To capture chocolate sales from the health-conscious consumer segment, chocolate manufacturers must understand the science of cocoa and flavanols. Chocolate producers and retailers who softly market their confections as health supplements should keep up with the latest research. They should use the findings to reformulate their chocolate products to customers' standards and accurately label their products to increase trust in their brand.
Here's what chocolate producers should know about the science of cocoa flavanoid phytology.
Tests show more cocoa solids don't equal more flavanols
Industry experts may have been led to believe that darker chocolate products have increased amounts of the healthy flavanols that researchers claim fight diseases and aging. New research shows that this is not always the case.
After testing a variety of commercial chocolate bars for their percentages of flavanols, researchers discovered that the longstanding ideas about cocoa and flavanols are not necessarily true. The percentage of cocoa solids in a given bar did not always correlate with the bar's percentage of flavanols.
While dark chocolate bars did tend to have most flavanols, the bars with the highest amount of cocoa solids did not have the highest levels of flavanols. One bar with 90% solids had flavanol levels equal to a bar with 50% solids.
Overall, milk chocolate bars showed lower concentrations of the flavanols epicatechin and catechin than the percentages found in dark chocolate bars, but the study clearly shows that different processing methods may produce liquors and end products that vary in flavanol amounts, despite the cocoa solid content.
Adding mangosteen rind can increase polyphenols in chocolate
Other health experts claim that most commercial chocolate products don't contain enough flavonols to be effective dietary supplements. Chocolate manufacturers should know they have options that can increase polyphenols (which include flavanols) in their products if their levels are too low.
It's important to have ways to increase flavanols to meet consumer demand. Recent studies have determined the safe and effective dosages of these agents, and consumers want precise labeling to ingest the dosages they or their physicians recommend.
It's important to routinely test both your chocolate liquor and other end products to give the most precise labeling possible on any products deemed "healthy." If you can't get your product up to acceptable polyphenol levels, there are ingredients you can add to increase their numbers in your chocolate product.
Dried and ground mangosteen rind—a food byproduct also known as pericarp—has shown promise as a polyphenol enhancer in chocolate. When a 3% addition of pericarp was made to dark and compound chocolate formulas, the dark chocolate's polyphenol content rose by 13%, and the compound chocolate saw a 50% increase in polyphenols.
If you market your products as enjoyable confections, flavanol levels are not much to worry about. If you want to tap the market of consumers who look to chocolate as preventative or healing medicine, do the science and label your products as completely as possible.