The Spanish supplier patented cocoa shell-derived ingredient Cocoa Fiber FICAO in 1997 – but use has been limited to a handful of manufacturers in Europe.
The cocoa fiber was used by Spanish food group Nutrexpa in a cocoa-based breakfast drinks mix launched in 2000, but FICAO was never heavily marketed.
Moner Cocoa – part of the Nederland Group – now sees prospects to relaunch the ingredient in the US as the FDA assesses whether certain fibers meet its definition of "dietary fiber".
FDA reviewing 26 fibers
Jordi Sanahuja, area sales manager, North America, at Moner Cocoa told ConfectioneryNews:"Right now we're selling in Europe, but in very low quantities [with four customers].
“In Europe, it's not so common to find many products with a higher fiber content,” he said. "We are finding more opportunities in North America mainly because there is a lack of cocoa fibers there right now and cocoa fiber is approved to be sold.”
The FDA is conducting a scientific review of 26 isolated and synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates, including apple fiber, gum acacia and potato fiber to determine if they meet its definition of “dietary fiber”.
Brands can continue to formulate with these 26 ingredients, but don’t yet know if they will be able to count them as grams of dietary fiber on the new-look Nutrition Facts label.
It comes as Americans are not getting enough dietary fiber in their diets. Average daily fiber intake in America is 16 g, according to the study ‘What We Eat in America, NHANES 2009-2010’.
The FDA recommends about 25 g of total dietary fiber daily, of which about 25% (about 6 g) should be soluble fiber.
Cocoa fiber is not among the 26 ingredients under FDA review.
Sanahuja said he has consulted with the FDA by email and an FDA representative said FICAO would be considered a dietary fiber.
This presents an opportunity for cocoa fibers, especially if the FDA removes any of the 26 ingredients from its list of dietary fibers, said Sanahuja.
Main applications: Cookies and bakery
Moner Cocoa sees the most potential for FICAO in cookies, bakery products, drink mixes and nutritional bars.
"We find this product is most interesting when you are removing part of the [existing] cocoa powders for a cookie or in bakery....when you're manufacturing chocolate, you're not normally using cocoa powder, you are using cocoa butter, mass or liquor.
“I don’t think companies will be requesting high fiber content chocolate,” Sanahuja said.
FICAO is derived from sterilized cocoa shells without use of chemicals.
"It's very similar to cocoa powder - it smells like a regular cocoa powder,” Sanahuja said.
"The only limitation we have is that the fiber is dark brown. If you want to develop a cookie with a flavor [other than chocolate], it is not possible. Our ingredient only applies to cocoa-based products because of the color, smell and taste,” he said.
Reduced fat content
FICAO contains 60% of the dry matter as dietary fiber, with two thirds of insoluble dietary fiber and one third of soluble dietary fiber.
Moner Cocoa claims the cocoa fiber has a low fat content of less than 7%, which allows for a calorie reduction when replacing regular cocoa powder with FICAO.
The cocoa fiber is only suitable for part replacement of cocoa powder due to taste constraints. FICAO appears as a brown powder, but it tastes bitterer and less fruity than standard cocoa.
Brands can declare FICAO as ‘cocoa fiber’ on ingredient listings in the US.
Barry Callebaut in 2013 also filed a patent for a cocoa fiber ingredient derived from cocoa shells.