Creating chocolate is a millennium-old craft, at times an expression of art, but not known to be of interest to the scientific and political communities. That has changed in recent years. The transformation of ground-up cocoa beans, cocoa fat globules, milk, sugar and flavor into yummy chocolate has become a subject of intense research among nutrition scientists, manufacturers, and environmental groups. Their concerns: meeting rapidly growing global demand for chocolate, addressing consumer health and nutritional needs, and counteracting a dwindling supply of cocoa. The answer: new products that are healthier, tastier and more diverse than ever before..
Less sugar, same taste?:
Too many calories are the root cause of too much weight and chocolate can add quite a bit of caloric content to the diet. But without sugar, chocolate would taste awfully bitter. That’s why researchers at the Swiss Institute for Food Sciences at the University of Zurich have looked into ways to reduce calories without losing sweetness or the unique sensation of how chocolate melts on the tongue. The solution: a different distribution of sugar molecules. During the process of churning chocolate mass, sugar gets imbedded into the fat molecules. When chocolate melts in your mouth, it takes some time until the sugar gets released. Because you crave the sugar-kick in chocolate, you eat a bit more until you get the kick. The solution concocted in Zurich: add sugar water droplets rather than sugar crystals prior to churning cocoa mass. The sugar water droplets wrap around the fat globules of the cocoa butter and dissolve quicker, interact more rapidly with the taste buds and provide the sugar kick quicker than regular sugar. The result: calories can be reduced between 30% and 50%, while chocolate eaters still get the benefits of healthy antioxidants contained in the cocoa. From MIT to Munich’s Max Planck Institute, scientists strive to optimize the health properties melting process, breakability, crunchiness and shelf life of chocolate, or even liquefy cacao aromas for use in restaurant meals and food ingredients.
Take care of the farmer
“Buy low, sell high” is a mantra not only heeded at Wall Street but also good business chocolate manufacturers. The lower the price of cocoa (and, as a result, the income of cocoa farmers), the lower they could price the finished products or take a higher margin. But as global demand for chocolate increases rapidly – not just in developed, but also in emerging economies – the supply of cocoa beans is dwindling due to poor farming practices, climate change and mismanagement of nature. The Fair Trade movement has addressed some of the issues, but coalitions of industry, trade and governmental organizations now go a step further. They provide financial support, education, and infrastructure to farmers in cocoa-growing regions so that their quality of life goes and in hand with sustaining cocoa crops and supply for generations to come. In Germany, the nation’s sweets industry, governmental agencies, and consumer groups have founded the Sustainable Cocoa Forum in 2012, an initiative to pool resources and provide substantial developmental assistance to regions in the global cocoa belt. The Sustainable Cocoa Forum will enhance earlier initiatives such as the Fair Trade label or the UTZ certification used to certify fairness to coffee, cocoa, and tea farmers.
Meeting nutritional needs
As global consumer demand for foods meeting religious or dietary restrictions is on the rise, German confectionary producers – most of them small to mid-size, family-run or artisan companies – strive to meet that demand. There are dietetic, maltitol, sugar-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, vegetarian, kosher and halal chocolates and, of course, organic, fair trade and UTZ certified ones. A full listing of these manufacturers you’ll find in our Product Gallery.