Even so, Chicago-based chocolate maker Vosges managed to cause a stir this week when its Mo’s Bacon Bar, which combines chocolate with salt and chunks of smoked bacon, made its first trip across the Atlantic. It sold out within 48 hours of arriving at Selfridge’s four London stores – despite its £5.99 (€7.10) price tag.
The makers certainly play up its claim to appeal to the sophisticated palate, urging the consumer to “breathe deeply…snap off just a tiny piece and place it in your mouth, let the lust of salt and sweet coat your tongue.”
And it is in emphasising this complexity of flavour where new opportunities for chocolate manufacturers lie, says Mintel.
Senior analyst Krista Faron told ConfectioneryNews.com: “Consumers’ palates are becoming more sophisticated across the board, so that sophistication naturally spreads to confectionery as well. The bacon/chocolate example may be somewhat extreme, but this is actually a combination that has appeared in fine dining before… But more important than that specific combination is the fact that Mo's Bacon Bar embodies the more adventurous spirit of today's consumers.”
Unusual flavour combinations
Chocolate infused with spices like pepper, chilli and fennel have already moved towards the mainstream, but even more unusual ingredients are turning up, with Belgium’s Dominique Persoone, for instance, producing chocolates flavoured with cauliflower, basil and tomato – and even chocolate biscuits encrusted with chicken skin.
Faron said that for these unusual flavour combinations to reap rewards, confectioners need to find the right balance between novelty and market longevity, and although she doubts whether the appeal of bacon chocolate can be sustained, she acknowledges the shift towards more gourmet chocolate flavours.
“As we become a more global society and interest in ethnic cuisine grows, we can expect to see the confectionery market evolve,” she said. “I think consumers are more attuned to flavour complexity and sophistication. I believe that ethnic-inspired flavours hold tremendous promise for confectioners.”
Vosges Haut-Chocolat also sells chocolate flavoured with various cheeses and one containing mushroom pieces, as well as other, more traditional-flavoured bars, brownies and truffles.
Mintel figures show that 53 new chocolate products combining sweet and savoury ingredients were launched in the US over the past five years, with almost two-thirds of those introduced since the beginning of last year.