Waste shells from cocoa processing are rich in fibre and antioxidants and carry great potential as food ingredients, according to Australian plantation-to-bar manufacturer Daintree Estates.
Barry Kitchen, executive chairman of Daintree Estates told ConfectioneryNews that his firm was around three months away from introducing an antioxidant-rich cocoa shell extract that could be used as an ingredient in beverages and chocolate.
“We are looking at all the goodies in waste. Waste can be as valuable if not more valuable than the thing you are making,” he said.
Cocoa shells (also known as hulls or husks) are the outer portions of cocoa beans that encase the nibs.
Fiber and antioxidant-rich
“The cocoa shell is a magnificent piece of material that hasn’t been exploited,” said Kitchen, a former managing director of innovation and science at Cadbury Schweppes Australia.
Cocoa shells are usually burnt for fuel at cocoa processing factories or used as mulch in gardens to add nutrients to soil and to suppress weeds.
Kitchen said the material was rich in fibre and antioxidants and had huge potential as a food and beverage ingredient.
Cocoa shell extract
Kitchen comes from a scientific background and is currently an associate professor at Southern Cross University’s Centre for Phytochemistry and Pharmacology, which explores ingredients used in nutraceutical and pharmaceutical applications. His business partner is also a professor and medical doctor by trade.
Together the pair have conducted a lot of unpublished research and are close to commercializing a cocoa shell extract, using waste shells from its cocoa processing operations.
Barry Callebaut patent
Earlier this year, Barry Callebaut filed a patent for a process to grind cocoa shells into a powder fit for use as a cocoa replacer, fat bloom inhibitor and ingredient in other foods.
“We’ve talked with Callebaut and it hasn’t been a pleasant encounter,” said Kitchen.
But he added: “We’re not going to upset a Barry Callebaut or a Mars because we are not competing with them.”
Daintree Estates produces boutique chocolate, which is distinct from industrial chocolate operations, he said.
Kraft Foods R&D filed a patent in 2005 for a method to extract theobromine-enriched fractions and polyphenol-enriched fractions from cocoa shells. It filed another in 2009 on foods containing alkalized cocoa shells.
Kitchen said that he wasn’t convinced whether the majority of patents on cocoa shells, filed in the last few years, would stand, since he had been doing the research for several years.
Cocoa waste as packaging
Barry Callebaut recently teamed with UK packaging supplier James Cropper , which is converting some of Callebaut’s cocoa shell waste into bio-recyclable paper packaging.
Others are looking at waste from the cocoa tree itself. Community Solutions International produces notebooks and other stationery for the cocoa industry. Its products are derived from cocoa tree bark that is removed from the branches during farm maintenance in Sulawesi, Indonesia
Cocoa shells have also previously been touted as a source of pectin - which is widely used as a gelling agent in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. Pectin is typically extracted from extracted by-products in the food industry such as citrus peel, apple pomace and to a lesser extent, sugar beet pulp.