In these times of uncertainty and rapid change, according to Valrhona, chefs, restaurateurs, artisans, and manufacturers must prepare for what will has been referred to as the “new normal.”

Valrhona Selection’s Industry Talks gathered international experts in the food industry, including chefs, journalists, distributors, and consultants, who have adapted as best they can during this unprecedented situation. These expert panels shared their lessons learned, best practices to keep businesses open, and vision for tomorrow, based on their perspectives as part of the food industry in various parts of the world.

Brady Williams, executive chef of Canlis restaurant in Seattle, earned the 2019 Best Chef Northwest award from the James Beard Foundation and presides over culinary for a third-generation fine-dining restaurant. Recently, he shared that – after the COVID-19 pandemic struck – “in three days we turned it into a drive-through burger joint for lunch, a bagel shed for breakfast sandwich walkup, and a full dinner delivery program (doing 500-600 dinners) at night.”

“Agility is a key trait to have during this time,” Williams said. “We have the ability to turn on a dime if we need to. It has been fun to expand the brand. Fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now. Our restaurant always operates on a currency of trust. Now, it’s on us to deliver.”

As the optics change, he shared, restaurants need to adapt to what their customers need.

“As we consider what’s next,” he said, “we felt we have the ability to expand our delivery and takeout program. Our phase 2 is that everything is up for negotiation. We are in process of doing drive-in movie theater.”

Looking ahead, consumers are craving gourmet takeout boxes, massive salad bars to go, DIY kits, and teaching online – “how to make sourdough,” for example.

“Those in hospitality now have an extra responsibility; it’s not just to feed people, but to inspire and lift people up during a time of really intense anxiety,” she said. “People are thinking innovatively about what we can supply in a safe manner and how we are going to distribute it to people. Some restaurants are shifting their business models to match the current demand for ‘shelter in place’ eating experiences. Digital platforms have helped by filling a void to help food businesses stay connected to their customers.”

Turow-Paul said the real opportunity ahead is relating at human level. The question is how to connect your brand, and your offerings, to basic human needs. She called attention to an example on a recent YouTube video by celebrity chef David Chang, who boiled an egg in the microwave and then made an egg sandwich.

“It’s kind of joyful to watch David Chang do that,” she said. “This is what he is eating, and it is so relatable. Think about current foodie culture – people want to know more about something that feels good. People are really investing in food culture. Food culture has the ability to really meet people’s basic needs. I do think food culture is here to stay, and it might be even getting stronger.”

In the compelling series of three sessions sponsored by Valrhona, the panels exchanged ideas about how stakeholders can empower themselves to face evolving expectations in the industry.

Emmanuelle Brun, chief operating officer of Valrhona North America, said they continuously ask how they can be the best partners to their consumers, “and this has never been more important than it is now. It is imperative for us to have a positive impact on our value chain, and to be able to share our knowledge and experience with others.”

Taking education to new heights

Barry Callebaut has announced BC LIVE, a new digital events platform to engage with customers on a virtual journey of chocolate and cocoa.

Barry Callebaut, a leading manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products, has announced BC LIVE, a new digital events platform to engage with customers on a virtual journey of chocolate and cocoa.

Launched the week of June 22 with a series of short webinars to understand lifestyle choices like vegan and keto and how chocolate can play a role to meet these specific consumer needs, BC LIVE is suited to food manufacturers in the United States and Canada.

“BC LIVE is a curated and high-touch digital experience, led by our in-house industry experts, that will deliver all the information that food manufacturers need to know about today’s chocolate trends and solutions,” explains TJ Mulvihill, vice president of marketing for Barry Callebaut North America.

“We look forward to offering exclusive content in our three-part webinar series, including a session featuring our in-house chefs who bring our favorite applications to life with a better-for you, better-for-the-planet twist,” adds Laura Bergan, director of innovation, specialties marketing.

Customers discovered trends in wellness and sustainability; product solutions, including the launch of two new solutions, for vegan and other growing lifestyle categories; plus, get a behind-the-scenes new concepts creation experience of “Better For You” treats created by Barry Callebaut chefs in real-time.

