Willy Wonka makes it seem like chocolate is made by Oompa Loompas and “a world of imagination.” In realty, there aren’t little orange guys running around and singing while they work. It takes plenty of farming, cooking, and molding to make your favorite chocolate treats!
At Quality Logo Products, we specialize in personalized chocolate, selling more than 500,000 chocolate bars and pieces every year. It’s not like we’re bakers, so customers ask us all the time how chocolate is made. And with so many employees on our team being bona fide chocoholics, we were pretty curious, too!
We all love to eat chocolate, but very few of us actually pay mind to how it’s made. Here’s your golden ticket to learn more about the process!
What Are the Ingredients in Chocolate? Top
Chocolate comes from fruit seeds, which are harvested from cacao trees and then fermented before they’re shipped to factories all over the world. This is the main ingredient used to make chocolate, but there are many other mix-ins as well that help create that sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter flavor.
The following ingredients can be found in chocolate:
- Cocoa powder or butter
- Condensed or powdered milk
- Soy lecithin
- Almonds, pecans, and other nuts
- Oranges, berries, and other fruit
Cocoa Powder or Butter
Cacao powder or butter is created by roasting cocoa beans. Dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa, which is why it has a more bitter taste, while milk chocolate uses less, making it significantly sweeter.
Condensed or Powdered Milk
Condensed or powdered milk is a key ingredient in everyone’s favorite flavor – milk chocolate! This type of chocolate was invented in 1876 by a Swiss chocolatier named Daniel Peter. Today, more than half of adult consumers prefer milk chocolate over dark or white chocolate.
Almost every type of chocolate is made with at least some sugar. White chocolate uses the most sugar, but doesn’t contain any trace of the cacao bean. For that reason, it’s often not really thought of as chocolate!
It might seem weird, but a lot of chocolate is made with a hint of vanilla. This ingredient hides the burnt or bitter taste of the cacao beans.
You have it on your spice rack at home, but cinnamon is also used in some chocolate recipes. If you really want to send your taste buds on a journey, try adding this spice on top of the whipped cream in your hot chocolate! Yum!
Even though cloves are often used to season meat and pasta dishes, they can also be found in chocolate. This spice has a strong, fragrant aroma that is hard to resist.
Think about the gingerbread cookies you eat around the holidays. Don’t they taste extra amazing when you chase them down with chocolate chip cookies? For this reason, many gourmet chocolate makers love this irresistible flavor combo.
Not all chocolate makers use soy lecithin, but those that do use it as an emulsifier. This is a fancy way of saying it’s an additive that helps the chocolate withstand the heat during production.
Who can resist the sweet taste of chocolate mixed with caramel? This powerful flavor combo is part of many of our favorite candy bars including: Twix, Milky Ways, Rolos, Toblerones, and Godiva chocolate squares.
Winnie the Pooh isn’t the only one who is obsessed with honey! This natural ingredient adds a sweet taste to pure dark chocolate and is becoming a huge trend in the world of baking.
Do you suddenly have a craving for mint chocolate ice cream? You’re probably not the only one! Mint chocolate is ranked #4 on the list of America’s top 10 ice cream flavors. Andes Mints and Frango Mints are also fan favorites.
Pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, and other nuts are commonly mixed into specialty chocolates. Hershey’s has one of the most popular almond chocolate bars, with over 30 million people in the U.S. eating at least 1 serving every month!
Oranges, berries, and other types of fruit can be mixed into the chocolate recipe. It may not be as healthy as eating these fruits alone, but at least you’re eating some fruit, right?
Chocolate is usually made from all natural ingredients, but some companies use artificial flavorings as well in their recipes. It just depends on the manufacturer!
Did You Know?
Cacao beans are found in flower pods on the trunk of Theobroma trees. Each pod contains between 30 and 50 beans that are roughly the size of an olive.
How Are Chocolate Bars Made? Top
You might think that chocolate is made from magic and love, and while those are both undoubtably important, there is even more that goes into the manufacturing process!
