Chocolate Makers Start to Experiment

Chocolate Makers Start to Experiment
Chocolate-makers have started to experiment by introducing weird flavours such as cauliflower and recipes that pander to health concerns to keep the plain chocolate bar on everybody's must-eat list.
"It may be doom and gloom for everybody else, but for us all is well," said Gilles Marchal of luxury French chocolate-maker La Maison du Chocolate, speaking as the annual Paris chocolate show opened Wednesday.

"Chocolate is a comfort-food," he added. "There has been no drop in sales."

On the eating front, the Swiss are the world's top consumers, according to France's Chocolate-Makers Union, with a whopping 12.3 kilogrammes per person per year.

Germans mop up 11.2 per person, Britons 10.3 and Belgians 9.3. But while the Japanese adore dark chocolate, the Chinese hate it and in fact continue to turn up their noses at bars of pure chocolate, preferring confectionery instead.

At the yearly chocolate show, organiser Sylvie Douce said this year's trend was fair trade chocolate. "More and more consumers are aware of the problems facing cocoa producing nations," she said.

Traceability was a growing concern, Marchal added, with consumers "checking the products used, reading the labels and the origins, and interested in who is involved in the transformation process."

Chocolate-lovers too are now demanding high levels of cocoa, said Douce.

"A decade ago people couldn't swallow chocolate with 90 percent cocoa. Now they want less sugar and cream and more cocoa because they believe it's better for their health."

At La Maison du Chocolat, for instance, recipes set down three decades ago are being modified to reduce sugar and fats, Marchal said.

But more than ever, chocolate-makers are having fun transforming the flat traditional bar into shoes, lips or even a muscle-bound Daniel Craig-like chest "to whet the appetites of more male buyers," according to Jean-Paul Hevin, maker of the choc chest.

As for blending flavours, "anything's possible", said Hevin.

Spices, introduced a decade ago, continue to appeal, with chocolate laced with pepper, turmeric, fennel or mildly hot Espelette chilli pepper all very much in vogue.

Cheese-flavoured chocolate too is now on the shelves thanks to Hevin, who sees it as the ultimate cocktail-time pleaser.

But the prize for weird and wonderful goes to Belgium's Dominique Persoone, whose Bruges workshop in the Flemish-speaking part of the country has produced chocolates flavoured with cauliflower, basil, dried tomato jam, black olives and even chocolate biscuits encrusted with chicken-skin.

"These won't be popular with grannies and children," he said.


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