ARTICLE

New product: Belgian chocolate at Coles supermarkets

Rarely does my heart skip a beat in the confectionery aisle of an Australian supermarket. In France or Germany I could happily fill a shopping trolley with a chocolatey smile on my face. In Australia I mope my way down the aisle, pausing only for the occasional stop-gap measure to allay my chocolate cravings.

For those who don't know, there is no decent chocolate available at an average-consumer pricepoint in Australia. We get to choose from Cadbury's oddness (though much better than the product of the British namesake), Mars's mediocrity (in the form of Dove) and Nestlé's disappointments. Beside these are Lindt and the marketing success of their Lindor balls, and just occasionally Milka (no reason to cheer).

To be fair, I think I should mention those supermarket lines that are my accepted craving suppressants. For sweet-caramelly-greasy fixes: Lindt Excellence Milk, Nestlé Double Blend (milk, emergencies only). For cocoa-everyday fixes: Cadbury Old Gold (the original version: 45% cocoa solids; not the dry, gritty 72% one). With bits: Lindt Excellence Orange Intense (excellent!), Cadbury Old Gold Roast Almond, Nestlé Noir Intense Cherry. (Note that the Lindt and Nestlé Noir are outside the everyday chocolate pricebracket.)

I'm telling you all this to set the scene for a new product at Coles supermarkets. A housebrand Belgian chocolate You'll love Coles – Belgian milk chocolate in milk, dark and milk-fruit-nut. Australia is experiencing the start of the luxury housebrand product phenomenon; something which started in the UK about seven years ago. Alas, the psychology of premium products and supermarkets in Australia doesn't readily lend itself to actual, real, serious quality on a supermarket shelf. Whereas the UK supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury introduced quite impressive premium housebrand chocolates to their shelves, I wasn't about to hold my breath about the Coles version.

Coles Belgian milk chocolate block

Lucky, too, for the Coles product is no great bonus for the Aussie supermarket experience, despite the surprisingly good pricing (under A$4.00/250g). The milk version (26.5% cocoa solids) is very sweet, with a mild cocoa flavour. It has a nice snap, with a quick melt, and the mouthfeel is smooth and thick; quite delightful in comparison to the products mentioned above. You can't expect much of this sort of low-cocoa milk chocolate, so at least the textural positives are a winner. The dark version (46% cocoa solids) is sweet and a bit waxy, with a strong vanilla note and reasonably good melt. It is rather insipid and I don't feel like eating the rest of the block. The milk-fruit-nut version is just sweet, with the added sweetness of the fruit drowning out the already pale cocoa notes.

A little bit of googling revealed that Coles is sourcing this chocolate from the Belgian company Italo-Suisse, who in turn source their couverture from Callebaut. Callebaut is a great place to start for excellent chocolate (their couverture is used by a large number of quality chocolate producers and chocolatiers), but somewhere along the way — either in a custom formula requested by Italo-Suisse, or in the addition of other ingredients (more sugar?) by Italo-Suisse — it becomes an unimpressive product designed to appeal to overly sweet palates and seduce with the uncommon (in Australia) long, creamy mouthfeel. What a pity. Still, a better option than many other things on the supermarket shelf.

- DM

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COMMENTS

13 responses to “New product: Belgian chocolate at Coles supermarkets”

  1. Amelita (Squishy)

    That's a big let down then.

  2. Justin

    I must say that my housemates, my coworkers and I are all now addicted to the Coles Belgian milk chocolate…. and I normally go for 70% dark Green and Blacks or other Organic Fair Trade products… this one is quite impressive, and I don't think it's overly sweet. I do think it's overly milky, but then again, that's probably what I want from it.

    But i agree with you on the Dark Belgian version.

  3. barry

    oh come on now .. [edited] There is nothing else that can compare at the moment :)

  4. Y

    Lindt Orange is probably the only chocolate I would buy from a supermarket. I'm very wary of any Coles branded product. How long before everything on their shelves are replaced with that annoying 'You'll love Coles' range! Equally wary of the rampant use of the "belgian chocolate" tag on any product. Callebaut is a step up from Cadbury, but their milk chocolate IS pretty sweet. I think it only has something like 29% cocoa solids anyway, as opposed to Cacao Barry which is in the 30's and Valrhona Milk which is 40%.

