As bakers and pastry chefs look forward, the handwriting is on the wall for the chocolate industry for adapting to the new economy, which has been forced by economic challenges brought on by the cruel effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The greatest challenges facing the chocolate industry today in driving further innovation in the North American marketplace is education,” explains Mark Seaman, CMSA, culinary applications chef, specialties, at Barry Callebaut.

Ruby chocolate is a prime example, he continues. While 12% of U.S. consumers prefer Ruby over milk, dark, and white chocolates, that number can grow as consumers are educated in what Ruby and other ingredients mean for their chocolate experiences. Also, retailers are reluctant to bring in any new products right now.

“As a response to COVID-19, most have rationalized SKUs to focus around a core set of SKUs that they may keep until the overall economy is stronger,” Seaman shares. “As consumer knowledge expands, artisans and manufacturers alike can continue to launch new innovations. Retailers can help educate American consumers about various chocolates, flavors, and benefits through conspicuous in-aisle signage, in-store tastings and demos. Today, grocery stores are ground zero as the place where many consumers learn about and choose new chocolate products.”

In light of safety concerns, Valrhona made the difficult decision to close L’École Valrhona Brooklyn through the end of 2020. While the chocolate company is anxious to welcome students in person once again, its North American team is excited to offer a unique opportunity to share its expertise and passion for pastry in a three-hour, live, virtual format that offers greater flexibility at a lower price point. Chefs and home gourmets can now learn new techniques in a comfortable environment without shouldering the expense of travel and absence from work required for typical, multi-day pastry classes.

The cost to enroll in each course includes a digital class recipe book, an apron, and a selection of chocolate for tasting. Each student will receive a diploma to certify completion of the course. All classes will be conducted via Microsoft Teams.

Digital solutions

To enhance education, bakery ingredient supplier Puratos has announced the rollout of Bakeronline in the United States, the latest addition to its digital portfolio. With Bakeronline, bakers can create custom webshops to reach consumers 24/7, sell products, offer promotions, and get real-time information to efficiently manage their operations.

With consumers looking to spend less time in stores, Bakeronline’s online ordering portal offers a unique way to bring the in-store bakery experience to life safely and conveniently. Bakeronline’s intuitive user interface helps bakers and chocolatiers set up their webshop fast—and free—to avoid disruption and downtime.

Each customized webshop comes with an assortment of 20 products, an online payment platform and an in-store communication kit for the optimal consumer onboarding experience.

Bakeronline is currently being deployed across the globe. To learn more, just visit

Bakeronline is a key component of the Puratos digital experience. Puratos launched the MySolutions platform in March 2020 to provide digital technical support and product resources to customers. Through MyLink, customers can reach the US technical team on demand for troubleshooting and co-development through the help desk (1-888-411-0163) while MyAdvantage offers recipes, products and insights tailored to the significant challenges facing customers today.

The MyPuratos webshop was launched in April 2020. MyPuratos brings the ingredient ordering experience online, offering 24/7 flexibility and convenience to meet the demands of today’s dynamic marketplace.
Marie Loewen, Blommer Chocolate’s research and development corporate manager-applications, identifies the landscape of what consumers are looking for as increasingly diverse, so offering solutions for a variety of segments is possibly the biggest challenge.

“We must offer a wide variety of products that solve the same core issue based on what each consumer is looking for,” Loewen elaborates. “Take sugar reduction, for example. We know there is no one-size-fits all approach, so within our Sensible Indulgence Line we have not only sugar free and reduced sugar options, but offerings appropriate for a keto lifestyle, items without sugar alcohols, and items with added fiber or protein.”

Looking ahead, Blommer Chocolate can help improve the education of American consumers about various chocolates, flavors, and benefits.

“Developers make a lot of choices when selecting their chocolate ingredients, and sharing some of the rationale or reasons why your brand is choosing to use a specific chocolate ingredient (is it the flavor profile? The bean origin? The certifications?) educates the consumer and helps them feel connected to your brand,” Loewen says.

A century of innovation

With its continued focus on digital integration, Puratos US can stay connected and support customers more than ever, through new initiatives such as Bakeronline and other Puratos Digital services.

Puratos is an international group that offers a full range of innovative products, raw materials and application expertise for artisans, industry, retailers and foodservice customers in the bakery, patisserie and chocolate sectors. Headquarters are located on the outskirts of Brussels (Belgium), where the company was founded in 1919. February 4, 2020 marked the 100th birthday of bakery, patisserie and chocolate leader.