Connecting every dot

Food and beverage manufacturers and their consumers care more than ever before about the standards behind the things they buy, including cocoa, according to Cargill, which is committed to a transparent and sustainable supply of cocoa. This includes improving the lives of farmers and their communities in the five origin countries from where it directly sources cocoa: Brazil, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Indonesia.

The highlights of Cargill’s latest efforts and the progress are captured in the Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate 2018-2019 Sustainability Progress Report. 

“This sustainability progress report highlights how Cargill uses technology to connect every dot in the cocoa supply chain,” said Harold Poelma, president of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. “Maximum transparency in the cocoa sector is critical for making real progress on sustainability. It not only helps cocoa farmers, their families and communities prosper, but also helps protect our planet. I am confident that working with our partners we can continue to make great strides in achieving a thriving cocoa sector.”

Through the Cargill Cocoa Promise, Cargill is realizing the opportunities offered by technologies, such as mobile money, GPS mapping and digital data collection, which allow for greater transparency on how cocoa is grown and sourced from farmers.

Key milestones of the report include:

With the use of barcoded cocoa bags and digital Cooperative Management Systems (CMS), 50% of sustainable cocoa beans in the global direct supply chain are now traceable from farm-to-factory. In 2018-2019, 151,190 metric tons of cocoa beans were tracked. The CMS enables farmers organizations to manage loans, collect beans and check fixed versus variable costs. Also, starting in 2018-2019, all farmer organizations in the direct sourcing network in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are now visible through an interactive Cargill Cocoa Promise Sourcing Partner Network map. Each of these farmer organizations benefit from Cargill Cocoa Promise programs.

Implementation of child labor monitoring and remediation systems (CLMRS) to address child labor has significantly increased. In addition to Côte d’Ivoire, Cargill also deploys CLMRS now in Ghana and Cameroon, reaching a total of 58,800 farmers in 2018-2019. This extends the reach from 7% to 29% of the total number of farms in the direct supply chain. In 2018-2019, Cargill also conducted a needs assessment for programs to address child labor in cocoa growing communities in Indonesia; a localized approach to CLRMS will follow in 2020.

GPS polygon mapping of 72% of all farmers in the direct supply chain, representing over 400,000 hectares of farmland, was completed. Cargill is well on its way to identify where the cocoa comes from, which areas may be at risk of deforestation and how to mitigate this risk through specific interventions.

Digital tools are providing cooperatives and cocoa farmers with information, such as digital farm development plans and market insights, to help improve their farming practices. In addition, the digital tools serve as a means to communicate with farmers during a crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic. Cargill’s digital farming tool is amplifying government safety and sanitation messages to help curb the spread of the virus in farming communities. Voice messaging is also used to reach ten thousand farmers with this information in a variety of local languages.

Cargill sees digitization driving change across the entire cocoa supply chain. Utilizing the valuable information that is collected will inform on how to achieve the best impact on the ground. For this we developed an extensive data platform that has more than 300 data points along the supply chain. We also use this data to inform customers through an interactive customer portal about how collaborative sustainability programs are benefiting farmers and their communities.

Expansion for options

All Guittard Chocolate consumer products are now tree nut free, including the entire line of baking chips, organic baking wafers, baking bars and cocoa powders.

Expanding on its oat milk chocolate offerings, Endangered Species Chocolate (ESC), is launching what it calls the first plant-based milk chocolate chip. Made with gluten-free oats and 55 percent cocoa, the Oat Milk + Dark Chocolate Premium Baking Chips offer an alternative with half the sugar of standard baking chips. The new product is available at Whole Foods Market stores and additional retailers nationwide, and online at

“When we launched the Oat Milk Chocolate Bars earlier this year, the consumer response was overwhelmingly positive to the dairy-free alternative,” said Whitney Bembenick, ESC’s director of marketing and innovation. “Customers love the lower sugar content and the sweet, creamy taste that oat milk brings to the table and with no ingredient substitutes in any of our products it is by far the better-for-you alternative. We wanted to replicate these benefits found in the oat milk chocolate bars and bring them to the baking aisle to change baked goods for the better.”

