Quest for purity brought allergen-free positioning as a side benefit, chocolate maker says

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Pascha Chocolate sources its raw material in Peru.
Pascha Chocolate sources its raw material in Peru.

Related tags Allergy

The rising tide of food intolerances and allergic reactions bodes well for Pascha Chocolate, a brand that is founded on an allergen-free positioning. But co-founder Courtenay Vuchnich said the real message is purity, with allergen-free coming along for the ride.

“The real idea is purity, which drives us to be allergen-free,”​ Vuchnich, who serves as marketing chief for the company she founded in 2013 with her husband Simon Lester, told FoodNavigator-USA. 

Growth of food allergies

Nevertheless, she said the allergen-free positioning will become important over time. Vuchnich has experience in analyzing trends in the marketplace having spent a number of years with the Cott Corporation, mostly recently as vice president/Europe. She also founded her own marketing consultancy in Toronto.  What she sees in the marketplace is good for companies like hers an ominous for the population as a whole.

“If you look at what’s happening in the population, about 15 million Americans have food allergies, acording to CDC. One in 13 children under the age of 18 has an allergy, and that would be boosted higher if you included food intolerances.  It feels like two or three children per classroom to me,” she said.

“And I think that growth in the prevelance of food allergies hasn’t been as linear as one might have expected.  It started slow and has really taken off in the past two years,” ​Vuchnich said.

Personal experience

Like many food companies, Pascha Chocolate has a personal story.  The couple, who live in Toronto, have a daughter who suffered a severe allergic reaction several years ago and another daughter with food intolerances, and Lester said he has tested positive for an allergic response to milk and some nuts.  So the company started on the path toward a milk-free, nut-free, gluten-free product line.  But Vuchnich said they weren’t just trying to subtract things; they wanted to build  a pure product from the ground up.

“People want an ultrapure, ultranatural product. We wanted to create a product that is the essence of chocolate rather than just trying to take things out,”​ she said.

Vuchnich said the couple searched high and low for a manufacturing facility that could achieve what they were looking for.  The search was surprisingly difficult, and the founders ended up close to where they started near where their chocolate beans are grown in Peru.

“We looked everywhere for a place to make this. We looked in the US, the UK and Europe and we ended up in Latin America. The manufacturing facility is like an operating theater in terms of purity and cleanliness. We didn’t want to transport the beans a long distance because we wanted to protect against cross contamination,”​ Vuchnich said.

Feedback from allergy community

The company offers a line of chocolate bars in varying cocoa concentrations: 55% to 85% cacao and in eight different flavors including such additions as goldenberries, cocoa nibs or Arabica coffee.  While the company is focused on bars at the moment, the company has launched a line of chocolate chips based on feedback it has received from the close-knit food allergy community, Vuchnich said.

“We are very excited about the category. The word of mouth support of allegy families has been fantastic,” ​she said.

“We are focused on chocolate; we are not expanding into crackers or cookies.  But we have launched chocolate chips because so many families were e-mailing us to say they were smashing up our bars to make chocolate chip cookies.  When you have a food allergy in the house it is very much a home cooking situation. You have to control the eating environment so they end up being great bakers,”​ Vuchnich said.

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Heraeus Carbon Infra-Red Heating Systems Help Chocolate Keep Its Temper

Posted by Ray Baird,

Four carbon medium wave infra-red heating systems, from Heraeus Noblelight of Neston, are helping Magna Speciality Confectioners to achieve better control over the quality of their filled chocolate products, as well as saving energy and space when compared with the previous chocolate heating system.
Magna Speciality Confectioners make a wide range of chocolates, under contract, for most of the well-known chocolate manufacturers. They have particular expertise in filled products, such as filled chocolate bars and filled chocolate eggs, where the application of heat is an important process step.
For example, in the manufacture of chocolate filled eggs, molten chocolate is poured into moulds on a so-called book moulding line to form the two halves of the finished product. The chocolate is then chilled so that it solidifies. The moulds are then filled and are eventually brought together, rather like the pages of a book, so that they can form the complete eggs. Obviously before this joining can take place, it is necessary to heat the egg rims, so that the two halves in the two moulds can fuse together.
Previously this had been carried out by using hot air blowers but the temperature profile proved difficult to control with the result that the chocolate was sometimes not at the right consistency, or temper. This caused quality control problems and could also cause problems at the subsequent chilling and wrapping stages.
It is also important to heat the moulds before the chocolate is poured in. If the moulds are too warm, then the chocolate can detemper as it is poured in and if they are too cold, then it can chill. This heating task had previously been carried out by hot air blowers and the inability to guarantee temperature profiles again caused quality control problems.

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