A milestone is celebrated by its 9,500 employees in the 70 countries where the group is present. To honor its century-long commitment to innovation, Puratos is launching new innovation centers in three continents in 2020. To continue its international expansion and engagement with emerging markets, Puratos signed two new joint ventures in Kenya & Ethiopia in January. The group looks forward to the next 100 years with a strong commitment to customers and future generations, as well as a continued focus on innovation, health and well-being.

Commenting on this important milestone for the group, Puratos chief executive officer Daniel Malcorps said: “Our centenary is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to our vision and our values: a robust scientific approach, a constant quest for innovation, with health and well-being as a cornerstone and a deep-rooted belief in the valuable role that food plays in society.”

For a century, Puratos has been committed to innovation. The family company, which started in a Belgian garage with the vision of simplifying the lives of bakers and confectioners, has become one of the world’s leading ingredients manufacturers. Today, Puratos invests 2.7% of its annual revenue in research and development, and the group employs more than 1,000 scientists in 71 R&D centers and 88 innovation centers across the globe.

Taste Tomorrow, the world’s largest consumer survey in bakery, patisserie and chocolate, confirms that health is still one of the key criteria for consumers when buying baked goods. Puratos has worked endlessly with customers to improve the nutritional value of its products and launch clearer, “cleaner” labels, as well as organic and plant-based ingredient alternatives. Health and well-being continue to be the priority in Puratos’ product development processes, and the company works constantly to produce products with the highest possible nutritional value without compromising taste or quality.

This year, Puratos will strengthen its position overseas, specifically on the African continent with the creation of two joint-ventures in Kenya and Ethiopia. This local presence in key countries will enable Puratos to strengthen relationships with customers, localize production and develop new products and concepts using local raw materials.

An example of Puratos’ commitment to sustainability is its game- changing approach to the responsible sourcing of cocoa. Unlike other cocoa sustainability programs, Puratos Cacao-Trace focuses on quality rather than quantity. Through Cacao-Trace, Puratos helps farmers deliver cocoa beans of superior quality, which in   turn earn them extra revenue. This Puratos unique added value strategy is resulting in tangible impacts on farmers’ living income. Thanks to this program and by increasing farmers’ living income, farming will remain an attractive activity for them to pass on to their children and build a promising future for the next century and beyond.

Crafting relationships

An uncompromising attitude towards sourcing and dedication to building and nurturing relationships with their growers are hallmarks of Guittard’s “quality from the ground up” approach. The methodical and perfectionist process of transforming dried cacao beans into fine chocolate takes place in Guittard Chocolate Company’s Burlingame facility where cherished recipes are used, and new recipes are developed.

Generations-old techniques are still in use alongside the scientific rigor of the company’s R&D department that precisely determines the ideal roast, conche, and temper to bring out the full potential of each variety or blend of cacao. Gary Guittard and his team are there every step of the way—from taste testing every raw ingredient to finessing the crafting process for each individual blend or single origin. Guittard’s spirit of innovation shines through in the day-to-day operations— crafting new blends while also using heritage manufacturing techniques and original recipes—all with the goal of highlighting the full flavors of the cacao.

“We let the cocoa beans tell us how they want to be processed,” chief executive officer Gary Guittard says.

For generations, Guittard has made the chocolate used by major manufacturers of high-quality confections, baked goods, and frozen treats. Guittard’s dedicated production facility and R&D and sales teams work closely with their wholesale customers to develop chocolate products that are high in flavor, formulated to their specifications, consistent, and easy to work with.

The Collection Etienne line of chocolate, introduced in 2000, was developed for the professional pastry chef and chocolatier. This line is made from the world’s most select cacao beans using time-honored vintage methods and small-batch manufacturing processes to produce the world’s finest chocolate. Guittard also works closely with pastry chefs and chocolatiers to come up with a chocolate that accomplishes a specific flavor in their final confectionary or pastry product. As a result, Collection Etienne offers a wide array of options in style, form factor and flavor profile. This expertise and ability to customize a product for customers of all sizes sets Guittard apart.

Delivering to pastry chefs, artisan chocolatiers, pâtisseries, restaurants, caterers and hotels a premium line of single origin and blended chocolates. Collection Etienne is made in the centuries-old, small-batch French artisan tradition.

Guittard hand-selects Collection Etienne cacao beans from farms in the world’s most exceptional growing regions and crafts each variety based on how to best celebrate its true flavor, character, and optimal culinary applications.