International Confectionery Editor Caitlin Gittins investigates shifting consumer demands as they influence innovation in chocolate production, which has become more efficient and streamlined.
Plant-based, vegan, GMO-free; these are all instances where consumer demand has influenced chocolate innovation, as confectionery manufacturers have responded accordingly to an overall trend which reflects a few things: increased consumer consciousness about health, people, and the planet. It also reflects that consumer demands are ever-changing, so an overall optimisation and streamlining of the chocolate production process helps to adapt to and meet these demands. Whether this is conching, tempering or moulding the chocolate in the production process, continual innovation in this area has seen the creation of tasty, quality chocolate.
Chocolate production is ongoing and becoming a smarter, more streamlined sector. In the last two years alone, we’ve witnessed the pandemic being cited as a main reason for why companies make the shift towards making processes smarter, best characterised by Industry 4.0: the fourth industrial revolution. Experiencing demand for FMCGs skyrocket but not being able to meet that demand acted as a catalyst for companies who realised that their production capacity could be upped, with their own ‘smart’ investment into automation and robotics.
Made Smarter is a UK initiative previously mentioned in our last issue as a collaboration between the industry and the UK government to transform manufacturing into a more automated production process. This covers the food and beverage sector more generally and includes confectionery companies. In 2021, they invested in Lake District-based chocolate maker, Ye Olde Friars, to assist them with automating their production and increasing capacity. Previously, Ye Olde Friars manually produced their chocolate, confining them to an output of 30kg of chocolate a day, but with the investment, were able to upgrade to a cloud-based system with a continuous tempering machine and automated one stop depositor. Automating these processes resulted in production capacity increasing to 250kg a day with manufacturing becoming two and a half times cheaper to produce.
When I spoke to Roy Fraser, from ABB Robotics, he explained that robots are recognised as a growth opportunity: “Once people understand the benefit of a robotic system, generally, they buy more.” But I won’t labour the point on robotics, as innovation in chocolate isn’t confined to robotics, but includes the machinery that covers the entire production process for chocolate, including tempering, moulding, checking, and so on. Looking at this more closely, each process can be accredited as vital to the overall result of the chocolate end product. Chocolate mass enters the factory having already undergone breaking, fermenting, drying, roasting, deshelling and grinding processes. Once the cocoa mass has been ground, it goes onto be refined, conched, tempered, moulded and cooled. This is the point in the process we will be focusing on, as this is what turns cocoa beans into the end product: glossy, tasty chocolate...
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