The company last year launched its own-brand of chocolate probiotics – Chocowise, under its Biorela brand– which it describes as a food supplement rather than a functional food. It also produces the product for private label customers.
Changing perception of chocolate
"We think consumers are looking for new delivery forms and gummies, chocolates and soft chews are definitely very interesting,” Iva Martic, head of product development at Milsing told ConfectioneryNews at nutraceutical trade show Vitafoods Europe in Geneva last month.
"The perception of chocolate has changed a lot in the last 10 years, especially dark chocolate. I think consumers recognize there are a lot of benefits, so it definitely makes sense to put some functional ingredients inside, especially probiotics because they are extremely stable in chocolate,” she continued. “Also there is a synergy between cocoa fibers and probiotics - they actually feed on it, so the stability is much better than when you use capsules or tablets."
She said preliminary data in research published by the American Chemical Society indicated that probiotic bacteria helped to metabolize flavonoids in chocolate, so they are better absorbed.
Milsing started as a distributor of vitamins and minerals, but later developed its own products and produced a probiotic chocolate last year.
The company is distributing the product solely in pharmacies because it views the product as a food supplement. "It's good to keep this pharmaceutical image - we don’t want to be seen as a functional food,” said Martic.
Milsing distributes its own-brand Chocowise in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia and is in negotiations to enter several other European countries.
Will it sell?
Chocolate is the smallest functional confectionery category by sales, but is set to be the fastest growing in the next five years. According to Euromonitor International, global functional chocolate confectionery sales stood at $278m in 2014, but are forecast for a coumpound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.9% up to 2019.
In Croatia, a pack of 10 retails for €7-8. "We have quite low prices in Croatia, so this is just an indication,” said Martic. “We started marketing it in our domestic market as part of a well-known brand that already has capsules and sachets and all kinds of products. What we've seen is that the probiotic chocolate not only sells well, it increases the sales of the whole brand,” she said.
The 12.5 g bars - in dark, milk and sugarfree forms- contain Dupont’s probiotic HOWARU Bifido (Bifidobacterium lactis HN019) at a dosage of 10bn bacteria per bar.
Martic said no masking agents were required. "Probiotics are very taste neutral,” she said. “The biggest issue is actually including it in chocolate because the production of chocolate is quite an aggressive procedure, so we have a propriety technology, which is an adapted conching procedure, which help us keep the bacteria alive."
Milsing has no plans to license the technology, but will license the product for private label.
Milsing also produces caffeine and B Vitamin-fortified chocolate Up&Sharp under its Chocowise brand. Each 12.5 g dark chocolate bar contains 75 mg of caffeine from guarana and a mix of B-vitamins. "This would be more in the fast-moving consumer goods channel and something that people could buy in a petrol station," said Milsing's Martic.
The term ‘probiotic’ is deemed an unauthorized implied health claim in the EU but each of the 28 members states have adopted varying interpretations of this status under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR). Some major probiotic manufacturers such as Danone now simply mention particular strains. "Consumers already recognize words like lactobaccilus or bifidus bacteria,” said Martic.
Milsing’s Chocowise is also fortified with Vitamin D, allowing the product to carry an immunity claim.