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3-D printed chocolate to start reaching consumer market

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Hotels, pastry chefs and coffee chains can soon start offering guests customized 3-D printed chocolate thanks to a little-known Swiss chocolatier.

Barry Callebaut AG, the behind-the-scenes producer of a quarter of the world’s chocolate, is giving gourmet clients access to a method of printing personalized designs en masse, the Zurich-based company said in a statement Friday. The technology will first be available through the company’s Mona Lisa brand, which makes chocolate decorations, sprinkles and figurines.

After experimenting with 3-D printing chocolate for years, Barry Callebaut has figured out a way for the printer to handle the tempering of the chocolate, a process that requires constant movement at specific temperatures and which could take as long as an hour in the past. Now, Barry Callebaut’s printers can print thousands of pieces in a much shorter time.

The move comes as the chocolate industry faces meager growth prospects. Barry Callebaut said last month that the global market stagnated in the three months through November. Lindt & Spruengli has said it plans to close 50 stores in the U.S.

Business clients can come up with their own designs, shapes and sizes, with the final creations fit for use in desserts, confectionery, hot drinks and pastries.

That reflects the current trend of personalization, consumers wanting to post pictures on Instagram, as well as demand for premium products, Pablo Perversi, Barry Callebaut’s head of innovation, said in a phone interview.

“The important thing is this is not a one-off type of printing like in the past,” he said. “We can produce at scale.”

The Zurich-based company makes chocolate for clients such as Nestle SA, Unilever and Hershey Co., whose names then appear on the labels.

Chocolate lovers looking for more personalized chocolate in stores will have to wait a few years, though. Barry Callebaut will first work with gourmet clients before entering the next phase with manufacturers, Perversi said. Dutch hotel chain Van der Valk will be its first customer.

Ultimately, consumers may even have 3-D chocolate printers next to their coffee machines in their kitchens.

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