Ritter Sport claims new sugar-free bar cannot be called chocolate in Germany
Another year, another dispute for Ritter Sport. Just a few short months after finally triumphing in a long-running legal battle with competitor Milka, Germany’s favourite square chocolate manufacturer has become embroiled in another bizarre row. This time, the squabble revolves around a sugar-free chocolate bar.
Ritter Sport’s cocoa-only bar cannot be sold as chocolate?
Early this week, Ritter Sport made waves when it claimed that its new chocolate bar - a sugar-free variety called “Cacao y Nada” (cocoa and nothing) - could not be sold as chocolate in Germany. The chocolate manufacturer pointed out that the 2003 regulation on cocoa and chocolate products (the so-called Kakao-Verordnung) states that anything labelled as chocolate must contain cocoa mass, cocoa powder, cocoa butter and sugar.
But the Cacao y Nada bar is - as the name suggests - nothing but cocoa. It is sweetened only with natural cocoa juice, which it sources from a plantation in Nicaragua. The juice is found naturally in the pulp of the cocoa bean and has a naturally sweet taste similar to that of lychees.
Ritter Sport, which has been producing chocolate at its factory near Stuttgart for over 100 years, has therefore said that its new product does not fit the law’s definition of chocolate and has accused food regulators in Germany of being out of step with modern manufacturing techniques.
“It is absurd that a chocolate, which is entirely made out of cocoa and does not need any added sugar, cannot be called chocolate,” said Andreas Ronken, the CEO of Ritter Sport, pointing out that meat-free alternatives were still allowed to be sold as “sausages” and “burgers”. “If a sausage can be made from peas, chocolate doesn’t need sugar either,” said a Ritter Sport spokesperson.
A thinly-disguised attempt to drum up publicity?
Later in the week, however, the whole thing was revealed to be a bit of a non-issue - and perhaps even a fairly lame attempt to attract a bit of publicity - after Germany’s Federal Food Minister Julia Klöckner stepped in to say that there would be no issue with selling the new product as chocolate.
“The cocoa regulation does not limit the issue of sugary ingredients to certain types of sugar,” she told Wirtschaftswoche. “Therefore, according to our ministry, a product that uses natural cocoa juice should also be allowed to be sold under the name of chocolate.” The state ministry for consumer protection in Baden-Württemberg also made a statement to the same effect.
German media have therefore suggested that the whole “controversy” was deliberately cooked up by Ritter Sport to create more of a buzz around the new bar, after 2020 turned out to be a disastrous year in sales.
A Ritter Sport spokesperson vehemently rejected the suggestion that the whole thing was a PR stunt, but it speaks volumes that the Cacao y Nada bar has now apparently sold out online and is fetching sums of up to 51,55 euros for a single bar on platforms like eBay. Ritter Sport says they do not know when new shipments will arrive, but are offering away free bars in competitions on social media channels. As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity…
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