But if Barry Callebaut really has solved the problem of flavor, he adds, "Vulcano" could become a huge success. "In the warm emerging markets, particularly China, there is a growing middle class, which can afford to buy chocolate -- and wants to," Bürki says.
Barry Callebaut is not the first chocolate manufacturer to try to create a melt-proof chocolate. The first one was produced by Hershey's for the US Army during World War II. The army's product requirements were relatively simple: The chocolate must be as nutritious as possible, be able to withstand temperatures of up to 60 degrees Celsius and weigh four ounces (113 grams).
Hershey's production machines were designed to pour liquid chocolate into moulds. But because it was lacking a lot of the cocoa butter that goes into regular chocolate, the heat-resistant chocolate was too solid to be produced using the machines. As a result, Hershey's had to make every single bar by hand. The results were rock-hard, rectangular bars that could only be broken with considerable effort and strength.
In the following decades, Hershey's continually improved the chocolate's taste and consistency -- but none of the heat-proof chocolate bars ever made it into commercial production. And that includes the "Desert Bar" given to soldiers in Iraq.
Vriens is clearly convinced that Barry Callebaut will conquer the market with "Vulcano." As he sees it, the chocolate's crunchiness makes up for its lack of creaminess. Likewise, as soon as it reaches your tongue, it melts just like traditional chocolate. But it's not the warmth of your mouth that does this; it's your saliva.
Barry Callebaut first told its investors about "Vulcano" at a company presentation in March 2008. At the time, the product was still in the developmental stages. Since then, according to Vriens, all patents have been registered. Moreover, the first taste tests have been successfully conducted, and the product is now ready to be presented to industry clients.
Still, "Vulcano" is only one of the products Barry Callebaut is resting its hopes on. The company wants to tackle the stagnant market for traditional chocolate with a whole range of speciality chocolates. These include cocoa powder that is completely water-soluble as well as a chocolate that preserves your teeth and one that improves your digestion. Vriens estimates that, in three to five years, such speciality products may ultimately come to make up a double-digit percentage of the company's production volume. But Vriens won't hazard a guess at how much "Vulcano" will increase the company's total volume.
Only a relatively small proportion -- about 20 percent -- of Barry Callebaut's production is for the company's own chocolate brands. The rest of the company's production is for other manufacturers, such as Nestlé, Hershey's and Cadbury Schweppes. As a result, the success of "Vulcano" will depend on how many and which industry clients Barry Callebaut can win over. In the end, they will decide in which form the chocolate comes to market and how intensively it will be marketed to consumers.
According to Vriens, all of the major industry clients have expressed interest in the product. He remains tight-lipped about the progress of current negotiations, but he will say that the product should be on the shelves in about two years.