  5. Duncan

    @ Y: It's even lower cocoa solids – just 26.5%. And Coles choc is definitely an example of how the label 'Belgian chocolate' has no relationship with high quality, despite manufacturers using it to connote luxury (or 'justifiable' mark-up).

    By the way, Callebaut has a few different milk chocolates – I buy one at around the 34% mark (haven't got any to hand right now to check) and although I at first thought it was too sweet, it grew on me!

    I also agree about the house-brand issue. It is of course the greatest way of squeezing producers and increasing supermarkets' profits. Occasionally it *does* deliver surprises (Sainsbury had some fantastic house-brand chocolate once, and German Aldi had excellent olive oil).

    @ barry: There is rarely anything else to compare at that price, though for some people's tastes, Lindt Excellence Milk is probably close enough in price to be a competitor. Anyway, I don't feel we need to be happy just because a supermarket deigns to serve up a product that is a little better than the norm, but rather less good than could have been possible. Places like Priceline and small supermarkets sometimes have imported Swiss or German 'trashy' brands for the same price or less, and just occasionally these outshine Coles's new product.

  6. Bart Demoen

    I am Belgian. I know about chocolate, Belgian, Swiss and others.
    I live in Australia (Elwood, Vic) about 4 weeks a year, and was always appauled by the chocolate available in the big stores in Australia (and UK and USA and …). This year – just recently – I was introcuded the Belgian chocolate from Cole's …

    I assure you: this Cole's chocolate has nothing in common with Belgian chocolate. If this chocolate were sold in Belgian supermarkets, it would just rot in the racks. I intend to write an open letter to Cole's and to some Melbourne newspapers, to point that out: as a Belgian chocolate eater, I feel insulted by Cole's.

    Cheers

    Bart Demoen

  7. Y

    Go Bart! Can't wait to read your open letter!

  8. Malcolm

    My name is Malcolm and I am a chocolate addict.

    That said I am also a type 2 Diabetic (which I am sure the chocolate had nothing to do with) and from the advice of my dietician I have almost cut chocolate out of my diet.

    I currently work in the gourmet foods industry and as such have come into contact with Callebaut chocolate, which I find just too sweet and sickly, and the fat content leaves a very cloying feel in my mouth. My chocolate of choice these days is the Australian made Kennedy and Wilson. It comes in a variety of flavours and also includes a rich 99% couverture which I can say from experience is a decadent addition to a chocolate cake, ganache or even muffins.

  9. julz

    The coles chocolate is great. It was interesting to see that when this product came, cadbury's blocks were already up near $4.00/250g at my local, and these new blocks were around $3.30. The arrival of this competition seemed to keep the overall prices down for a bit in that category. As far as I'm concerned the coles Belgian is a much nicer product at a better price. The only one I find too sweet is the mint one which seems to have chunky lumps of something like sugar in it. I still like it sometimes.. but it's harder to eat a whole 250g block in one sitting :)

  10. MadMikkie

    alas, they have now changed the wrappers and the size of the precious brown gold that my husband bought me today was supposed to be the large block, was 200gms. The smaller of the two blocks used to be 150gms. And they've changed the mould they use. I wonder also if they've changed the flavour slightly although I am on medication that is known to alter flavours, it doesn't seem quite 'right.' Still 'tastes' Belgiany but seems different somehow. And no – it is not psychological, aside from the mould change which was noticed immediately, I didn't look at the wrapping until after I'd eaten and wondered.

  11. arthur

    Coles chocolate shits all over cadbury's and has more weight and is cheaper. Screw the big name greedy companies!

  12. cazz

    I am so much in love with COLES chocolate I refuse to eat Cadbury's / mars etc
    I love ti so much!! Good on you coles!! Although, when they read this they will probably raise the prices.

    Why cant Woolies and Coles battle out "best brand of chocolate" rather than "who can get the highest prices?"

    :)

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