The process could help revitalise a sector that is coming under intense scrutiny as consumers become more aware of dietary implications. Chocolate consumption in many EU countries is beginning to slow down, with health concerns impacting on sales.
However research results have confirmed that polyphenols in cocoa beans are valuable substances due to their health benefits. Manufacturers could therefore capitalise on this by retaining them in foods to the greatest-possible degree.
Barry Callebaut has developed a special process for the preservation of polyphenols in cocoa, which are often lost during normal chocolate processing.
This process - under the trademark Acticoa - covers several processing stages, from harvesting through the processing of cocoa beans to the finished product, chocolate. The greatest loss in terms of natural polyphenols takes place during the fermentation of cocoa beans.
This is why part of the beans used by Barry Callebaut in the Acticoa process are unfermented. Patent applications are still pending for the process.
The Acticoa symbol on packs of Barry Callebaut chocolates sold by Barry Callebaut or by its customers indicates the use of the gentle new process, and thus a particularly high level of polyphenols.
Barry Callebaut's polyphenol process comes at a critical time for the chocolate manufacturing industry. According to market analyst Datamonitor, the pace of growth in the UK chocolate market is slated to slow down. In 2004, overall chocolate volume sales rose by less than 1 per cent to 605m kg.
"This trend is likely to continue to the end of the decade," said the company.
"This trend has already been seen in the US. As the childhood obesity controversy rolls on, food and beverage manufacturers are increasingly aiming new product developments at adults."
In order to beat off stagnant sales Datamonitor anticipates the major players on the market will increasingly launch products with built-in health benefits in order to achieve price premiums in an increasingly crowded market place, and in effort to attract adult consumers back to the chocolate market.
Barry Callebaut is the world's leading manufacturer of cocoa, chocolate and confectionery products with annual sales of more than CHF 4 billion for fiscal year 2003/04. The company operates more than 30 production facilities in 22 countries and employs 8,700 people.