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How flawed science helped turn chocolate into a health food

November 11th, 2017
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A small and preliminary study was hyped to claim that chocolate fights Alzheimer’s.

Have you heard? Dark chocolate will do everything from boost your cognition to reduce your cardiovascular disease risk and even help you lose weight! Or so the chocolate science hype machine will tell you.

Several months ago, we got to wondering how chocolate candy had earned such a powerful health halo. So we dove into the science behind these claims about chocolate and cocoa to find out more.

In an original Vox analysis, we discovered that food companies like Nestlé, Mars, Barry Callebaut, and Hershey’s — among the world’s biggest producers of chocolate — have poured millions of dollars into scientific studies and research grants that support cocoa science. Of the 100 Mars-sponsored studies on cocoa, chocolate, and health, 98 had conclusions that were favorable to the candy maker in some way.

That’s an uncannily high number. And it raises questions about the quality of the studies, given that Mars and other chocolate makers can use the positive findings to market their products. Industry-sponsored studies are more likely than independent research to yield conclusions that favor the funder’s products.

In our review of the research, we found studies that were well-designed, well-executed, and that produced seemingly reliable results. (This was particularly true for the science on cocoa’s effects on blood pressure.) But some of the other claims don’t stand up as well when you look closely at the evidence.

One study in particular about cocoa staving off cognitive decline jumped out at us because it had sparked a small fracas on PubMed Commons, a site where researchers can comment on published studies. Several researchers took the time to critique everything from the study’s design and statistical analysis to how it was reported in the journal where it was published, Nature Neuroscience.

This Mars-sponsored study, led by researchers from Columbia University, was published in 2014. The researchers had wanted to test whether taking cocoa supplements might enhance a region of the brain called the dentate gyrus that deteriorates with age and is associated with age-related memory loss. They concluded that cocoa supplements — particularly the micronutrients called flavanols in them — can indeed boost cognition in older adults.

The research didn’t come out of a vacuum. Previous studies, particularly those focused on aging in rats, suggested flavanols might prevent cognitive decline. But upon closer examination, it became clear that this particular study was very small and preliminary — and that there were several problems with its design that made its results unreliable. That didn’t stop the chocolate hype machine, though. The paper was trumpeted by the Columbia University press office and large media outlets as more evidence that cocoa and chocolate can fight Alzheimer’s.

Ultimately, the study shows how scientists and the media have seized upon the narrative that chocolate is a health food — even when only the thinnest evidence supports the wishful claim.

The cocoa study was short, small, and focused on narrow outcomes that don’t matter to the real world

Before we dive into what made this Nature Neuroscience study suspicious, let’s look at what it was about. The researchers randomly assigned 37 people to one of four groups for a period of three months:

  1. A group that got a high daily dose (900 mg) of cocoa flavanol supplements as well as one hour of aerobic exercise four times per week
  2. A group that got the same high dose of cocoa flavanol supplements but without the exercise
  3. A control group that got a low dose of cocoa flavanols (10mg) with the one hour of aerobic exercise four times per week
  4. Another control group that got the low cocoa flavanol dose but without the exercise

So basically, the study participants either got a lot of cocoa flavanols or not, and added regular exercise to their lifestyles or not.

The researchers wanted to test whether cocoa flavanol supplements might stave off cognitive decline in the dentate gyrus region of the brain, which is associated with age-related memory loss. They also wanted to see if exercise had any effect on memory, since previous studies had suggested it might.

In the study, they found that exercise had no impact on brain function — but cocoa flavanols did. “Dietary cocoa flavanol consumption enhanced [dentate gyrus] function in the aging human hippocampal circuit,” they concluded. They also made extremely bold statements in the paper, even suggesting that the effects they saw in the high-flavanol group demonstrated that cocoa could reverse age-related memory decline by as many as three decades.

Columbia University’s newsroom touted the research as demonstrating that “dietary flavanols reverse age-related memory decline.” The research was then picked up by media outlets, including the New York Times, which trumpeted chocolate — not just cocoa dietary supplements — as a memory aid.

But here’s the thing: The study never actually proved that cocoa supplements, and especially not chocolate, could prevent memory decline. It was too small, too narrowly focused, and too short-lived to tell us anything important about real memory loss with aging, said Henry Drysdale, a doctor and fellow at Oxford University’s Center for Evidence-Based Medicine.

To track memory decline, the main outcomes the researchers used over a 12-week period were an fMRI test that looked at increases cerebral blood volume, as well as a cognitive function test — the Modified Benton — which was developed at Columbia to measure dentate gyrus function. The researchers who validated the test found that people’s performance on the ModBent worsened with age, so they had reason to believe that this test would be a good marker of whether flavanols could make a difference here.

“Saying if you eat cocoa supplements now you’re going to have better memory in three months is not relevant to real-world [age-related memory decline],” said Drysdale, who co-founded Oxford’s COMPare Trials project which examines the quality of clinical trials.

