Under the claim, dark chocolate makers will be able to say their product is ‘good for your heart’ if they use Barry Callebaut’s flavanol-preserving products, according to Herwig Bernaert, R&D innovation at the company.
“We’re seeing how far the claim can be commercialized,” he said. But two claims that should be permissible are “good for blood flow” and “good for your heart”.
The cocoa flavanol health claim was written into EU law by the European Commission yesterday. The claim says that eating 200 mg of cocoa flavanols daily either from cocoa beverages or dark chocolate contributes to normal blood flow.
“In principal it’s a big achievement for us. It will open up new market opportunities for everyone,” said Bernaert.
He said that EU approval meant chocolate firms could make, “consumer compelling claims”.
Is there consumer demand?
But does consumer demand for such products really exist among consumers?
DSM-Provexis won an EFSA-approved health claim for a Fruitflow tomato extract in 2009 also for improved blood flow. It was used in Multiple Marketing’s juice product Sirco, but the claim did not resonate with consumers as hoped with sales falling below expectations.
Bernaert said this wouldn’t be the case for a blood flow claim on cocoa.
“People love dark chocolate. It’s not about comparing it to something else. We have an established market.”
Barry Callebaut has proprietary rights to the health claim for five years. The company intends to use the claim to sell products manufactured through its flavanol preserving Acticoa method, but Bernaert said the firm would not rule out licensing the claim.
The Swiss choc giant will soon go to market in the EU for its Acticoa products after selling Acticoa goods in the US since 2005.
The company has already had interest from a number of existing and new customers in the EU, both within the confectionery industry and in novel areas such as food supplements.
He pointed to consumer research by Datamonitor, which surveyed hundreds of consumers in Western Europe and found that a heart health claim had more appeal than all other top claims.
38% of those surveyed said they were interested in and actively bought products to improve heart health. A further 49% were interested in heart health products but were not actively buying. However, only 29% of consumers claimed to be actively convinced by heart health claims.
Euromonitor International ingredients analyst Lauren Bandy said earlier this year that a cocoa flavanol claim would be more a novelty than a revolution for the chocolate industry because the wording was still very technical.
The official wording of the claim reads: "Cocoa flavanols help maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, which contributes to normal blood flow"
A license to over-indulge?
Bernaert dismissed suggestions that the claim could be misinterpreted by consumers who could go on a chocolate-binge.
“People, they enjoy chocolate and they consumer a normal amount. It’s fitting in with your lifestyle.”
The health claim can only be made with dark chocolate and cocoa beverages containing over 200mg of cocoa flavanols.
This amount of cocoa flavanols equates to 2.5g of Acticoa cocoa powder in a beverage or 10g in Aciticoa dark chocolate – which is around two blocks of a 100g tablet.
Milk chocolate not covered
Milk and white chocolate, as well as cocoa powder in other applications, are not covered by the claim.
“In milk chocolate you would have to consume too much to get the benefit, a few dozen grams,” said Bernaert, which would be far above recommended intake levels.
He added that cocoa flavanols in powder for other applications were unstable and would not guarantee absorption in the body.
Where next for cocoa flavanol science?
Scientific literature in support of the health benefits of cocoa is growing rapidly. We asked Bernaert for his thoughts on the next big area for cocoa flavanol science.
“Cocoa flavanols have shown an indication for brain functioning but it’s too complicated to show a benefit.
“The brain is a difficult area. You have to show people have a benefit and it’s quite subjective.”
Barry Callebaut said in a presentation earlier this year that the price range for Acticoa products will be similar to other heart health ingredients.