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Special Edition: The possibilities of chocolate with reduced cocoa butter

Emulsifiers in chocolate: Is an e-number a 'show stopper'?

By Oliver Nieburg+

15-Apr-2014
Last updated on 15-Apr-2014 at 13:55 GMT

Chocolate manufacturers are ditching clean labels for cost-saving emulsifiers as the cocoa butter prices soars. Photo Credit: Siona Karen
Chocolate manufacturers are ditching clean labels for cost-saving emulsifiers as the cocoa butter prices soars. Photo Credit: Siona Karen

Previously reluctant chocolate manufacturers are more attracted to partly replacing cocoa butter with emulsifiers to obtain cost-savings and improve molding processes, according to supplier Palsgaard.

Emulsifiers have been used in chocolate for decades, but some producers were previously put off because they would need to declare the emulsifier as an e-number under EU law.

But as the cost of cocoa butter climbs to 65% more than last year, companies are becoming more willing to swap a clean label for cheaper ingredients, Palsgaard said.

Cocoa prices 'hurting' chocolate makers

“We’re seeing increased interest. My feeling is that it [the cocoa butter price] is really hurting the chocolate manufacturers,” said Peter Poulsen, international sales manager at Palsgaard.

“Our biggest challenge is that using these emulsifiers comes with an e-number and that’s the biggest barrier – it can be a show stopper. But the likelihood is greater at the moment with cocoa butter prices.”

March 2014 cocoa butter prices were 65% higher than the prior year and analysts at Mintec estimate that the production of a 100 g wrapped milk chocolate bar has risen by 20% year-on-year.

The majority of big chocolate companies including Mars, Hershey and Mondelēz use emulsifiers.

Lecithin (E322) is the most commonly used type in chocolate. It is derived from natural sources such as soybeans but is considered artificial as it is usually extracted with chemicals.

How much money can I save?

“The main purpose for the use is to reduce the amount of cocoa butter,” said Poulsen.

He said that many companies were now looking more closely at replacing cocoa butter with emulsifiers or changing from soy lecithin to alternative emulsifier ammonium phosphatide to realize cost savings.

He said that 3.5% less cocoa butter could translate to savings of over €100,000 ($140,000) when producing 1,000 metric tons (MT) of chocolate and more than €1m ($1.4m) at a 10,000 MT level.

Improved molding

Palsgaard sells lecithin as well as ammonium phosphatide (E442) from rape seed oil under trade name Palsgaard AMP 4448. It also supplies emulsifier polyglycerol polyricinoleate (E476), derived from castor oil, under the trade name PGPR 4150.

“PGPR is excellent when you want to mold chocolate because it has a low yield value. For a difficult mold you need a low yield value so it’s easier for you to vibrate the chocolate in the corner of the mold and to vibrate the air bubbles out of the chocolate,” said Poulsen.

He added that the yield value made this emulsifier well-suited to covering inclusions and defining details on hollow chocolate figures.

Quality and usage restrictions

The level of replacement possible depends on the emulsifier, but there are restrictions for use in chocolate. The max dosage for emulsifiers in chocolate in the EU is 0.6% by weight and 2.3% in the US.

Poulsen said that the emulsifier would have some effect on quality. “There will be some changes that will lead to a slight difference in taste. And yes, it will be more sweet.”

The loss of fat is commonly replaced with sugar, making the product sweeter. Manufacturers will also need to adjust tempering, but there are no drastic changes in processing.

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