When it comes to keeping trade secrets, Switzerland's chocolate makers can be as tight-lipped as its bankers. But while chocolatier Barry Callebaut refuses to reveal what goes into its latest invention, it's happy to share the result: a chocolate bar that won't melt in your hands or pack on the pounds.
The Zurich-based manufacturer, one of the world's leading producers of industrial chocolate and cocoa, which it distributes to global giants such as Nestlé and Cadbury, claims its new product, called Vulcano, is the world's first and so far only melt-resistant, low-calorie chocolate. "No more stains or sticky fingers," company spokeswoman Gaby Tschofen tells TIME. "The only place where Vulcano will melt is in the mouth, because of the enzymes present in the saliva."
Regular chocolate starts to soften at 30°C (85°F), but Barry Callebaut says Vulcano can withstand temperatures of up to 55°C (130°F). The manufacturer also claims that its new creation has 90% fewer calories than standard chocolate because it contains less of the treat's fatty ingredients like cocoa butter.
Given its unique no-melt, low-fat combination, Barry Callebaut is keeping the tasty details of Vulcano's ingredients and manufacturing method under wraps. The company will only reveal that the chocolate was invented accidentally, while food engineers were working on another hush-hush project. "When we realized what we had stumbled upon, it was a real 'Eureka!' moment," Tschofen says. "We knew immediately that a chocolate that doesn't melt, is low in calories, but is still 100% natural would have a great market potential, especially in warmer climates or places with no adequate cooling systems."
By coming up with a chocolate that doesn't liquefy between your fingers (or in your pocket), Barry Callebaut has managed to create something that many chocolate makers have tried before but never accomplished. Former attempts at melt-free chocolate including one by U.S. manufacturer Hershey resulted in rock-hard bars that were a struggle to break, let alone eat. And the quest for a low-calorie bar has long been stymied by the tricky issues of flavor and texture. According to Tschofen, Vulcano which gets its name from the little air bubbles it contains that conjure up images of volcanic lava has a crispy, crunchy texture rather than creamy but tastes as good as regular chocolate.
Tschofen says consumers will most likely see Vulcano currently available in dark, milk, white and fruit varieties in the form of a filling for chocolate bars, biscuits, pastries and other confectionaries. Since Barry Callebaut has only recently started presenting its invention to chocolate manufacturers, food companies, bakeries and pastry chefs, it will likely be two years before it hits the mass market.
But whether Vulcano can melt the hearts of chocoholics around the world remains to be seen. "Generally speaking, low-calorie products, particularly those in more indulgent parts of the market, like chocolate, have become increasingly popular in recent years and that popularity will only grow, especially as the global economy moves out of recession and into recovery," says Dean Best, executive director of Just-Food, a U.K.-based news and information website for the global food industry. "Consequently, Barry Callebaut's industrial customers will be intrigued by this latest piece of innovation. But Vulcano's success will ultimately depend on whether these customers really believe this no-melt chocolate will tantalize the taste buds of chocolate lovers."
For now, though, Vulcano's manufacturer is hoping that when it comes to the crunch, the chocolate's future will be sweet.