ESC looked at all of the options — from almond to coconut milk — when creating the new offering. Nothing compared to the flavor profile that oat milk provided. Since its launch in January 2020, the Oat Milk Chocolate Bar line has been the most successful new product launch in the company’s history.

“We are excited to offer Endangered Species Chocolate’s new baking chips because they offer our customers a new, plant-based chocolate chip option without compromising on flavor,” said Chris Poling, global baking Buyer at Whole Foods Market. “The baking chips are innovative and also fill a need for our customers looking for a lower sugar baking chip.”

Guittard Chocolate Company has been crafting chocolate for five generations, using a combination of a time-tested craft, innovative techniques, long-standing relationships, and an obsession with making a premium chocolate that delivers a spectrum of flavor for a variety of applications. Crafted from recipes passed down for five generations and made from the best beans sourced from around the world, Guittard chocolate delivers innovative profiles with consistent quality in flavor and performance.

Chef Rubber is now excited to offer customers fine Guittard chocolate selections, including Guittard Dark Chocolate Couverture, Guittard Single Origin Dark Chocolate Couverture, Guittard Bittersweet, Semisweet and Milk Chocolate, Guittard White Chocolate Couverture, Guittard Cocoa Nibs, and Guittard Grand Cacao Drinking Chocolate.

Guittard Chocolate, the family company that has expertly crafted chocolate in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1868, now operates a tree nut free operation. Throughout its long history, Guittard Chocolate has worked to represent quality and innovation at every level of its production and product line. Guittard’s tree nut free certification joins the company’s existing Cultivate Better commitments including non-GMO, peanut free, gluten free, sunflower lecithin and Fair Trade Certified, with the goal of bringing thoughtfully sourced and allergen-friendly products to customers.

The tree nut free claim applies to Guittard Chocolate products produced after July 31, 2018. All Guittard Chocolate consumer products are now tree nut free, including the entire line of baking chips, organic baking wafers, baking bars and cocoa powders.

“At Guittard, we’re constantly striving to produce the best quality chocolate. This touches every level of what we do, from partnering with cacao farmers at origin to pushing innovation at our manufacturing facility to celebrating our chef and retail customers,” says Gary Guittard.

Expanding global reach

In recent news, Cargill announced it is partnering with a local manufacturer in western India to launch its first chocolate manufacturing operation in Asia. The facility is expected to begin operating mid-2021 and will initially produce 10,000 tons of chocolate compounds. 

“Asia is a key growth market for Cargill. Opening a chocolate manufacturing operation in India allows us to increase our regional footprint and capabilities in Asia to better support the needs of our local Indian customers as well as multi-national customers in the region,” said Francesca Kleemans, managing director for Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate Asia-Pacific. “It also demonstrates our commitment to supporting the local economy with the addition of 100 new manufacturing jobs.”

Customers can tap into Cargill’s R&D network of food scientists and experts located at Cargill’s state-of-the-art regional innovation centers in Singapore, Shanghai and India to collaboratively innovate with chocolate products that bring sensory experiences in terms of colors and flavors specific to regional and local tastes and consumption patterns. Customers also benefit from Cargill’s globally integrated cocoa and chocolate supply chain, risk management capabilities, and its renowned food safety and sustainability approach to cocoa and chocolate production.

“Combining local insights from our experience and long term presence as a food ingredient supplier in India with our global cocoa and chocolate expertise, we aim to become the leading supplier and trusted partner for our bakery, ice cream and confectionary customers in Asia, who will use our chocolate compounds, chips and paste to create products that will delight local palates,” Kleemans said.

Addressing core needs

Eve Turow-Paul, journalist and food advisor in Chicago and author of the new book, “Hungry: Avocado Toast, Instagram Influencers, and Our Search for Connection and Meaning,” shares that modern hungers are driving top trends in the food sector today.

“There are lot of different tactics that people are taking on and meeting people’s emotional needs,” she said, “A lot of what those kinds of shifts are doing is helping people feel safe, and just getting people food.”

American consumers, Turow-Paul said, are all motivated by three core needs:

  1. Control and safety
  2. Community and well being
  3. Purpose and meaning