Chocolate is made in the following steps:
- Step One: Cacao beans are dumped onto mesh screens, which filter out any twigs, dirt, or rocks that may have been hiding in the batch.
- Step Two: The cacao beans travel on a conveyor belt into a giant drum, which heats them up and loosens the shells.
- Step Three: An automated machine called a winnower removes the shells from the cacao beans.
- Step Four: The beans are roasted to their desired flavor. The longer they cook, the less cacao taste in the recipe.
- Step Five: The cacao beans are ground down into a chocolatey liquid that can be easily mixed with other ingredients.
- Step Six: Other ingredients like cocoa butter and sugar are mixed with the cacao beans, depending on the desired flavor.
- Step Seven: Once the ingredients are all in the mixture, the chocolate is refined into a dry powder.
- Step Eight: A machine called a conch turns the powder back into a liquid.
- Step Nine: The liquid chocolate is poured into plastic molds to create chocolate bars.
- Step Ten: The chocolate is cooled down for about two hours.
- Step Eleven: The chocolate is packaged and ready to be eaten!
Clean the Cacao Beans
Cacao beans that have already been harvested and fermented are shipped to the factory. The first step is to thoroughly clean these beans by dumping them onto a conveyor belt and moving them through mesh screens, which are basically like giant strainers. These screens catch any rocks, debris, stems, or twigs that may have been hiding in the batch.
Heat the Cacao Beans
Next, the cacao beans are dumped into a giant drum that swirls them around as it’s heated. This helps to soften the cacao bean shells, making them easier to be removed later.
Remove the Shells
Cacao beans are kind of like peanuts. They come in a shell that you don’t end up eating. An automated machine called a winnower is used to remove these shells from the beans. The winnower has two key pieces of equipment: 1) giant rakes that pull the larger pieces of the shells away from the beans, and 2) vacuums that suck up the smaller pieces of the shells.
Roast the Beans
Once the shells are removed, the factory will roast the beans (aka the “nibs”) to create the desired flavor. Every manufacturer, from Hershey’s to Nestlé, has their own recipe, so the time the beans are cooking and the temperature that’s used varies. The longer the nibs cook, the less cacao in the final taste, which is why dark chocolate is roasted for a lot less time than milk chocolate.
Grind the Cacao Beans
The beans are ground down into liquid chocolate. At this stage, the chocolate on its own is extremely bitter, which is why it will be mixed with other ingredients during the next step.
Mix With Other Ingredients
Every factory has their own unique recipe, depending on the type of chocolate they are making and the flavor they’re trying to create. In order to create their recipes, the processed beans are mixed with other ingredients like cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar, or hazelnut. The machine continues mixing until everything is at the consistency of cake batter.
Refine the Chocolate
Because the chocolate has a brittle, chalky texture after being liquified, a machine needs to smooth it all out in a refining machine. This turns the chocolate into a dry powder.
Liquefy the Powder
A churning machine called a conch reliquefies the powder. At this stage, the factory may also add in more ingredients, depending on what is being made. For instance, chocolate chips only get a little bit of cocoa powder at this stage, while chocolate bars will get more.
Fill Plastic Molds
The liquid mixture is poured into rectangular plastic molds of different sizes to create chocolate bars. The fun-sized bars that you hand out around Halloween, for instance, would be poured into smaller molds than king-sized candy bars. Other chocolate treats like chocolate chips, truffles, and Hershey’s Kisses, go through an entirely different
Cool the Chocolate
The chocolate is still pretty warm at this point, so the next step is to send it through a freezing room for about two hours. It then comes out in a hardened state.
Package the Chocolate
Finally, the chocolate is ready to be packaged in a wrapper, boxed up, and shipped to retail stores for sale.
How is Personalized Chocolate Made? Top
Personalized chocolate is a fun gift for the holidays or as party or wedding favors. Often times the packaging the chocolate comes inside is decorated using screen printing or digital printing.
Sometimes the chocolate candy itself is branded such as the cute messages on Valentine’s Day Hearts or the unique prints on personalized M&M’s. This decoration is achieved using a process known as offset printing.