If you really want to answer that question, you’d run the trial for several years and you’d need a group of study participants that’s bigger than 37 people. Instead of only tracking the study participants’ brain waves in an MRI machine (which is not a measure of cognitive ability), or using an object recognition task (the ModBent) to test memory, you’d also want to measure outcomes that matter in people’s lives, like, whether those taking cocoa could remember what they did that morning or that they had a doctor’s appointment next week better than the people who didn’t take the cocoa, Drysdale added.

This trial only demonstrated that supplements seem to enhance brain function over a period of weeks, and only according to a very specific (and not very widely used) test of cognitive function. That is far from valid proof that cocoa is a memory enhancer.

The researchers did other things that made the results unreliable

Drysdale and other researchers who were not involved with this study also took issue with it for much nerdier reasons. There are problems with how the study was reported that made its results less likely to be reliable — and even less worthy of the hype.

For one thing, the published version of the study looks different from what the researchers originally said they’d set out to do for this trial.

To understand why this matters, let’s step back for a moment.

Before researchers embark on clinical trials, they’re supposed to name (or “pre-specify”) which health outcomes they’re most interested in on a public database, like ClinicalTrials.gov.

For an antidepressant, these might include people’s reports on their mood, or how the drug affects sleep, sexual desire, and even suicidal thoughts. Researchers then group the outcomes into “primary” and “secondary” categories — the primary outcomes being the ones they think are most important — and describe precisely how and when they are going to measure these things.

Scientists are then supposed to broadly stick to this plan when they run their trial, and report on their findings in a journal. If they deviate from their plan, they need to be transparent about it and explain why they did so in the final journal article.

The idea is that researchers won’t just change their plans along the way, or publish positive or more favorable outcomes that turn up during the study, while ignoring or hiding important results that don’t quite materialize as they were hoping. (That’s a sneaky practice called “outcome switching,” and it’s a big problem in science.) Following these steps also enhances the chances that the findings researchers report on are real, not the result of tweaking a study’s design to get splashier conclusions.

But this didn’t happen in the case of this cocoa study.

ClinicalTrials.gov has a handy version control function that lets you see all the changes that were made to a clinical trials registry over time. It shows that the researchers for this cocoa study changed their outcomes over time, and also failed to clearly pre-specify them before starting the trial. They then didn’t report about the changes they made in their final study, which was published in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience.

For example, if you look at the earliest version of their ClinicalTrials.gov report, from 2010, the researchers stated that the primary outcome they were interested in was an fMRI test that measures cerebral blood volume. The secondary outcome they were going to look for was “neurocognitive function” — but they didn’t say which test they’d use to measure neurocognitive function. In the published trial, the ModBent appeared as a second primary outcome along with the fMRI.

“If you don’t pre-specify your method of measurement of an outcome — in this case ‘neurocognitive function’ — you are free to choose, consciously or unconsciously, from a range of possible outcomes,” said Drysdale. “You can then pick the outcome that makes your chocolate look good. That’s not to say authors will always do this with vaguely pre-specified outcomes, but the option is there.” In this case, the researchers settled on the ModBent task as their primary outcome (in addition to the fMRI).

I asked the authors on the study why they failed to fully pre-specify their outcomes, and why they didn’t report all the changes they made in their original plan in the final version of the report, like they’re supposed to do. They said they were new to entering clinical trials data on registries, and that they didn’t realize they had to declare changes they had made to their study design in the final study. Whatever the reason, though, these errors in reporting are likely to make their findings less reliable, said Drysdale.

If you look at the most recent version of their clinical trials registry, it was published in January 2015, three months after they published their Nature Neuroscience article. “So they went back after article was published in Nature and changed their clinical trial registry. There is no mention of this in the trial report,” Drysdale added.

To be clear, this cocoa study is not unique. Hype in research is on the rise, and outcome switching is common — as prevalent in industry-sponsored research as it is in independent academic research. But the paper shows how, consciously or unconsciously, studies can be tweaked and exaggerated in ways that can yield misleading conclusions.

“The bigger concern is that people are trying to do a better job of selling the research itself and not just telling what the straight out answer is,” University of Toronto nutrition researcher Richard Bazinet said. This study only showed that over a period of three months, in a small group, according to a very narrow test that taps a very specific region of the brain, cocoa supplements enhanced cognition. That became “chocolate fights Alzheimer’s” — a message Mars surely appreciated.

Source:  vox.com

 

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What’s the real cost of chocolate?

November 11th, 2017
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Chocolate is the “food of the gods,” a sweet treat for many across the world, and a booming industry worth an estimated $110 billion a year. But as we unwrap a favorite bar or tuck into a truffle, how many of us take the time to think about where it came from, and who helped in its transformation from the humble cocoa bean?

