From niche to norm?

Appetites for chocolates in recent years have included plant-based, clean label and higher cocoa content in their scope, writes Editor Caitlin Gittins

What you perceive as quality chocolate has often been down to personal preferences and tastes. In recent years, however, the rise of conscious consumers concerned with health and wellcbeing, sustainability and indulgence has influenced heavily on chocolate offerings, including plant-based products and chocolate which contains higher cocoa content, fewer additives and reduced sugar with quality. Couple this with tastes for more unique flavours which can be achieved by experimenting with inclusions, and producers have been met with challenges to create chocolate that tantalises the taste buds and ticks all these boxes. 

Driving trends – less cocoa content  

Trends driving growth in the chocolate market include premiumisation – seeking out products that are higher priced and have better quality – formulating with natural and alternative ingredients, and health-consciousness. “We’re seeing trends like ‘better for you’ and ‘better for the planet’ drive growth in the market,” explained Hendriek Bazyn, Business Manager FIllings & Coatings, Fuji Oil Europe. “We’re seeing client specific developments to supply products that guarantee a maximum level of contaminants or are fortified with proteins or fibres, for example.”  

“Outstanding quality, multi-sensorial experiences and health-consciousness, particularly the reduction of sugar by replacing it with cocoa or other ingredients are the characteristics consumers are looking for,” agreed Marco Casinghini, System Engineering Process Manager at SACMI Packaging & Chocolate.  

Tastes for chocolate with a higher cocoa content and less sugar has meant producers need quality cocoa beans that have been properly fermented and roasted, and greater control over the processing steps. The rich variety of flavour profiles in cocoa beans has been compared to wine, in recognising that each has its own flavour and influence on the final product.  

There are challenges in formulating chocolate with higher cocoa content, Hendriek explained. “Given the current high price levels of cocoa beans and derivatives, higher cocoa chocolates are more expensive, so it’s a commercial challenge.” 

An AAK spokesperson I spoke to mentioned the viability of cocoa butter equivalents (CBEs) to achieve cost savings and still satisfy customer expectations. “The incorporation of CBEs into chocolate recipes not only yields cost efficiency but also elevates the snap and texture of the chocolate, extending the shelf life,” they said. 

Substituting cocoa butter with CBEs needs to be adjusted accordingly in a recipe but also take into account existing legislation. “In the European Union, a formulation with 5% CBE allows the product to be labelled as chocolate.”  

On this topic, Mike Gee, Director of Premier Forrester spoke about producers having to change temper settings, “as it has a high level of cocoa mass. It could be more viscous, so you’ll be operating at a lower temperature to achieve the same temper index. Also, different viscosity can change many aspects of the overall production as flow rates will differ.” 

This means for chocolate moulding, “both time and vibration requirements will alter. In enrobing, you’ll have higher pick-up rates, so you need to think about how that changes the enrobing process,” Mike added...

Read the full feature in our magazine.

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Media contact

Caitlin Gittins
Editor, International Confectionery
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920

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