While interest in the health benefits of chocolate may has increasing, the benefits are not limited to just any old chocolate. The flavonol-content is the decisive factor. Mary Wagner, chief technology officer for Mars Botanical, says that the type of bean is not important, but it is the processing that is the key.
“The flavonols are very sensitive to oxygen, light, and heat,” said Wagner. “The moment you open the pod, the clock starts ticking,” she says.
The company’s CocoaPro proprietary process focuses on heat.
Herwig Bernaert, innovation manager for Barry Callebaut has a different opinion, noting that both source and processing are important. “You have to select the right beans, and understand which farmers, co-operatives, areas in certain countries can provide these beans.”
Barry Callebaut’s proprietary Acticoa process maintains 80 per cent of the polyphenols in the final product, compared to standard dark chocolate that loses 80 per cent during processing.
The price of the beans is “inherently more expensive”, said Bernaert, but that it was difficult to say how many times more than standard chocolate. “The point is to get the right beans you need a very good sourcing structure. You must be present in the origin countries, work with the farmers, and give them incentives to perform the special tasks,” he explained.
“It is very important to have lots of beans available,” he added. The company sources predominantly from South America and Western Africa.
Another player in the field is Spain’s Natraceutical, recently acquired by France’s Naturex. The company’s CocoanOX powder is a rich source of flavonoids, with a reported 139 milligrams of polyphenols per gram of cocoa powder, 129 milligrams of which are procyanidins, according to the new report.
Sustainability is obviously an issue when it comes to supply. Barry Callebaut’s Bernaert said the company is present in the origin countries working with farmers to build “long-lasting relationships”. He added that the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes also includes funding schools and hospitals in the growing countries.
Wagner also noted that Mars has worked hard to ensure sustainability “through many efforts”. The company is said to be active in various cocoa sustainability initiatives around the world, including the Cocoa Sustainability Partnership in Southeast Asia.
The company’s cocoa-sustainability programme goes beyond a fair-trade message, it said. The majority of its beans are sourced from Indonesia.
When is chocolate not chocolate?
But some in the industry have turned it around – "If Mohammad can't go to the mountain, let the mountain come to Mohammad", so to speak. Germany’s Wild have come up with a blend of plant extracts to help chocolate manufacturers create antioxidant rich products without needing to buy special quality cocoa beans, and to avoid the gentle processing techniques.
The blend itself contains plant extracts from green and white tea as well as green rooibos and grape seeds, which all have high and standardised levels of polyphenols, according to Wild.
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