Most of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, with more than a third coming from the Ivory Coast alone. Cocoa is grown mainly on small, family-owned plantations by farmers living in poverty.
By contrast, most of the world’s chocolate is consumed in the wealthy regions of Europe and North America.
Chocolate may be big business, but its key ingredient, cocoa, is cultivated by some of the poorest people on the planet. While demand for cocoa is growing to the point that some experts warn we may run out of affordable supplies within 20 years, the farmers who grow it earn a tiny proportion of the price we pay at the grocery store – and their share has dropped sharply over the past 35 years.
Cocoa beans grow in pods, directly from the trunk of the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao, or “food of the gods.”) One tree produces between 20 and 30 pods a year, each containing 20 to 50 almond-sized cocoa beans. A year’s harvest from one tree – processed into cocoa liquor, cocoa butter or cocoa powder — is enough to make up to 500g of chocolate.
Source:  cnn.com

 

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From cocoa to chocolate in an entertaining and didactic way

November 11th, 2017
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The children’s vacations are over and the school year has already started. Now, time to study! But before returning to school, many have had the privilege of learning about cocoa and Venezuelan chocolate in an entertaining and didactic way, as it took place at the vacation plan offered by the Chacaomarket in Miranda state.

There, about 18 children in the 5 to 12 age range, from the same neighbourhood and also from other sectors such as Quinta Crespo and La Florida as well as children of some shopkeepers of the market, participated in the activity that was led by the teacher and chocolate entrepreneur Lissett Jiménez.

A transformational process

The subject chosen for this sweet gathering was “From cocoa to chocolate”, in which the youngsters received information about the whole process involved in chocolate making, from the seed to the finished product in its different chocolaty presentations or by-products.

“It was an activityto get to know the history of cocoa, the description of all processes to make chocolate, the different types of the product and the tempering techniques” said Belkys Rodríguez, assistant at the recreation centre. “We also visited the shopkeepers who display their chocolates in the market”.

Rodríguez emphasised that Venezuela possesses one of the best cocoa in the world and that its processing and transformation is so special that she does not hesitate to recommend that cocoa is a subject to be imparted at all Miranda state schools, and beyond.

The Children’s recreation centre at Chacao market is part of a network of municipal recreation centres which are framed in what is known as Chacao Municipio Lector. Two other centres are located in the Library of Los Palos Grandes and in the Bello Campo Park.

Once again, cocoa and Venezuelan chocolate are integrated into the schedule of a vacation programme in the country. Their importance grows, so it does thesense of belonging towards a seed, pride of adults and children.

Source:  vivaelcacao.com

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French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine

January 21st, 2017
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Amid calls for “chocolatine” to be added to the French dictionary, we take a look at a debate that has divided France for centuries – what is the name of the chocolate-filled pastry treat?
When you walk into the corner bakery craving that iconic, buttery, flaky pastry with a dark chocolate center, do you ask for a pain au chocolat or a chocolatine?
The majority of the French would say pain au chocolat, at least according to one website entirely devoted to the topic.
Its survey of over 110,000 people found that almost 60 percent would say pain au chocolat, with 40 percent going for chocolatine.
The website asks voters for their region of France, and has provided an interactive map that reveals the “chocolatine” voters are hugely congregated in the south west.
And the “chocolatine” crew feel they shouldn’t be overshadowed. In fact,
Pupils from the south western town of Montauban have recently penned a letter to France’s president in a bid to get the word chocolatine added to the French dictionary.
“It’s a word of our region, where a lot of people live, and there’s no reason why the rest of the country shouldn’t know it. We’re proud to be from the south,” one pupil told La Dépêche du Midi newspaper.

So why the confusion?

One theory traces the origins of the ubiquitous French treat to the 1830s, when an Austrian named August Zang opened the very first boulangerie viennoise at 92 rue Richelieu in what is now the second arrondissement of Paris.
According to culinary historian Jim Chevalier, author of “August Zang and the French Croissant: How the Viennoiserie Came to France”, it was the schokoladencroissant, a crescent-shaped, chocolate-filled brioche that slowly evolved into the rectangular chocolatine.
As the French gradually integrated viennoiseries into their culture, laminating the brioche layers, chocolatine became one and the same with pain au chocolat, which historically referred to any chocolate-filled bread that children enjoyed as a snack at school. The southwest region, meanwhile, is supposed to have stuck with chocolatine due to its similarity to the Occitan word chicolatina.
Another theory floats around that, during a period of English rule over France’s Aquitaine region in the 15th century, the English would walk into bakeries and ask for “chocolate in bread, please!” which the French understood as, simply, “chocolate in.” However, this theory has been disputed due to the fact that chocolate did not arrive in Europe from the Americas until 1528.
Other countries all over the world have adopted their own nomenclature, with ‘chocolate croissants’ in the United States and ‘napolitanas de chocolate’ in Spain, for example. But on this widely controversial issue, France may never come to an agreement.
But one thing the whole country can agree on is that it’s NOT called a chocolate croissant.
Source:  thelocal.fr
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Cargill report highlights latest trends in cocoa and chocolate

December 6th, 2016
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Cargill’s cocoa and chocolate business has released its comprehensive report highlighting key trends in chocolate.

