insects which are crucial for pollinating the cocoa blossoms. But what about the pulp or, to put it another way, the cocoa juice? It usually simply flows off during fermentation even though it has a sweet fruity taste which is somewhat reminiscent of a lichee.
Now the juice is collected, filtered and pasteurised at El Cacao. Until a year ago, only the beans of the cocoa fruit had EU approval as a foodstuff although the cocoa juice is extremely versatile. It can be added to sparkling water to make a refreshing drink, processed to become a type of wine or even distilled as schnapps, or used as a sweetener.