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Korea gets to taste ruby chocolate

JoongAng Daily’s tasting panel experiences its ‘berry-fruitiness’ first hand, gives verdict
Jan 20,2018
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The confectionery world was shaken last September when Swiss chocolatier Barry Callebaut announced the discovery of a fourth form of chocolate after dark, milk and white.

It named the new chocolate ruby.

After Barry Callebaut agreed to an exclusive six month deal with the Swiss company Nestle, the world was given its first taste of the new chocolate this week. The KitKat Sublime Ruby, the first commercial product to use the new chocolate, was released in Korea and Japan on Friday. They are the only two countries where ruby chocolate is currently available.

Unlike conventional KitKats that come in a pairs of fingers, KitKat’s Sublime Ruby is but one finger, longer and slightly wider than the original and containing a higher-quality cacao butter. One stick is priced at 4,600 won ($4.32).

Ruby chocolate is naturally pink and is manufactured without the use of any artificial flavoring. According to the Swiss chocolatier, the chocolate is produced from the ruby cocoa bean through a unique technique that the company claims took 10 years to develop. The ruby cocoa bean is an existing variety of cocoa bean that is found around the world. Barry Callebaut claims “the ruby bean is unique because the fresh berry-fruitiness and color precursors are naturally present.”

Aside from its natural pink color, ruby chocolate is said to have a distinct taste that is “not bitter, milky or sweet, but a tension between berry-fruitiness and luscious smoothness,” according to the chocolatier.

To see how unique ruby chocolate really is the Korea JoongAng Daily gathered a group of chocolate fans from in and around the JoongAng Ilbo Building in Jung District, central Seoul, to give the new KitKat a try. While tasters were generally bemused by the color of the chocolate and packaging, most agreed that the flavor was different. The “berry-fruitiness” touted by Barry Callebaut was definitely present, but the panel couldn’t agree what fruit it tasted like - strawberry, pomegranate, raspberry and acai were all cited.

Most of the panel enjoyed the flavor of the KitKat Sublime Ruby, although nobody felt that the flavor was overwhelmingly better than ordinary chocolate. Sour notes were definitely noticeable, with one taster commenting that the flavor seems to change while the chocolate is being eaten - starting sour before mellowing out.

The KitKat Sublime Ruby is packaged in a bright pink box that confused the tasting panel, looking more like lipstick than candy. The panel unanimously felt that the KitKat was overpriced.

In Korea, the only brick-and-mortar store where consumers can get their hands on the ruby chocolate is the KitKat Chocolatory, located on the basement floor of Shinsegae Department Store’s Gangnam branch in southern Seoul. It can also be purchased online on KitKat and Shinsegae’s websites.

Nestle chose Korea and Japan as launch pads for the first ruby chocolate product because the two countries have a huge market for premium desserts, including chocolate.

The estimated size of the dessert market in Korea was nearly 9 trillion won as of 2016, according to a report from the Korea Food Service Industry Management Institute.

Despite the KitKat Sublime Ruby’s novelty value, consumers in Korea seemed to have no idea that the product was being launched. While there was extensive media coverage of the launch event in Japan on Thursday, not a single member of the Korea JoongAng Daily tasting panel had heard of the KitKat or ruby chocolate.


BY JIM BULLEY AND SONG KYOUNG-SON [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]