Based on insight gained from interactions with customers across numerous application categories, and on information gathered from projects with customers through Cargill’s application centres, the report highlights trends across four key themes: indulgent; premium; healthy; and sustainable and clean.

Cargill’s four trending areas

Indulgent

Today’s consumer is looking for an ever-more indulgent experience, across flavour, texture and colour, inspiring new levels of creativity in sweet foods around the world. In flavours – vegetable and chocolate combinations are becoming popular across a range of categories, for example kale flavour fillings in chocolate bars and chocolate featuring alongside beetroot in cakes.

Texture is also evolving towards more indulgence, with larger chocolate chunk inclusions as well as new combinations of textures such as crispy chocolate layers on top of creamy desserts.

Cocoa powder is increasingly being used to play with shades and add depth of colour.

Premium

Demand for premium products is at an all-time high, with provenance and origin being key among cocoa and chocolate products. Besides specifying the origin of cocoa or chocolate, manufacturers increasingly highlight on the pack the country where the end-product was manufactured, satisfying consumers’ desire to buy local products. Inspiration from the artisanal industry is also observed. Processes behind the product are becoming more prominent on packaging – with details included such as ‘stone ground’ or ‘slow churned’ and even the conching time of chocolate.

Healthy

How diet affects health and wellness is increasingly on consumers’ minds, leading them to avoid ingredients perceived as unhealthy, and look for those perceived as healthy. Besides the long standing trend for sugar reduction and gluten free, lactose free claims are increasingly being observed in cocoa and chocolate products, with milk alternatives such as coconut milk increasing in popularity. Looking at ingredients seen as beneficial, the trend for protein is still booming and becoming mainstream, breaking free from the sports nutrition niche and focusing on satiety rather than sports recovery.

Sustainable and clean

Where food comes from, how it is produced, and its true ethical and environmental cost, really matter to today’s consumer. Certified chocolate products are becoming more popular and spreading their reach out from chocolate tablets into dairy, bakery, biscuits and ice cream. Answering consumers’ needs for more transparency, clean and clear labelling is also more important than ever. In the quest to remove e-numbers, real fruits and plant extracts are being increasingly used to naturally colour products.

Niklas Andersson, Cargill European marketing director for cocoa and chocolate, said: “Whether working in confectionery, biscuits, bakery, cereals, dairy or ice cream, our report provides real insights that can help manufacturers get a head start on the competition when creating new products and innovations.

“Today’s discerning consumer is looking beyond value for money. They are better informed than ever before and, as our research demonstrates, they consider the contents of their food and its impacts on the future more than ever before. In short, they want food that tastes good, is good, helps them to be good and does good.”

Source: FoodBev.com

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Taking action: 2016 Chocolate ingredient trends

May 28th, 2016
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cocoa-beans-200x320_fpAs demand for chocolate rises, leaders in the industry focus on creating a sustainable cocoa supply chain by helping to improve farming techniques and empower farming communities.

As demand for chocolate rises, leaders in the industry focus on creating a sustainable cocoa supply chain by helping to improve farming techniques and empower farming communities.

Consumers love chocolate, there’s no doubt about that.

Globally, chocolate demand is on the rise, and unless chocolate companies do something to help the cocoa-growing industry, demand will soon outpace supply.

Cocoa, after all, is a labor-intensive crop grown mostly in developing countries. Cocoa farmers face a rash of problems, from aging trees and pests to lack of training and resources. These challenges make it hard for individual farmers to produce large amounts of cocoa, which in turn means they can’t generate income above a subsistence level. It leaves farmers unable to invest in their farms, families, and communities and prevents them from raising themselves out of poverty. The consequence is a diminishing supply of cocoa every year.

To help combat the cycle and support cocoa farmers, leaders in the industry have committed to the World Chocolate Foundation’s CocoaAction Strategy, launched in May 2014. Major companies like ADM, Barry Callebaut, Blommer, Cargill, ECOM Agrotrade Ltd., Ferrero, The Hershey Co., Mars, Mondel..z Intl., Nestlé, and Olam have pledged themselves to the cause.

CocoaAction’s goal is to train and deliver improved planting material and fertilizer to 300,000 cocoa farmers by 2020, and empower communities through education, child labor monitoring, and women’s empowerment. It brings the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies together and develops partnerships between governments, cocoa farmers, and the cocoa industry to boost productivity and strengthen community development in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

And many companies have devoted considerable efforts to their own sustainability projects.

Mars, for one, set out to map the cocoa genome to better understand why the crop is so labor intensive and susceptible to disease. The company brought together a mix of partners from industry, government, and academia – including IBM, the USDA, and UC-Davis – for the project, which was completed in 2013.

They’ve also shared this scientific breakthrough with the industry and Public, believing that knowledge is power and not a secret to be withheld for competitive advantage, according to the company.

And Barry Callebaut has done plenty to help create a sustainable supply chain.

