Ruby chocolate is the latest development in chocolate. Created by Belgium chocolatier Barry Callebaut (headquartered in Switzerland), ruby chocolate made its debut in 2017. It’s the fourth type of chocolate after dark, milk, and white and is the first new type of chocolate developed in over 80 years after white chocolate was introduced in 1936. Some still debate whether white chocolate is real chocolate, and now ruby chocolate has joined that debate.
So what is ruby chocolate, where does it come from, and what does it taste like? Keep reading to learn more about this unique treat.
Is Ruby Chocolate Really Chocolate?
Is ruby chocolate real chocolate? First, let’s define real chocolate. Chocolate is made from cacao beans. After cacao beans are harvested, they are fermented, roasted and ground into a fine powder. Cocoa butter is the fat extracted from roasted cacao beans that gives chocolate bars a smooth, creamy texture.
Dark and milk chocolate are made from cacao beans and contain cocoa solids, but white chocolate uses cocoa butter only. According to many craft chocolate makers, the use of cocoa solids is what makes a product real chocolate—and this is where the debate over white chocolate comes in. Like dark and milk chocolate, ruby chocolate is made from cacao beans and contains cocoa solids.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict standards for declaring a product chocolate. To be labeled as milk chocolate, the chocolate bar must contain at least 10 percent chocolate liquor (pure, solid cacao mass), at least 12 percent milk solids and at least 3.39 percent milkfat.
For a product to be labeled as white chocolate, it must contain a minimum of 20 percent cocoa butter, at least 14 percent total milk solids, and at least 3.5 percent milkfat. FDA standards state that the nutritive sweetener in white chocolate cannot exceed more than 55 percent of the total value. Nutritive sweeteners are those such as agave, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, honey or table sugar. They add calories but do not contain many, if any, vitamins and minerals.
While the FDA has specific percentages for milk and white chocolate, it doesn’t do the same for dark chocolate. Instead, the FDA lists some of the ingredients that should be found in dark chocolate, such as cacao and cacao nibs, which are the cocoa solids that make it a real chocolate product.
Currently, the FDA has stated that ruby chocolate is not real chocolate because it does not meet the percentage requirements of milk or white chocolate, although ruby chocolate ingredients—cacao beans, sugar, cocoa butter and milk powder—are similar to those found in milk chocolate. Eventually, in order to declare ruby chocolate the real thing, the FDA will have to develop another classification.
In the meantime, the FDA has extended Barry Callebaut’s temporary permit to market test products labeled as ruby chocolate in the US, so the products will continue to be made available to chocolate lovers across the country.
History of Ruby Chocolate
Ruby chocolate has been in development since 2004, when Barry Callebaut announced that it had discovered a new type of cacao bean: the ruby cacao bean, which is grown in Ecuador, Brazil and the Ivory Coast.
In 2009, Barry Callebaut patented what they called “cocoa-derived material” that they use to make ruby chocolate. The chocolate maker has assured the public that the ruby cacao beans are not genetically modified. Instead, the fermentation process they use turns the cacao beans a vivid purple.
The company launched its first ruby pink chocolate product in 2017 at a trade show in Shanghai. It appeals to people’s desire to be trendy and find one-of-a-kind items, and this was reinforced by the fact that there were a limited number of ruby Kit Kats made available in the first batch.
Scientists worked for over 10 years to develop the process that created ruby chocolate. Because millennials gravitate to colorful food products, they were the original demographic Barry Callebaut had in mind when creating ruby chocolate. In fact, the chocolate was called “millennial chocolate” during the early days, but that moniker didn’t stick.
How Is Ruby Chocolate Made?
So how is ruby chocolate made? As with any other type of chocolate, ruby chocolate starts with high-quality cacao beans, and in this case, the cacao beans come from the popular cacao-growing regions of Ecuador, Brazil and the Ivory Coast. Some researchers believe they have narrowed down the variety to one called Brazil Lavados, which often has a naturally rosy color and a sour but delicate taste.
Ruby chocolate’s inventor, Barry Callebaut, has developed a test to identify whether the cacao beans meet the required specifications to produce ruby chocolate. The company spent years working with Jacobs University, a private institution in Germany, to study the chemical compounds that make up cacao beans. Ruby cacao beans have a particular mix of compounds—but the exact mix and processing methods used are trade secrets held only by the Barry Callebaut Group. This “particular mix of compounds” likely refers to high levels of pigmented polyphenols.
