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Chocolate Manufacturers

by Pam Williams

I have a running poll with the graduate of my Professional Chocolatier program where they indicate which chocolate they are using to make their bonbons and confections. Let's take a quick look at the chocolate manufacturers that are used most often.


Barry Callebaut

In North America, most luxury chocolate consumers know the Callebaut name and equate it with top of the line Belgian chocolate. This remarkable company is almost 150 years old. In 1850, shortly after the invention of solid chocolate, the Callebaut family founded a diversified company. It consisted of a mill, a dairy, a brewery and a mineral water bottling plant. In 1911 the company started to concentrate on manufacturing chocolate bars and tablets. In 1925, Callebaut began producing its own chocolate. The company later developed specialized skills in the manufacture of chocolate coating, and sold its products to fellow chocolate producers. In 1981, the Callebaut family sold its own shares to the Swiss group Interfood, which later took over or merged with other large European chocolate companies such as Suchard, Van Houten and S&A Lesme.

In 1988, Callebaut ceased production of its consumer products and concentrated exclusively on coating chocolate. They bought Cocoa Barry chocolate in France and are now called Barry Callebaut. Their product development department is constantly working on new recipes. The applications laboratory is actually a mini-factory where virtually all the processing possibilities of chocolate are tested by a team of experts. Callebaut works closely with its customers to develop new types of chocolate and compound coatings. The quality image of Callebaut and the strength of its international distribution network have enabled the company to increase export volumes significantly. Because of this, Callebaut is known all around the world and is the largest chocolate manufacturer..

Product and Processing Information:

The company produces an extensive range of chocolate liquor, dark, milk and white chocolates and compound coatings (cocoa butter is replaced with palm kernel oil so no tempering is required) in 5 kg blocks. Viscosity, cocoa butter or oil content, and cocoa bean blend are all varied to produce a wide range of products. Callebaut also produces a variety of specialty chocolate products including: drops, sticks, chips, vermicelli and flakes. Nut products are also very popular, including: hazelnut paste, praline products and Gianduja (emulsified hazelnuts in milk or dark chocolate). Products just released, Callets, are dark, milk and white chocolate buttons. These buttons make it easier to temper quickly and efficiently and they help to solve some of the problems which may arise when processing.

For more information: Barry Callebaut



Valrhona has been producing fine chocolate couvertures since 1922. Valrhona is a small, French manufacturer who produces 10 tons of product per day as compared to 100 - 150 tons for a large, European manufacturer. Their buyer searches the cocoa-cultivating nations for special cocoa beans. If a country grows 500,000 tons of beans in a year but only 50 tons are good, it is Valrhona's mission to find those 50 tons and leave the rest behind. Thus securing an exclusive supply of cocoa "Grand Crus," the great growths from South America, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. The beans are harvested, fermented and sundried following Valrhona's recommendations, then shipped rapidly after harvest.

When these special beans arrive at the factory, they are tested for condition, meticulously roasted to develop essential flavors and aromatic strength, cracked, shelled and blended. Blending is an art that uses secret formulas. Next comes the addition of sugar, vanilla, cocoa butter and in some cases, dehydrated milk. The ingredients are then refined and counched up to four days. After counching, the chocolate is formed and solidified into bars or squares. The finished chocolate is then matured for two or three months before sale to the world's most discerning chefs and chocolatiers.

For more information: Valrhona


Guittard Chocolate Company

We're back to the San Francisco Bay Area for a look at Guittard Chocolate Company. In the mid-1800's during the California gold rush, Frenchman Etienne Guittard journeyed to the Barbary Coast in hopes of discovering gold. Although he never found it, San Francisco discovered him for the delicious chocolate he had brought from his uncle's factory in France. Already skilled as a chocolate maker, Etienne established the Guittard Chocolate Factory in San Francisco in 1868. Since then, the Guittard family has continued, as the oldest family owned and operated chocolate company in the US, to manufacture a great variety of chocolate and chocolate products for chocolatiers and chefs. The facility has moved from along the San Francisco waterfront where Guittard Chocolates opened for business on prestigious Commercial Street in 1868 to Burlingame, California about 1/2 hour south.

