Chocolate Trends: Here we'll take a look into the crystal ball and examine some trends on the horizon in the chocolate world.....expect all three of these to figure largely in 2017.
Sugar Free - Every couple of years in the food world some ingredient becomes the “enemy” and we go overboard trying to eliminate it from our diets. Years ago it was fats, then carbs, then it was gluten and right now it is sugar. There are a few bean-to-bar chocolate makers who have experimented with sugar substitutes in their bars, but the results have been less than compelling. We're expecting to see many more in 2017 and expect sugar (or the lack of it) to continue to be a major topic of conversation.
Blends - The focus right now is very much on single-origin bars but we are starting to see many new chocolate makers all using beans from the same four or five most readily accessible sources. Nice beans, but everyone's bars from them tend to taste very much the same. Developing a “house blend” in which the characteristics of each origin are combined into one harmonious whole is the next logical step. It has been a successful model in the wine world and we are starting to see many new bars adopting this practice as well. Amedei has been making their signature “9” blend for years, but lately folks like SOMA, Ritual, Original Beans and French Broad have all released blended bars, often with little to no added sugar.
Pseudo-Bean-to-Bar...as with any successful movement, eventually the copycats will emerge. We are seeing a large number of new labels on the chocolate market that look like single origin bean-to-bar creations but are in fact just remelted chocolate made by someone else. Equally misleading are those who buy buckets of “cocoa liquor” or “cocoa paste” and add sugar and flavourings to it. This has become a very common practice but if you are not sorting, roasting, winnowing and grinding your own beans you have given up a major part of the quality control that goes into making fine chocolate. While labeling laws are unlikely to change in a way that would make things easier for consumers to tell just what they were buying any quality chocolate retailer should be able to discuss the provenience of every bar they sell.
As a shopper you should not hesitate to ask!