Is White Chocolate Really Chocolate?

If you’re a chocolate lover, you undoubtedly have a favorite kind. You may be a dark chocolate devotee, a milk chocolate maven or a white chocolate worshipper. If you fall into the latter camp, your chocolate reveries may have led you to wonder, “wait — is white chocolate considered chocolate?” After all, without chocolate’s brown color and rich flavor, it’s a fair question.

Chocolate makers and consumers have debated this controversial question for quite a while. Chocolate is a serious business! If you’re ready to get to the bottom of this issue once and for all, you’ve come to the right place. 

Let’s start with an overview of chocolate.

How White Is Chocolate Made

Chocolate comes from the fruit of cacao trees, which grow in various parts of the world. The football-sized fruits are called pods, and one cocoa tree produces about 30 pods. Each pod has 40 to 50 seeds inside. Once the pods are ripe, they’re carefully removed from the tree and taken to a processing facility where workers will extract, dry and roast the beans.

Workers remove the outer shell of the cocoa beans, leaving behind pure cocoa nibs, the key ingredient for making chocolate.

The cocoa nibs then get ground into a paste called chocolate liquor (it’s not actually alcoholic— it’s called liquor because it flows in liquid form). Chocolate liquor is further processed to produce cocoa butter, a fat that lends chocolate its luscious, smooth mouthfeel.

Chocolatiers blend various amounts of chocolate liquor and cocoa butter to make different kinds of chocolate — dark, milk and white.

For chocolate to receive an official chocolate label, it must meet strict FDA guidelines. These guidelines state that chocolate can only be made with cacao, sugar and milk if it’s milk chocolate. It’s also allowed to contain small amounts of vanilla and lecithin, a fat that helps bind the ingredients together.

So, Where Does White Chocolate Come From?

White chocolate comes from the same cocoa beans as regular chocolate but bypasses several of the production steps. White chocolate does not have cocoa or chocolate liquor.

White chocolate made of cocoa butter blended with a combination of sugar, cream, milk and vanilla flavoring. While these ingredients make white chocolate sweet and creamy, they’ve also given rise to dissenting opinions on whether white chocolate is real chocolate. The absence of cacao components and the addition of fillers and excess sweeteners has made some wonder why chocolate is even called chocolate.

Well, it wasn’t always, but more on that later.

The History of White Chocolate

White chocolate’s history is a bit murky, but those in the know credit Nestlé as the first to produce white chocolate in the 1930s in Switzerland. The recipe was a result of Nestlé’s experimentation creating more appealing coatings for a children’s medication.

White Chocolate in the US

Although it was popular, white chocolate was not considered chocolate for most of United States history due to technical standards. To be labeled “chocolate,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required the treat to contain chocolate liquor — the liquid that gives chocolate its deep color and rich flavor. This rule eliminated white chocolate from the conversation.

Instead, the FDA referred to what people were calling “white chocolate” as “confectionery coating” or “white confectionery coating.” Chocolate peddlers often referred to it as white chocolate to better explain the product to the consumer, as it had a presentation and mouthfeel similar to milk and dark chocolate.

A Sweet Turning Point

The world of chocolate was shaken to its core when the FDA amended its chocolate standards to include white chocolate as an approved term. The FDA believed a more established identity for white chocolate would promote honesty and fairness in the interest of consumers and would also achieve consistency with existing international standards for the sweet treat. White chocolate could finally be chocolate!

But there were rules. In order for it to be labeled and sold as real white chocolate, it needs to include the following:

  • No less than 20% cocoa butter
  • No less than 14% total milk solids
  • No less than 3.5% milkfat
  • No more than 55% sugar

Why are there minimum requirements for cocoa butter? Well, cocoa butter is a bit of a hot commodity. It’s a nutritious fat that also has a significant presence in the cosmetic industry. Due to its price, chocolatiers may be tempted to substitute the cocoa butter in their confections for cheaper vegetable fats like palm oil. However, this would result in lower-quality white chocolate. The FDA put a minimum in place so chocolate makers would avoid substitutions and produce good-quality white chocolate instead.

Fun Facts About White Chocolate

If you’re a white chocolate fan, you’ll love these fun facts about the sweet, creamy treat:

  • September 22nd is considered National White Chocolate Day.
  • White chocolate contains only a trace amount of caffeine compared to its dark counterparts.
  • Cocoa butter’s melting point is high enough that white chocolate is solid at room temperature but low enough that white chocolate melts in the mouth.
  • Cocoa butter is one of the most stable fats, with naturally occurring antioxidants that keep it fresh for years.
  • White chocolate’s high-fat content allows it to absorb nearby odors easily, so it’s best to store it in its own container in a cool, dark place like your fridge.
  • Real white chocolate is not actually white but more of a yellow shade. This is because cocoa butter is ivory-colored.

White Chocolate Really Is Chocolate

Yes, white chocolate really is chocolate, provided that it meets the FDA’s chocolate standards.

Many of today’s chocolate makers produce high-quality white chocolate made only with cocoa butter, milk and sugar that’s turned out to be an excellent canvas for other flavors. Chocolatiers have experimented by combining white chocolate with flavors like rosemary, sea salt, mango, chile, lime, turmeric and pomegranate. They’ve also used goat milk and other non-dairy alternatives to make white chocolate.

Choose Warrell Creations for Your Candy and Snack Contract Manufacturing Needs

Warrell Creations is a top candy contract manufacturer with over 55 years of experience. We’ve mastered six fundamental manufacturing processes that allow us to produce tasty sweets and snacks for some of the nation’s most recognizable brands. Our candy capabilities include the following:

  • Chocolate panning
  • Chocolate enrobing
  • Roasting
  • Snack bites
  • Brittle and toffee

If you’re looking for a sweets contract manufacturer, look no further than Warrell Creations. We will work with you to develop high-quality treats, packaging, marketing and post-development customer support.

Contact Warrell Creations today to partner with a trusted confectionery contract manufacturer.

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