Come On Over to the Dark Side: Dark Chocolate Flavor Insight

June 8, 2015

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Chocolate remains the top dessert flavor on U.S. menus and in the past decade Americans have gotten serious about dark chocolate. According to a Flavor & The Menu  article, 68 percent of consumers would happily order a brownie for dessert, 62 percent would order chocolate cake, and 51 percent would order chocolate ice cream or a slice of chocolate cream pie. (You can never have enough chocolate right?

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is chocolate that is made primarily with sugar, cocoa and cocoa butter, and does not contain milk or milk solids. The amount of sugar, cocoa and cocoa butter can vary dramatically from brand to brand, but it is the lack of milk that really distinguishes dark chocolate from milk chocolate. Dark chocolates sometimes contains vanilla and an emulsifier, to keep the chocolate as smooth as possible. In the US, there is not a specific minimum cacao percentage for dark chocolate. Cacao percentage refers to the amount of cocoa solids in a product. Cocoa solids are all of the ingredients from a cocoa bean, including cocoa powder, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor. In Europe, the definition of dark chocolate is containing 35% cocoa solids. Premium dark chocolates have a higher cacao percentage and a higher price tag than less expensive dark chocolates.

Dark Chocolate in the Media

A search for “dark chocolate” on Pinterest returns results for not only pins but boards dedicated to dark chocolate. Most of the pins relate to baked goods, but people have found recipes beyond cakes. Creative recipes pop out like jello-filled dark chocolate, dark chocolate vegan granola bars, peanut butter and banana bites frozen in dark chocolate, and lavender-honey dark chocolate tart.

Searching dark chocolate on Twitter yields results of recipes and pictures of dark chocolate desserts. Recipes for homemade salted caramel dark chocolate brown butter shortbread bars and a salted dark chocolate truffle pretzel cake are the top results. Some of the results are pictures from bakeries using dark chocolate, like English bakery Tarte and Berry’s dark chocolate and butterscotch flapjacks.

On more than 3,500 recipes appear if you search for dark chocolate. Recipes primarily include desserts and candy, but other recipes include beverages, snacks, frozen desserts, and even a salad with dark chocolate-balsamic dressing. Desserts account for 84% of the total dark chocolate recipes available on

Come Over to the Dark Side...of Chocolate That Is!

There are several mentions of dark chocolate in print media. Here are some of the

• In October 2014, the New York Times’ included an article focused on dark chocolate’s improvement on memory. Dark chocolate was found to improve memory skills normally lost due to age.
• An article in the November 2014 issue of Women’s Health lists benefits to dark chocolate. Some of these benefits include: energy boosts, lower blood pressure, decrease in risk of stroke, and increase blood flow to brain—improving memory.
• Eating Well featured an article in the Feburary 2015 issue about advances toward providing cacao farmers fair prices for the beans. In return, these better wages are providing sourcers like Joe Whinney at Theo Chocolate in Seattle to serve better tasting chocolate.

Dark chocolate is found across blogs from recipes to insight into health benefits. Dark chocolate is not only covered as an ingredient but highlights the benefits of

• Dark Chocolate Ritz Bars, Buns in My Oven
• The Ultimate Dark, Vegan Chocolate Truffles Recipe, Feed Your Awesome Machine
• Six Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate, Fit Day
• Heart of Dark Chocolate, Outside
• Why is Dark Chocolate Good for You, Scientific American Buns


Dark Chocolate on the Menu

Q4 2009-Q4 2014
• 683 Menu Mentions
• 18% increase in dark chocolate flavored menu items
• Dark Chocolate Raspberry Harvest Pie, CoCo’s Bakery
• Dark Chocolate Mocha Cremeux, Primo Resturant
• Alpine Chocolate Cheesecake, Dark and milk chocolate layered cheesecake with dark chocolate ganache and milk chocolate drizzle, Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse


In the past decade, Americans have gotten serious about dark chocolate. Rich, complex, and even bitter, its flavor transcends the mild, sugar-laden milk chocolate that many of us grew up with. As a result, ever-climbing cacao percentages are now posted prominently on packaging, and chocophiles have come to describe bars with the same level of detail that they’d use for a fine Cabernet. “Bean to bar” is hot, as artisanal chocolatiers take control of every aspect of chocolate making, from sourcing to production. Single-origin bars are trendy, too, showcasing distinct regional characteristics such as the intensely floral flavor of beans from the mountains of Peru or the dried mint overtones of bars made from the beans from Trinidad. But almost all these pricey chocolates are meant to be eaten plain, savored by the sliver, rather than used for cooking. It seems wasteful to cook with them, as many of their more delicate notes won’t survive a hot oven.

Dark Chocolate Market Products

Global New Product Introductions
2008 - 2014
4,891 New Products Launched

Products of Note:
Nestlé Toll House Delightfulls Dark Chocolate Morsels with Mint Filling
Trader Joe’s More Than a Mouthful Trek Mix

North America New Product Introductions
2008 - 2014
1,060 New Products Launched

Products of Note:
Pear & Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Logs: France
Dark Chocolate Coated Crispy Crepes: Chile

Download the full report to see more dark chocolate market products!



Let FONA’s market insight and research experts translate these trends into product category ideas for your brand. They can help you with concept and flavor pipeline development, ideation, consumer studies and white space analysis to pinpoint opportunities in the market. Our flavor and product development experts are also at your service to help meet the labeling and flavor profile needs for your products to capitalize on this consumer trend. We understand how to mesh the complexities of flavor with your brand development, technical requirements and regulatory needs to deliver a complete taste solution. From concept to manufacturing, we’re here every step of the way. Contact our Sales Service Department at 630.578.8600 to request a flavor sample or visit