The way the cacao beans are processed is what makes this final chocolate product unique. Although exact details are not known, the original patent held by the Barry Callebaut Group describes a general process to bring out the pink color of the cacao beans:
- Minimize fermentation to about three days or fewer
- Treat the fermented beans with an acid (which is a standard process in chocolate making)
- Remove the fatty acids
The final ruby chocolate bar is made in much the same way as milk chocolate: using cocoa mass (or solids), cocoa butter, milk powder and sugar, as well as other ingredients such as citric acid, soy lecithin and vanilla flavoring.
What Does Ruby Chocolate Taste Like?
The way something tastes depends on where it hits our tastebuds and our sense of smell. Flavor consists of both taste and aroma and is created through a combination of compounds and aromas from natural ingredients. To get the full chocolate-tasting experience, inhale the ruby chocolate aromas that float up to your olfactory senses and create a full picture of the flavor.
Taste elements consist of salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami (which means “yummy” in Japanese).
Here’s how each of the five taste elements work:
- Salty: Salt is used to enhance other flavors in chocolate, especially sweetness, and it helps cut down on bitterness.
- Sweet: This taste element counteracts bitter and sour flavors.
- Bitter: This element helps balance sweetness.
- Sour: The sour element contains acidity that counters sweetness.
- Umami: Umami is savory and is best used to complement other flavors. It’s the most difficult of the taste elements to describe—it’s more of a “you’ll know it when you taste it” type of element.
Where does ruby chocolate fall on the taste element scale? Ruby chocolate taste is intense and is a little sweeter than white chocolate, but its natural acidity balances the sweetness. It has fruity and citrus notes of raspberry and lemon.
What Is Different About Ruby Chocolate?
Ruby chocolate is different from other types of chocolate for a variety of reasons, including its unique color and distinctive taste.
Another unique feature is that ruby chocolate is currently made by only one chocolate producer—its creator, Barry Callebaut, which holds the patent.
Is Ruby Chocolate Natural?
According to developer Barry Callebaut, the berry flavor and rosy color are all natural—there are no added colors or flavors when it comes to making ruby chocolate. With ruby chocolate, natural ingredients are brought together to create the final product. However, the pink color does not occur on its own, but processing choices that reduce the amount of fermentation bring out the color and preserves it.
What to Pair with Ruby Chocolate
Chocolate pairs best with foods and drinks with similar aromas. For the best combinations, match the flavor compounds in each of the foods you want to pair. When experimenting with flavor combinations, try to incorporate at least two of the five taste elements to balance your chocolate pairing.
Ruby chocolate’s intense berry flavor works well with unusual pairings and compliments sweet, salty, sour and umami taste elements. (See above for definitions.) Some ideas for chocolate ruby pairings include the following:
- Wines: sauvignon blanc, rosé champagne, rosé cava, red syrah, Sauternes, red rioja or white zinfandel
- Fruity beers
- Teas: green tea, black tea, hibiscus tea or fruity herbal tea
- Spirits: plum sake, gin, cognac, whiskey, rum, strawberry gin or Chambord
- Fresh fruits: lemon, lime, lychee, mango, yuzu, rhubarb or berries like raspberry and strawberry
- Dried fruits: cranberries, cherries, candied oranges or candied ginger
- Spices: pepper, wasabi, pink pepper ginger, vanilla, sesame, cinnamon, cumin or curry
- Herbs: rosemary, mint, saffron or basil
- Cheeses: Roquefort, stilton, gorgonzola, camembert, mascarpone, cream cheese or BellaVitano raspberry ale cheese
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, peanuts, macadamia, popcorn or pepitas
- Salted caramel
- Smoked eel
You might be wondering where to buy ruby chocolate so that you can try it for yourself. The Barry Callebaut Group makes ruby chocolate and then distributes it to supermarkets and candy stores around the world. As with white chocolate, the debate about whether ruby chocolate is real chocolate continues. Because of this, Cococlectic does not carry ruby chocolate in its shop, but instead focuses on selling dark chocolate.
Each month at Cococlectic, we feature a different American small-batch bean-to-bar chocolate maker who is passionate about producing their chocolate from scratch using only three main ingredients: cacao beans, sugar and cocoa butter.
The chocolates sold at Cococlectic are vegan, non-GMO, fair trade and ethically sourced. They do not contain any soy, gluten, dairy or nut, but they may be produced in a facility that handles these ingredients.
We sell only dark chocolate bars in our chocolate shop. Our monthly subscription boxes contain only dark chocolate bars. One-time gift boxes and Office Boxes are filled with your choice of dark bars only or mixed bars with inclusions of fruits and nuts. Each chocolate box comes with 4 full-size chocolate bars that are made in the US. (The Office Box comes with 10 full-size chocolate bars).Sign up for our chocolate-of-the-month subscription club and join us for a free virtual chocolate tasting with our featured chocolate maker of the month.