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More is not always better. When it comes to cacao percentage, finding the perfect percentage for you is more important than finding the highest cacao percentage available.

In the United States, a set of federal regulations, called the Standards of Identity, govern the composition and nomenclature of chocolate. Chocolate can be legally defined to fit into one of the different chocolate categories defined below. However, the Bittersweet and Semi-Sweet category encompasses a broad range of chocolate with different levels of cacao content. In order to provide consumers with more information about our chocolate, Ghirardelli provides the cacao content on all of our chocolate with 60% cacao content or higher. Ghirardelli is the first national brand to label our Baking Chips and Baking Bars with cacao content.

Find out more about what cacao content means.

Chocolate Varieties

The Primary Types of Chocolate

Bittersweet or Semi Sweet (Dark) Chocolate Sweetened chocolate with a minimum cocoa bean or chocolate liquor content of 35% by weight, and which may contain up to 12% milk solids. Dark chocolate is the latest rage, often preferred by adults with equally sophisticated food palates. The current trend favors bittersweet and semi sweet chocolates with far more than the minimum required chocolate liquor content, and with little or no milk content, resulting in more intense chocolate flavor and complexity, and less sweetness.

Milk Chocolate Chocolate that contains a minimum of 10% by weight of chocolate liquor, at least 3.39% milk fat, and a minimum of 12% milk solids (inclusive of milk fat). The current trend favors milk chocolates with more than the minimum of chocolate liquor, producing more chocolate flavor and less sweetness.

White Chocolate A sweet ivory-colored confection that contains by weight at least 20% cocoa butter, at least 14% milk solids, and at least 3.5% milk fat, and no more than 55% sweeteners.

The following standards apply to all chocolates:

Unsweetened Chocolate (100% Cacao Content)

  • Unsweetened Chocolate is also called chocolate liquor. It is made from finely ground roasted cocoa nibs.
  • Can be natural or dutch (alkalized).

Bittersweet Chocolate (35-99% Cacao Content)

  • Many types and brands of chocolate will fit into this category ranging from 35% cacao content to 99% cacao content. It must also contain at least 35% unsweetened chocolate and less than 12% milk solids.
  • This category has many names including Bittersweet, Semi-Sweet, Dark, Extra Dark or Extra Bittersweet Chocolate.
  • Generally, Bittersweet chocolate has an unsweetened chocolate content of 50% or more and Semi-sweet chocolate contains 35-45% unsweetened chocolate.

Sweet Chocolate (15-34% Cacao Content)

  • Sweet Chocolate contains at least 15% unsweetened chocolate and less than 12% milk solids. Sweet Chocolate is more commonly called Dark Chocolate, although it has a lower cacao content than Bittersweet Chocolate.

Milk Chocolate

  • Milk Chocolate contains at least 10% unsweetened chocolate, 12% milk solids, and 3.39% milk fat.

White Chocolate

  • Previously there were no legal standards to define White Chocolate. The Standards of Identity recently created a legal definition to provide consumers with more information. White Chocolate must contain at least 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk solids, and 3.5% milk fat.