“It started with the need to secure quality, sustainable supplies of cocoa; meeting the needs of customers for sustainably sourced cocoa; and the realization that we need to help cocoa farmers, their families and communities, to become more sustainable,” says Jens Rupp, head of sustainability communications, Barry Callebaut. “The Cocoa Horizons initiative was launched in 2012 with CHF 40 million over 10 years, with the aim to improve farmer livelihoods. Last year we created the Cocoa Horizons Foundation to scale impact and drive change in cocoa sustainability globally.”

Barry Callebaut believes cocoa production is sustainable when farmers earn an equitable income, engage in responsible labor practices, safeguard the environment, and can provide for the basic health and education needs of their families.

The company works with more than 70,000 farmers in West Africa and Indonesia to implement sustainability programs, while conducting research in Malaysia focused on intercropping, pest and disease management, soil management, and rehabilitation.

Programs include training farmers in good agricultural practices, post-harvest management techniques, optimal use of inputs, crop diversification, farm rehabilitation, as well as basic business skills. Some farmers have also been trained in support services like tree pruning and spraying, which they can provide to other farmers in a safe and efficient manner. Other projects like mobile banking, funding education, women’s empowerment programs, and health insurance schemes help provide for farmers’ basic needs.

And the Cocoa Horizons Foundation, funded by the purchase of HORIZONS products, contributions from donors and customers, and Barry Callebaut’s Cocoa Horizons initiative, has more than 25,000 farmers enrolled in its activities. As of March 9, 2016, the Cocoa Horizons Truck, which visits farming communities and brings farmer training, educational services, and literacy training, has travelled 25,790 km through 182 villages, reaching 76,100 people and providing medical attention for 12,120 people.

Barry Callebaut’s commitment to sustainability doesn’t extend only to cocoa either. When it comes to other essential ingredients like palm oil, sugar cane, vanilla, sugar beet, dairy, hazelnuts, shea, and soy, the company has published sustainable sourcing policies on every one.

Cargill, similarly, launched the Cargill Cocoa Promise in 2012, which aims to accelerate progress toward a transparent global cocoa supply chain, enable farmers and their communities to achieve better living standards, and deliver a sustainable supply of cocoa.

“With the right investment, we have proven cocoa productivity can increase significantly,” says Taco Terheijden, director of cocoa sustainability, Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate. “For example, because of work through the Cargill Cocoa Promise, 58,000 farmers are now using pest and disease management techniques and products, resulting in a 23 percent average yield improvement and a 56 percent increase in yields achieved by farmers using fertilizers correctly.”

In 2015, 90,000 farmers attended 2,700 Farmer Field Schools, receiving training to help optimize production and reduce their impact on the environment.

“The Cargill Cocoa Promise also extends beyond promoting sustainable cocoa production,” says Terheijden. “For example, through the reach of the Cargill Cocoa Promise, 97 percent of children enrolled in the program in Ghana have stayed in school for at least five years. And in the last two years, thanks to new infrastructure, primary school enrolment has increased by 4.7 percent.” In short, it’s a commitment to the world. But when it comes to sustainability, the environment itself is also an important consideration.

Biodiversity, for one, is a key concern for companies like Endangered Species Chocolate.

Founded in 1993, the company intended to spread awareness and make an impact on the growing number of plants and animals that are rapidly disappearing from Earth. It has always supported worthwhile organizations committed to protecting endangered species.

ESC currently operates a 10% GiveBack program, which pledges to donate 10 percent of its proceeds or $10,000 (whichever is greater) to its partner organizations. In the Past three years, this program has donated more than $1.2 million to its chosen beneficiaries.

“Twenty-three years ago the program started with multiple non-profit partners receiving small donations in the form of financial support and product donations,” says Kelly Meinken, director of marketing, Endangered Species Chocolate. “Ultimately in 2007, our current program of a three-year term with two GiveBack partners was established.”

Each conservation organization must explain how it benefits the preservation of species and habitats, as well as provide information on the species, lands, and communities that benefit from its work. The applicants go through a twostage selection process conducted by ESC’s employees.

And not only do ESC’s sales benefit conservation programs, but their chocolate is also made with environmentally conscious, sustainably-sourced ingredients. ESC is the first American-made chocolate to use fully traceable Fairtrade cocoa from West Africa. It also uses RSPO and EcoSocial-certified sustainable palm oil and non-GMO cane sugar.

Pursuing certifications like Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance Certified, and UTZ Certified is beneficial both to the farmers and to consumers, says Uwe Schnell, business development manager, Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate.

“These certification programs encourage professional farm management and good agricultural practices, and farmers receive a premium for certified crops. In addition, premiums received by farmer organizations from certification are reinvested to support farmer members and their local community,” says Schnell. “For consumers, a certification label on product packaging provides independent assurance that their favorite brands source their ingredients responsibly and shows that the product contributes to improved livelihoods for farmers.”

Which all goes to show, the love doesn’t just come from consumers loving chocolate. It also comes from the chocolate makers loving the communities that supply the world’s cocoa.

