Belgian chocolate is profiting from a consumer trend for authentic and traceable products, according to industrial chocolate producer and ingredients supplier Puratos.
The company also stated its intention to further invest in origins and the health properties of cocoa in response to consumer trends.
“We see in the consumer more demand to know where their food is coming from and more authenticity in the product. “ Caroline Ouwerx, director of real chocolate at Puratos told ConfectioneryNews. “People are interested in the stories around the product.”
Storytelling and Belgian chocolate
According to Puratos, in vogue authenticity has delivered a boost to the company’s pure Belgian chocolate brand Belcolade.
“We see a worldwide trend towards real Belgian chocolate,” said Ouwerx, particularly Japan. Demand is also strong in China, but the Chinese are still largely discovering chocolate, she said.
Belgian chocolate must be produced under strict criteria as outlined in the Belgian chocolate industry association Choprabisco’s ‘Belgian Chocolate Code’.
Origins: Asian and Vietnamese cocoa
The desire to know where ingredients come from has also accelerated demand for origin chocolate.
“More and more cocoa is coming from the Asian continent,” said Ouwerx.
Puratos’ joint venture company, Puratos Grand-Place Vietnam, recently opened a fermentation plant in Ben Tre province, which included a Cocoa Development Center opened in collaboration with Mars.
“The taste is quite different because it’s another type of soil and another type of cocoa,” said Ouwerx.
Puratos’ Vietnamese cocoa is derived from Trinitario trees, a hybrid of Forastero trees, commonly cultivated in West Africa, and Criollo trees that are typically found in South America and yield fine flavor beans.
Ouwerx added: “We supply sustainable chocolate and it is answering a demand coming from the consumer. The consumer more and more wants to know where their food is coming from – they want transparency.”
Another trend Puratos sees is an appetite for healthy products.
“It’s about the paradoxical behavior of the consumer,” said Ouwerx. “On the one hand they ask for low fat/low sugar products but there’s still an important demand for indulgence.”
She said that the chocolate industry faced the dilemma of catering to consumers’ principal taste concerns and at the same time providing a healthier profile. Consequently, portion size was becoming smaller, she said.
Antioxidants in chocolate
“Even though a chocolate contains fat, it also contains cocoa which is high in antioxidants,” said Ouwerx.
She said that the positive impact of antioxidants on health and mood outweighed adverse effects from fat consumption. Puratos is also exploring ways to boost the healthy elements of chocolate.
It has created its Oxanti brand chocolate through a process that boosts the presence of natural antioxidants in cocoa by 40-50% compared to a traditionally-produced chocolate. Ouwerx said that the conching process was key, but refused to divulge further details.
The method boosts the antioxidant power of cocoa flavanols, but the amount of cocoa flavanols remains unchanged.