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Flavanols crying over split milk chocolate opportunity?

Barry Callebaut can’t milk dark chocolate flavanol claim, but does it matter? Photo credit:Siona Karen
Barry Callebaut can’t milk dark chocolate flavanol claim, but does it matter? Photo credit:Siona Karen

Barry Callebaut says that high flavanol milk chocolate would be too expensive, but is hopeful that its blood flow health claim for dark chocolate will galvanize the functional chocolate market.

Barry Callebaut last year won an EU-approved health claim to say that 200 mg of cocoa flavanols in cocoa beverages or dark chocolate contributed to normal blood flow.

In May this year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a positive scientific opinion to extend Barry Callebaut’s claim to cocoa extract products such as supplements. However, the company has not applied to extend the claim to milk chocolate, a popular format.

Portion sizes too big for milk chocolate

“We didn’t apply for a claim on milk chocolate because of the fact that if you want to squeeze in 200 mg in a milk chocolate and preserve it’s taste you’ll end up with a too big portion size…the portion size would be 40 g or higher,” said Ieme Blondeel, project innovation lead of Acticoa, Barry Callebaut’s flavanol preserving chocolate.

Blondeel was speaking at ConfectioneryNews’ 'Vitafoods Live!' debate on ‘Cocoa flavanol science and the potential for better-for-you chocolate’ in Geneva Switzerland on Tuesday 6 May 2014.

Keeping it natural

Barry Callebaut has set a 20 g portion size limit for its claim on dark chocolate. Blondeel said that a smaller portion of milk chocolate fortified with flavanols would become too expensive and said that if it were fortified, the chocolate would lose its natural claim.

“For all the products that are fortified the credibility is much lower. If you have it naturally present people will believe it’s much better.”

Medical doctor Claudio Ferri, director of the School of Internal Medicine, University of L’Aquila, said that cocoa exerted cardiovascular benefits whatever the medium in which flavanols were dissolved. “But under the treatment profile, in order to improve the general healthy profile of any population adherence is important and so if persons prefer the beverages that’s good for me.”

‘Not going to see the claim on a Mars bar’

Lauren Bandy, ingredients analyst for Euromonitor International, said that because the health claim was limited it was unlikely to revolutionize the chocolate industry.

“We’re not going to be seeing a health claim on a Mars bar or any chocolate product you can find.”

“If you look at the proportion of tablets that are dark [chocolate], it varies by country, but in the UK it’s as low as 11% and in Belgium it’s as high as 40%.”

Rise of dark chocolate

However she said that dark chocolate sales were on the rise and had grown over 60% in the UK and by 30% in Switzerland and Italy in the past five years.

“There is a move towards dark. How much of that is really driven by health? It’s more origin specific chocolate, fine flavors and more ethical tablets that’s driving that trend rather than the health aspect,” she said.

Blondeel agreed with Bandy’s assessment. “The mass market is milk chocolate,” he said. “The market for dark chocolate is still quite vast but it will probably not revolutionize the whole market. I think it can revolutionize the functional market of chocolate.”

According to Euromonitor, the Western European fortified and functional chocolate market was worth $78m in 2013, representing just 0.2% of all chocolate confectionery sales in Western Europe.

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