Source: Candy Industry

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Hershey unveils world’s first public 3-D chocolate candy printing exhibit

January 3rd, 2015
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hershey-new-logosThe Hershey Co. is moving beyond the second dimension. The chocolate maker has partnered with 3D Systems to create what it claims is the world’s first 3-D Chocolate Candy Printing exhibit at Hershey’s Chocolate World Attraction.

The exhibit, slated to open Friday, Dec. 19, will give visitors the opportunity to interact with Hershey scientists and the breakthrough technology.

“We are now using 3-D technology to bring Hershey goodness to consumers in unanticipated and exciting ways,” says Will Papa, chief research and development officer, The Hershey Co. “3-D printing gives consumers nearly endless possibilities for personalizing their chocolate, and our exhibit will be their first chance to see 3-D chocolate candy printing in action.”

Visitors will have the opportunity to witness live 3-D printing, see examples of finished products, interact with a library of 3-D graphics pre-loaded on iPads and be scanned to see what they would look like as a piece of 3-D chocolate.

3d-chocolate-printingThe 3-D chocolate printer on display at Hershey’s Chocolate World Attraction is the most advanced model in operation today, Hershey says.

“We are committed to democratizing 3-D printing, making this game-changing technology accessible and engaging for everyone,” explains Chuck Hull, founder and chief technology officer, 3D Systems. “Our partnership with Hershey, the largest producer of quality chocolate in North America and a global leader in chocolate and confections, allows us to create unique, exciting and personalized edible experiences, and this is a great way to showcase the power and possibilities of 3-D printing.”

One of Hershey’s goals is to gather knowledge and insights directly from consumers after they experience the interactive exhibit.

Through a survey presented on a large touchscreen, consumers will be able to share their preferences on customization options and product design. This information will influence the final technology and business model for a commercial 3-D chocolate candy printing experience.

“This exhibit is a great example of co-creation with consumers,” Papa says. “They will be instrumental in shaping the future of commercially available 3-D chocolate printing.”

Source: Candy Industry

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Chocolate Bar Trends: Candymakers continue to raise the “bar.”

August 15th, 2014
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mars-chocolatesConsumers look for innovation from both mainstream and premium chocolate makers.

These days you can grab a chocolate bar with almost anything inside. In the past year companies have introduced flavors ranging from marshmallows to ginger to hemp seeds.

Taking a step back though, chocolate bars are only as good as the chocolate industry as a whole. And the good news is, it seems to be a good time to be a chocolatier.

U.S. chocolate sales increased again in 2013, according to a report from Mintel, “Chocolate Confectionery – US.” Overall, they grew 24 percent from 2008-2013.

As for the future, Mintel forecasts that chocolate sales will increase another 14 percent from 2013-2018.

“The category benefits from an engaged consumer base,” Mintel says. “It’s viewed as an affordable indulgence, and maintained strong engagement among its users through the economic downturn, and into the period of recover.”

But who specifically is buying all this chocolate?

It seems younger consumers are actually more likely than average to buy and eat chocolate, because of a combination of factors, including: the likelihood that consumers 35-44 years old have kids who eat chocolate and the fact that older consumers are more likely to have to limit their chocolate intake because of health concerns.

And it’s not just older consumers who have concerns. Things aren’t quite as sweet as they could be, as the category’s growth is expected to be slower than in the past. That’s in part because many consumers are now avoiding chocolate altogether because of health concerns.

Add to that the fact that the market is so saturated with competing products, and the fact that there’s just more snack options out there in general and things look even more bleak.

There is good news for those in the chocolate bar business, though.

The bars, bags and boxes of chocolate weighing less than 3 ounces leads the segment in sales and growth. In fact, it’s driving the category, maintaining a 40.7 percent share, and a dollar sales growth of 28 percent from 2008-2013. Meanwhile, gift box and sugar-free chocolate sales struggled in 2013.

And, nearly 9 out of 10 adults purchase chocolate from themselves or others in their home. Specifically, 86 percent of adults purchase chocolate, and 74 percent eat it.

“This is a strength of the category, implying an engaged audience with a vast array of interest, tastes and needs,” Mintel reports. “However, it also suggests that little growth can come from adding new consumers to the market.”

In other words, sales growth will have to come from getting current consumers to increase their spending.  And capitalizing on snack trends, and appealing to consumers interest in healthy and convenient foods.

New flavors are a must:

Here’s where mainstream chocolate makers have really shined. They continue to innovate and introduce new chocolate bars to the market.

And there’s no denying that a few large companies control most of the category. In 2013, the top five chocolate companies sold about 88 percent of the chocolate, up from 87 percent in 2012, Mintel reports.

The category is dominated by The Hershey Co., with 41 percent of the market, followed by Mars Inc., with 29 percent of the market. Nestle is in a distant third, with 6 percent of the market, followed by Lindt and then Russell Stover.

The top five have continued to innovate, albeit usually through line extensions.

