It is using a liquid-liquid partition chromatography method called centrifugal partition chromatography (CPC).
The company claims that the method is an improvement on functional assays such as oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), which are commonly used to quantify flavonoids.
Limitations of ORAC
“Numerous reports have discussed the potential benefits of these compounds [flavanoids] on human health and wellbeing,” said Hershey in its patent application.
“However, due to at least the complexity of their source from plant material, methods of purification, identification and quantification of specific polymers and oligomers of these compounds have been difficult to achieve in reliable and efficient ways.”
Advantage of CPC
It continued: “The liquid-liquid system avoids the common problems in purifying flavonoids and flavan-3-ols, as they are prone to adhere to solid supports.”
“In addition, as it is known that the chirality of cocoa flan-3-ols and flavanols effects their bioavailability and that distinct chiral species have differing biological activity, the methods can be used to isolate specific chiral compounds and subsets of chiral compounds from plants and cocoa in particular.”
Under CPC, Procyanidins and even specific subsets can be isolated, making the compounds easier to quantify.
Procyanidins are a class of flavonoids found in cocoa, apples and berries with antioxidant potential. They are the second most natural phenolic substance found in nature.
Hershey used its CPC method with Theobroma cacao beans. The company's Patent application is available HERE.
In 2009, Mars developed another method to quantify cocoa flavanols and procyanidins: Phase High-Performance Liquid Chromatography. Last year, its method was validated by 12 international laboratories in a study published in the Journal of AOAC International.
Catherine Kwik-Uribe, global scientific & regulatory Affairs, human Health and nutrition director at Mars told this site: "With regard to analysis, we do not specifically patent in this area as we wish to have this remain 'open-access,' allowing the scientific community and industry to have access to appropriate methods for analysis."