Where is Chocolate Made? Top
West Africa grows 70% of the world’s cacao beans for chocolate, while Brazil, Ecuador, Malaysia, and Indonesia are also big exporters of the crop. There are entire industries in these areas built around harvesting and shipping the cacao to factories around the world.
Stand aside, Willy Wonka! Here are the biggest chocolate factories in the world:
- Mars Wrigley Confectionary
- Ferrero Group
- Mondelez International
- Meiji Co. Ltd.
- Hershey Company
- Lindt & Sprüngli
- Ezaki Glico Co. Ltd.
- Orion Corporation
Mars Wrigley Confectionary
400 million M&Ms are made every single day, but Mars is known for more than just these colorful candies! The company is also behind some of your other favorites like Milky Ways, Snickers, and 3 Musketeers.
Location: Luxembourg, Italy
Known for their decadent chocolate truffles, the Ferrero Group is worth about $13 billion. Their chocolate is a favorite in Italy, but is also bought by U.S. consumers, especially around holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
Location: Deerfield, IL
While not as well-known as brands like Mars and Hershey’s, Mondelez International is a huge chocolate maker. This company, which is worth about $58 billion, creates some of your favorite chocolate cookies like Chips Ahoy! and Oreo, as well as other treats like Toblerone and Cadbury Creme Eggs.
Meiji Co. Ltd.
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Travel overseas to visit the #1 chocolate company in Japan – Meiji Co. Ltd. Not only do they make over 130 chocolate products, but they also have a dairy line that includes milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream.
Location: Hershey, PA
You can’t think of chocolate without thinking about Hershey’s. This company has over 30% of the market share of chocolate in the United States. People can’t get enough of the different flavors!
Location: Vevey, Switzerland
We have Switzerland to thank for a lot of our chocolate, including the ones created by Nestlé. Since the company started in 1866, they’ve expanded to build 300 factories all across the United States.
Lindt & Sprüngli
Location: Kilchberg, Switzerland
Here’s another Swiss company dominating the marketplace! Lindt’s product line includes extra creamy milk chocolate, crunchy toffee bites, and sweet caramel chocolates. In 2019 alone, they made over $500 million and global chocolate sales continue to grow for the company.
Location: London, England
Even if you’ve never heard of Pladis, you’re probably familiar with one of their bestselling products – Godiva. This premium brand of chocolate is a huge favorite and even has 800 stores in 105 countries around the world.
Ezaki Glico Co. Ltd.
Location: Osaka, Japan
Have you ever been to a novelty store at a shopping mall? If so, you may have come across Glico’s top product, Pocky. These chocolate dipped biscuit sticks are a beloved snack in Japan and continue to find new fans in the United States.
Location: Seoul, Korea
Orion Corp. hasn’t quite reached a U.S. audience, but it’s still extremely popular in Asia. They’re best known for their sweet, cream-filled chocolate pie snacks. This snack makes up a staggering 66% of China’s cookie market!
Why Do We Love Chocolate? Top
According to The Washington Post, Americans spend over $22 billion on chocolate and consume about 12 pounds every year. It’s a favorite treat among many because of all the endorphins that are released every time we take a bite!
Chocolate makes us feel good, and if that’s not enough, it’s also often part of big celebrations and milestone moments. It’s a gift on Valentine’s Day, in the cake at weddings, and it’s even part of the advent calendars we buy for Christmas every year. This treat has a special place in our hearts and in our culture!
Stats for Success
Chocolate has over 600 possible flavor combinations.
It takes about 400 cacao beans to make 1 pound of chocolate.
Each cacao tree produces approximately 2,500 beans.
The world’s largest chocolate bar weighs over 12,000 pounds!
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re buying personalized M&Ms for a party or are just enjoying a truffle on a cheat day, it’s worth knowing how chocolate is made. Farmers and factory workers alike work hard to make your favorite treats from scratch. The least you can do is put love into every bite!
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