For example, Nestlé recently introduced Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups, which transforms the classic candy bar into peanut butter cups. Each cup features a smooth, super peanut-buttery Butterfinger filling with just the right amount of crunchy pieces mixed in, all surrounded by delicious milk chocolate. A 1.5-oz. single pack with two cups has a suggested retail price of $0.89-$1.19.

Then there’s Mars, which in the last year has introduced a new Snickers Rockin Nutroad bar. And, the company extended its Milky Way brand with a new Milky Way French Vanilla bar.

The company also introduced its new M&M’S Chocolate Bar. Made with the best quality, creamy, smooth milk chocolate and the colorful candy fun of the M&M’S brand. A single, 1.5-oz. bar has a suggested retail price of $1.09.

Consumers want lower prices

Even with all those delicious new inexpensive mainstream chocolate bars, companies still have to watch their prices.

While it’s become common knowledge throughout the recession that consumers are willing to splurge a little on a good piece of chocolate, because it’s such a delicious affordable luxury, that doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention to prices.

Forty-three percent of chocolate buyers say they would actually trade down to lower-priced chocolates if the price of the products they typically buy increased by 25 percent.

What’s more, 21 percent of consumers said they would buy less chocolate altogether if hit with such an increase.

“The industry will need to carefully assess options for dealing with rising commodities costs resulting from cocoa shortages,” Mintel says.

Data like that likely weighed heavily on Hershey’s mind recently when the company announced that it would be increasing its wholesale costs 8 percent for all of its candy.

The company says the increases are a result of Hershey’s higher input costs, including more expensive raw materials, packaging, fuel, utilities and transportation.

“Over the last year, key input costs have been volatile and remain at levels that are above historical averages,” says Michele G. Buck, president, North America, The Hershey Co. “Commodity spot prices for ingredients such as cocoa, dairy and nuts have increased meaningfully since the beginning of the year. Given these trends, we expect significant commodity cost increases in 2015.”

Mars also recently announced a 7 percent price increase, and Nestle said it will be raising its prices as well.

Premium bars continue to thrive

Price increase fears haven’t scared away the premium chocolatiers though. High-end companies have continued to introduce new products, such as Theo  — the first organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory in the country. The company recently introduced its Jacobsen’s Sea Salt Caramel Collection, which combines premium ingredients with delicious flavor combinations.

The bars, which have a suggested retail price of $11.99, were inspired by Theo’s proximity to the sea and the flavors of the Pacific Northwest. The four-piece collection doesn’t just include flavored caramels, but features flavored salts as well.

Specifically, the collection includes:

  • Citrus Caramel with Jacobsen Lemon Salt
  • Lemongrass Curry Caramel with Jacobsen Pinot Blanc salt
  • Verjus Caramel with Jacobsen Pinot Noir Salt
  • Mesquite Caramel with Jacobsen Cherrywood Smoked Salt

The company also recently introduced 70 Percent Dark Chocolate Classic Bars, Raspberry and Ginger, which retail for $3.99.

The flavors were chosen after the help of several rounds of voting on Facebook. The raspberry bar offers a fruity zest while the ginger bar is sweet and spicy. Both are 70 percent dark chocolate and available in stores and online. All Theo products are non-GMO certified and both of the new Classic Bars are suitable for vegans.

Then there’s L.A. Burdick Chocolate, which  introduced its Single Source Bar Collection. The name of the collection comes from the single source chocolate the bars are made of, and they sell from anywhere between $9 and $62.

Created exclusively from a variety of regional beans where conditions are ideal for growing cocoa, the goal of the bars is to provide chocolate tastes from around the world.

From the fruity acidic notes of Madagascar, to the complex flavors of Grenada, these bars provide a world tour of regional chocolate tastes.

The collection includes seven individually wrapped bars made from beans from Bolivia, Peru, Grenada, Brazil, Madagascar, Venezuela and Ecuador.

And even the Kohler Co., known mostly for manufacturing kitchen and bath plumbing products, is in on the chocolate bar business, debuting a new Chocolate Bar Collection. The 1.5-oz. bars are available in six flavors: Milk and Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut Crunch, Mint, Cherry Almond and Peanut Butter.

The line underwent a complete transformation, improving the recipes and packaging.  For example, the new Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar includes a filling of natural creamy peanut butter, a hint of sea salt and a dash of milk and dark chocolate — encased in a perfect blend of a milk chocolate shell.

There’s also Askinosie Chocolate’s incredibly innovative line CollaBARation bars, where each chocolate bar is made in collaboration with another brand. One of its newest bars, Dark Chocolate + Toasted Hemp Seeds was created in collaboration with Austin-based hemp purveyor, Happy Hemp, and it’s the sixth bar in Askinosie Chocolate’s CollaBARation line.

The company partnered with Tara Miko Grayless, founder of Happy Hemp, one of the few hemp importers in the country, who advocates the benefits of this “super food.”

“We all know how healthy dark chocolate is for you and when you add our hemp seeds — which are organic, protein-rich, and full of essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids — this bar is all the pleasure minus the guilt,” says Grayless. “The flavor is exceptional, but it’s also still a really healthy treat.”

