Some inclusions in chocolate are meant to be immortal.
For example, salt in chocolate will probably never go out of style. You know why? Because adding salt intensifies the body’s ability to taste sweetness in sugar. When added to chocolate, salt manages to alert sensors in our intestines and on our tongue that normally don’t alert sugar. Pretty much a second sugar detector. This is why we love it so much in chocolate.
Another inclusion that will last for a very long time is nuts. Whether you prefer classic choices like almonds and hazelnuts, or want your chocolate fancy with macadamia nuts and pine nuts, the pleasure is served. Crunchiness and smoothness in one bite. Plus the health benefits that consumers always long for. Basically, nuts in chocolate is a neverending trend.
Then we can think of berries. Unlike other fruits, berries go well with any kind of chocolate really. In dark, milk or white, they are a versatile inclusion and can be added fresh, frozen-dried, in the form of an oil or as a creamy filling. Their taste is tart, almost citrusy-like, but sweeter. The resulting chocolate is a fresh mix of sweet and sour that conquer everyone’s heart.
But what are some intriguing, unexpected and definitely more curious inclusions we will be seeing this year?
If 2017 has been the triumph of healthy flavors like ginger and turmeric, chocolate makers are going back to some heavier, creamier inclusions in 2018, together with floral additions, trendy spices and superfoods.
For those who don’t know it, tahini is a sauce obtained by toasting and grounding sesame seeds. It has a yogurty consistency, and it is often used in vegan (but also non-vegan) diets as a dressing for salads or as a base to make hummus. Surprisingly, chocolatiers around the world are liking this unusual ingredient. Blended into caramels or directly added to the chocolate, it confers a creamy consistency and a toasted aroma without any added crunchiness. Naive Chocolate in Estonia makes a Milk Chocolate Bar With Tahini, while Zotter Chocolates in Austria sells a Tahini Palestine bar. The trend is also catching up in the US.
2. BROWN BUTTER
Brown butter is achieved by melting butter over medium heat until it turns into a toasty-brown color. With its rich nutty taste, it pairs really well with chocolate. Was somebody trying to find an alternative to the more traditional caramel? Maybe. Nonetheless, US chocolate makers seem to be the most passionate about this pairing. Solstice Chocolate in Utah likes to add brown butter to white chocolate, while Creo Chocolate in Oregon prefers to make it with dark chocolate. Dick Taylor in California gives it a twist by adding nibs and sea salt to the sweet mix.
When fine chocolate meets prestigious hazelnuts from Italy, it makes one of the most delicious treats ever invented: gianduja. The traditional recipe of gianduja accounts for very simple ingredients like cacao, sugar and toasted hazelnuts. All the ingredients are finely refined together to create a soft and delicate chocolate paste. Today, gianduja is found on the market in many forms and shapes: as a spread in a jar, as individually wrapped chocolates, and now also as chocolate bars. Not only Italians, but also chocolate makers from other nationalities are experimenting with this recipe born in Turin in 1826. Chocolate Tree in Scotland makes a dairy-free Gianduja bar using Peruvian cacao, while Hogarth Chocolate in New Zealand sells a Dark Hazelnut Chocolate (Gianduja) that has won 3 Awards in 2017.
4. COCONUT MILK
We have already seen many Coconut Milk chocolate bars popping up on the market since 2016. However, coconut milk is only meant to increase in popularity in the next years. Consumers who are ditching dairy for lactose intolerance, skin problems or ethical reasons can still find creamy enjoyment in chocolate made with coconut milk. Extracted from the coconut flesh that is grated and soaked in hot water, the result is chocolate deliciously nutty and buttery. Countless are the chocolate makers from the West to the East side of the world who are already selling chocolate bars made with coconut milk. From the internationally acclaimed Marou Coconut Milk Ben Tre 55% made in Vietnam, to the Coconut Milk Bar by Raaka Chocolate in Brooklyn, to an entire assortment of Coconut Milk Bars offered by the all-vegan Charm School Chocolate in Maryland.
What changes between the older lavender trends and the lavender trend in 2018 is quality. In the past, many Lavender bars had very strong aromas, almost resembling beauty products like shampoo or body creams. Cheap essential oils were poured in with no mercy, resulting in chocolate way too floral and with a chemical finishing. But thanks to a greater attention to quality, lavender is loosing its bad reputation in the chocolate market. Chocolatiers are paying more attention to their suppliers and are opting for higher-quality essential oils. Remarkable are the Lavender Bar 60% by Manoa Chocolate in Hawaii and the Ooh La Lavender by Markham and Fitz in Arkansas.
Chai is the word for “tea” in many parts of the world. The traditional way to make Indian Chai (the version that has become increasingly popular throughout the world) is with black tea, heavy milk, a combination of spices and a sweetener. With the boom of chai drinks on the market, also the chocolate industry couldn’t pass on such successful trend. Trying to stay as close as possible to the original recipe, craft chocolate makers are incorporating the typical chai spices (cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and pepper) in milk or dark chocolate. The result is slightly spicy chocolate with many intriguing flavors. Villakuyaya in Ecuador is renowned for its Masala Chai Bar 65%, while Chocolate Tree in Scotland makes a marvellous Chai Spice bar.
In 2018, the definition of “superfood” is still surrounded by blurred lines. There isn’t an accepted definition of the properties that a food should contain to be called “super”. It is mainly a marketing term used to describe foods with supposed health benefits, usually by their own advocates or producers. However, whether you believe in superfoods or not, there is no question they are becoming a tremendously popular inclusion among chocolate makers. The superfoods that have been lately incorporated in chocolate are spices, berries, seeds, rare fruits and some not-so-well-known powders. Among the most popular: matcha, spirulina, lucuma, maca powder, goji berries, turmeric, chia seeds, mulberries, reishi mushrooms. Chocolate brands in the US like The Chocolate Conspiracy, Yes Cacao and Live A Lot Chocolate are at the forefront of this new trend.
In 2018, chocolate makers are definitely putting more attention to the quality of their inclusions. Not only the chocolate itself has to be flavorful and with a nice texture, but also any addition needs to be carefully chosen. Consumers are now demanding high-quality in every single ingredient.
What other flavors do YOU think will be trendy for chocolate in 2018?
I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.