Guittard produces a variety of premium chocolate coatings from the richest dark and milk chocolate to the smooth and super creamy, white couverture coating made with real cocoa butter. Their Gourmet Bittersweet Chocolate, High Sierra White Chocolate and French Vanilla were each awarded 1992 Gold medals by the Chefs in America Awards Foundation. Other food service products include: pastel coatings in 5 colors, chocolate flavored syrups containing real sweet ground chocolate, sweet ground chocolate, and ganache. For the retail market, Guittard products include: Melt 'n Mold confectioner's coating in eight colors, Semisweet Chocolate Chips, Super Cookie Chips, Milk Chocolate Chips, Butterscotch Chips, Choc-au-lait Vanilla Milk Chips, and specialty confections such as Smooth 'N Melty Mint Wafers.

For more information: Guittard Chocolate Company


Chocolates El Rey, Venezuela

In the early stages of the South American conquest, the Spaniards discovered a particularly fragrant strain of the cacao bean growing wild in the region south of Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo and throughout the tropical lowlands bordering the Caribbean on Venezuela's northern coast. Delicate and aromatic, this cacao tree traveled poorly. Attempts to transplant, what became known as the Criollo varietal, to plantations in the more populated regions of the country or abroad, invariably met with failure. So, Venezuela became the only source for this special cacao.

By the 17th century, Venezuela was making a name for itself. Its uniquely fragrant cacao bean was sweeping the world. Venezuela was displacing Mexico as the principal exporter of cacao to the Old World. Enormous fortunes were made in cacao during the colonial era. But with Venezuela's war with Spain, competition from new cacao beans coming on the market and the boom in coffee in Europe, the cacao trade began to decline.

When Jose Rafael Zozaya and his father-in-law, Carmelo Tuozzo founded Tuozzo Zozaya & Cia in Caracas in 1929, it was the second chocolate company to be established in Venezuela. There they turned out perhaps the finest chocolate made in Venezuela, which they proudly named "El Rey" -- the King. Pride in their work, a solid reputation for quality and a faithful, expanding clientele helped them prosper and grow. In 1973, the principals went public and began to orient the new company toward processing cocoa and exporting its high quality derivatives (liqueur, butter and powder) to the United States, Europe and Japan.

The world's best chocolates have always depended on Venezuelan cacao beans to impart that extra touch of fragrance and aroma. So, in 1989, Chocolates El Rey decided to enter the global chocolate market by producing a chocolate using 100% Venezuelan cacao beans. El Rey's premium quality chocolate couvertures are manufactured with the famed Carenero bean, a single variety cacao grown in the north central region of Venezuela and exported for use by chefs and chocolatiers around the world.

For more information: El Rey America, Inc.


Peter's Chocolate

Daniel Peter was a Swiss candle maker until the use of kerosene made candle making a dying business. Following the example of his brother-in-law, Auguste Cailler, he started to manufacture chocolate in 1867. Daniel wanted something new to differentiate his product from his competitors. He had the idea of including milk into his chocolate, but found it almost impossible to do. Finally after much experimentation he was successful. However the mixture turned sour in less than a week. He described the situation to a neighbor, Henri Nestle, who was encountering a similar stability problem with his baby food manufacturing process. By pooling their efforts, the solution was found. Nearly all the water content was extracted form the milk before mixing it with cocoa to make chocolate. Hence, the world's most popular confection -- milk chocolate -- was created in 1875 by using Henri Nestle's "condensed" milk. Since 1907 Nestle Chocolate & Confections has manufactured chocolate in the United States to the highest standard of quality. Today, Peter's Chocolate, a division of Nestle Food Company, continues the tradition, offering an extensive line of products known for their quality and consistency. It is a fitting tribute to Daniel Peter, the inventor of milk chocolate.

Product and Processing Information:

As with most chocolate manufacturers, Peter's Chocolate makes a variety of products. Peter's Milk Chocolates have always carried the distinct flavour characteristics of the original Swiss inventors. The Semi-sweet chocolates are formulated with special flavour beans to provide a unique taste. Made with a more costly blend of chocolate liquor and cocoa butter, Heritage chocolates provide a distinctively different profile -- very smooth, somewhat less sweet and a bit more subtle, in an elegant European style. Nestle Snowcap, a white chocolate that is cocoa butter based (most so-called white chocolate is palm kernel oil based), is more flavorful and less sweet with a distinct chocolate flavour and aroma. Other products include Nestle Real Chocolate Morsels, Nestle Ice Cap confectionery coatings, chocolate confections, caramel, cocoa and Carnation products -- evaporated milk and malted milk products.

Peter's Chocolate

Pam Williams
is founder and lead instructor of Ecole Chocolat Professional Chocolatier School of Chocolate Arts.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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