This chocolate bar blends creamy and fruity dark chocolate with slightly crunchy and perfectly toasted hemp seeds, making a fun and healthful snack.

As long as companies continue to create such new and unusual flavor combinations, there’s no doubt that the chocolate bar category will continue to be riding high for quite some time.

Source: Candy Industry

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MycoTechnology uses mushrooms to create sweeter chocolate with less sugar

July 25th, 2014
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Chocolate_1MycoTechnology, Inc., a cutting-edge, food technology startup, is working to create great tasting cacao made from far less sugar than normal.

By nature, cacao beans are not sweet and require a significant amount of added sugar to mask the bitterness. For example, an average milk chocolate bar contains 31 grams of sugar, or 72 percent by weight.

The healthier dark chocolate bars contain 21 grams of sugar (51 percent by weight). However, the company claims that when cacao beans undergo its MycoSmooth process, they can make great tasting chocolate with little to no added sugar.

“By using gourmet mushrooms and their natural cleansing abilities, we are able to train them to consume only the bitter compounds in chocolate,” the company explains on its website. “The mushrooms symbiotically interact with their food source, giving back valuable nutrients other unavailable in chocolate.”

MycoTechnology is in discussions with several of the largest food companies and the reception has been positive.

One Fortune 500 food company said “With your MycoSmooth chocolate we can significantly reduce the sugar requirements in several of our products, which will allow us to provide a lower-calorie solution to our customers while significantly reducing our ingredient costs.”

The MycoSmooth process was first applied to coffee beans in 2013 with outstanding results. Even low quality Robusta beans treated with the MycoSmooth process brew into smooth, full-bodied coffee that tastes great without any additional sugar or creamers. Also, after going through the process, the coffee also had significant levels of beta-Glucans, which are known for boosting the immune system.

Since 2013, MycoTechnology’s research department has perfected the process for coffee and cacao, and its now working on a variety of other food compounds. The MycoSmooth process is ideal for bitter products or products with a known taste defect.

As a food technology company, MycoTechnology will produce finished or partially finished private-label products for customers.  As an alternative, they will also license the rights to the process.

Source: Candy Industry

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HERZA targets manufacturers of baked goods, muesli and ice cream

May 30th, 2014
Comments Off on HERZA targets manufacturers of baked goods, muesli and ice cream

herzaHERZA Schokolade has announced that it can now support manufacturers of baked goods, muesli and ice cream with individual mixes of small chocolate and glazed pieces that offer industrial and artisan producers a number of advantages.

HERZA says that customers can select just the right combination of chocolate and glazed pieces they require for a perfect fit with a final product and its price structure. The proportions of individual components can be precisely adjusted. For example, high priced items like golden nuggets can be included in small quantities as a highlight. The chocolate piece mixes are claimed to be perfectly coordinated in terms of appearance and mouthfeel, enabling manufacturers to create innovative products that offer new and interesting sensations to the consumer over and over again.

Simple handling is said to be another benefit. With the new chocolate piece mixes, HERZA says that customers benefit from the attractiveness of the combination of different chocolate pieces, while buying them as a mix considerably reduces the effort in terms of purchasing, logistics and quality control, with the use of mixes allowing customers to minimise their stock. It also simplifies manufacturing processes, said the company, as individual production steps can be eliminated. For customers, who due to their production set-up can use just one kind of chocolate piece in their final product, HERZA believes this opens up attractive new possibilities.

For ice-cream creations, HERZA offers a mix of extra-large chocolate chips in white, milk and dark varieties. Another composition consists of double caramel chips and peanut flavour glaze pieces.  The polished cocoa nibs are a new product idea especially for use with ice cream. They contain no additives, so they can be used as clean-label products. The nibs feature a shiny look and have a natural water barrier.

With mixtures of white and dark chocolate shavings or baking-stable caramel chips and milk chocolate chips, and of polished cocoa nibs and silver-coated chocolate pieces, bakeries and the baked goods industry can give their cakes, pies and other baked goods an individual note, HERZA says. They can also catch consumers’ attention with colourful mixes, for example dark chocolate pieces combined with blue and gold-coated chocolate pieces, or chocolate nuggets with silver, red and brown colour accents.

HERZA has also created chocolate mixes that it says address the healthy nutrition and high enjoyment associated with mueslis. A special mix of white and milk chocolate leaves is said to be special because of the high 20% protein content of the white chocolate pieces, targeted at fitness-oriented consumers, while the company says that flavourful variety is assured by mixes of white and milk chocolate double chips in combination with strawberry glaze pieces, or chocolate leaves with 40% cocoa plus white chocolate leaves.

“More and more frequently, customers look for individual chocolate pieces that allow them to stand out from the competition,” said HERZA sales director Carsten Braumann . “With our custom mixes of chocolate and glaze products, we’ve developed new possibilities that can benefit industrial and artisanal manufacturers alike.”

Source: Ingredients Network

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