A great deal of research and development is needed before the industry is able to reliably replace cocoa butter with an ingredient that completely matches it, warn researchers.
The increasing demand on cocoa butter supply has led to increased costs and an ever rising demand for alternatives to natural cocoa butter.
"Cocoa butter is a unique fat," said the research team - led by Mohd Omar from Universiti Sains Malaysia. "Due to shortage of supply, high price, and technological reasons efforts have been made to find an alternative to cocoa butter."
However, writing in the Journal of Food Engineering, researchers from Malaysia noted that while a large number of alternatives to cocoa butter are already on the market - or have been suggested - there is still no alternative that is able to completely match the unique characteristics of cocoa butter fat.
Omar and his colleagues noted that the majority of natural fats that have investigated as cocoa butter (CB) alternatives have similar bit not exactly the same physical and chemical properties.
"Thus, CB alternatives are produced either by blending or modifying fats in some proportions ... However, no alternatives of cocoa butter fats have been found so far that could meet the exact demand of cocoa butters."
"To overcome the problem, further and prudential research on this topic need to be conducted finding out the precise alternatives of cocoa butter fats that could be able to fulfill the demands of cocoa butter fats," the researchers said.
This new review (found here ) brings together recent scientific knowledge on research in to the alternative fats of cocoa butter from natural sources - highlighting how these cocoa butter alternatives are being produced either by blending, modifying the natural oils or fats from palm oil, palm kernel oil, mango seed kernel fats, kokum butter fat, sal fat, shea butter, and illipé fat.
The review points towards the potential of cocoa butter replacers from palm kernel oil and palm oil, noting while the fatty acid constituents of different blends show significant differences to cocoa butter - there are several processing techniques that enable production of a replacer that has very similar characteristics.
"In comparison with all extraction methods, supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) is feasible in terms of quality product and has the potential to produce a higher yield and a good quality cocoa butter replacers blends," they noted.
The team also noted that it is possible to produce cocoa butter-like fat from vegetable oils such as cottonseed and olive oils by enzymatic interesterification reaction, while the extraction of mango seed kernels also offers an alternative option - especially given the increased popularity of the fruit.
The review also outlines the potential for cocoa butter replacers and substitutes produced from kokum butter fat, sal fat, shea butter, and illipé fat.
Source: Journal of Food Engineering
Volume 117, Issue 4 , August 2013, Pages 467–476, doi: 10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2012.09.024
"Cocoa butter fats and possibilities of substitution in food products concerning cocoa varieties, alternative sources, extraction methods, composition, and characteristics"
Authors: M.H.A. Jahurul, I.S.M. Zaidul, N.A.N. Norulaini, et al