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Europe’s first cocoa flavanol health claim chocolate to hit store shelves

By Oliver Nieburg+

01-Mar-2016
Last updated on 01-Mar-2016 at 13:00 GMT2016-03-01T13:00:40Z

ChoVita range intended for pharmacies and high-end supermarkets, says brand owner Vandenbulcke
ChoVita range intended for pharmacies and high-end supermarkets, says brand owner Vandenbulcke

Belgian firm Vandenbulcke has introduced ChoVita, the first chocolate brand in Europe that makes a cocoa flavanol health claim that it is 'good for your blood flow'.

The brand uses Barry Callebaut's Acticoa chocolate , which employs special processing to preserve cocoa flavanols.

In 2013, Barry Callebaut won an EU-approved health claim to say that 200 mg of cocoa flavanols in cocoa beverages or dark chocolate contribute to normal blood flow.

Early innovator

"We wanted to be the first to have this new concept, so we are the early innovators in this new business,” Jeff Vandenbulcke, sales manager at Confiserie Vandenbulcke, told ConfectioneryNews at the ISM trade fair in Cologne, where the company launched the product.

"It makes your blood go better through your body. It opens your vessels and because of that you have less chance of having heart disease or memory loss,” he claimed.

The ChoVita range - which includes chocolate tablets, galettes, pearls, napolitanes and thin chocolate slices that can be placed on bread – makes the on-pack claim 'Good for your blood flow'.

Vandenbulcke said the claim was permitted in Europe and the US, but not yet Asia.

One square a day

The packaging features a red cocoa pod that is supposed to represent the heart.

Mars-backed researchers question chocolate as delivery vehicle

Mars and several European Universities are supporting the FLAVIOLA project   to explore potential health pros in cocoa-based drinks. FLAVIOLA researchers have previously called chocolate an unsuitable delivery vehicle as it requires a large caloric intake to obtain benefits such as reduced heart disease risk and lower blood pressure. Mars is also funding a research project  whereby 18,000 participants will be given either two multivitamin placebo tablets or two cocoa flavanol capsules each day for four years. That project is expected to conclude in 2019.

The sugar-sweetened chocolate contains 65% cocoa solids and uses cocoa from Barry Callebaut’s Quality Partner Program , which is part of the supplier’s Cocoa Horizons sustainability program.

A consumer needs to eat 10 g a day to have the effect. This equates to about one square of the chocolate tablet.

Barry Callebaut focusing on other categories

Barry Callebaut won the right to extend its cocoa health claim in the EU to supplements in April last year. It has since signed a deal with Naturex to bring cocoa extract supplements to market.

Speaking to this site at Food Ingredients Europe (FiE) trade fair in Paris last December, Peter Boone, chief innovation officer at Barry Callebaut, said his company had initially targeted chocolate confectioners for the claim, but it now sees the most potential in drinks, snack bars and supplements.

"The whole health trend is young,” he said. "You have to find the right product to sell it in."

"I've never believed that these active health claims will be used in chocolate. Chocolate you eat because you want to enjoy it... you don’t want to pay a big premium for that. If you want to do something that's good for your heart you don’t think about chocolate."

But Vandenbulcke said: "There’s a need for a new kind of chocolate that can bring another story."

High-end product

Vandenbulcke has yet to secure retail listing for ChoVita, but its sales manager said there had be ample interest at the ISM trade fair

"We want to get it at high-end department stories or in pharmacies. It could be the pharmacy sector - it could be in the health department of a supermarket. That's where we see it,” he said.

Vandenbulcke expects the retail price to be around €40-50 ($43-54) per kilo.

"It will not be a cheap product,” he said. “It's a high-end premium product... but I think people will be willing to pay for this because health is becoming more and more important."

The target consumer will be older people wary of their health and younger consumers interested in raw chocolate, said the sales chief.

Belgian confectioner Vandenbulcke

Premium chocolate firm Vandenbulcke was founded in 1949. The company, based in Heule, Belgium, is present in 40 countries and sells around 1m kg of chocolate every year. Alongside its own brands Vandenbulcke Chocolatier and Le Chevalier de Courtrai, it also produces for private label customers. 

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