Europeans dominate the top 20 chocolate-consuming countries. Even so, chocolate sales in the U.S. are anything but scary, especially around Halloween. In 2013, the National Confectioners Association reported chocolate candy sales accounted for 55% of the nearly $4.1 billion in confection sales in the time period leading up to Halloween.
Beyond US and European consumption, the World Cocoa Foundation predicts the global demand for chocolate (EU) will continue to grow as discretionary income increases in developing markets like Brazil, China and India.
In every chocolate bar, to achieve creaminess, cocoa liquor (EU) is mixed with extra cocoa butter (EU), resulting in high demand for cocoa butter compared to other cocoa products. Compounded with the reality that cocoa plants are fragile to pest attacks and changing weather patterns, production of cocoa beans (EU) in recent years has struggled.
Work is in progress to increase cocoa crop yield. Research out of Penn State in June showed success with a low dose glycerol spray to reduce the almost 30% of cocoa production that is lost due to disease. However, cocoa butter alternatives may continue to be another key solution for long-term, profitable chocolate production.
What is Cocoa Butter?
Cocoa butter (cacao fat) naturally occurs in the cocoa bean at about 50% of the cocoa nib (EU). Cocoa butter is resistant to oxidation due to high levels of natural tocopherols and fatty acid composition.
Typical Fatty acid composition (%)
Stearic (C18:0) 34.5%
Oleic (C18:1) 34.5%
Palmitic (C16:0) 26.0%
Linoleic (C18:2) 3.2%
Arachidic (C20:0) 1.0%
Palmitoleic (C16:1) 0.3%
Other Fatty Acids 0.5%
When tempered properly to achieve the correct crystal formulation, cocoa butter creates a finished chocolate with a high gloss and texture snap. Additionally, cocoa butter contracts when solidified, which enables efficient molding production.
Cocoa Butter Alternatives:
Often the ingredients used for cocoa butter replacement undergo additional processing steps which raise the price. But with demand for cocoa butter on the rise and difficulty achieving high crop yields, the price of these alternatives will be more in line with productivity.
- Palm oil or coconut oil based and normally contains lauric fatty acids.
- Does not require tempering.
- Lauric fat in the presence of enzymes like lipase (found in cocoa beans), under the right conditions (moisture, temperature), can react and produce a soapy off-note.
- Not compatible with cocoa butter, although can be mixed in at a low percentage.
- Non-lauric containing fats like palm oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil and cottonseed oil.
- Does not require tempering.
- Partially compatible with cocoa butter.
- Can contain shea, illipe, and sal nut oils as well as palm, mango kernel fat and palm oil.
- Has physical properties and a fatty acid profile similar to cocoa butter.
- Requires tempering.
- Compatible with cocoa butter.
Beyond availability and potential cost reduction, cocoa butter alternatives have some advantages when used in manufacturing.
First, cocoa butter alternatives improve the finished product’s fat composition profile and fat stability. This enables consistent products, reduces fat migration in multi-layer products, and counters softness resulting from nut or milk ingredients.
Second, because many cocoa butter alternatives do not require tempering, it’s much easier to achieve essential texture characteristics like gloss and snap. The chances of fat bloom over shelf life are also reduced.
Consider Naming Requirements & Melt Profile
- In the US, the standard of identity (21 CFR 163) requires exclusive use of cocoa butter as the fat source for a product to be called chocolate. Any addition of a cocoa butter alternative will require you to change the name of your product from chocolate. However, some products have transitioned into these alternate naming requirements by using the history of an established brand name.
- The European Union has a little more flexibility outlined in the European Chocolate Directive 2000/36/EC, allowing up to 5% replacement of cocoa butter, while still maintaining chocolate as the product name.
- Cocoa butter is unique in that it quickly melts at 34° C (93° F), which is just under body temperature. This melting point gives a smooth, creamy texture in the mouth and increases flavor release. When using alternatives for cocoa butter, the fats that melt closer to body temperature will give a similar experience. Those with a higher melting point will give the chocolate a waxy mouthfeel. With an alternative melt profile, flavor release will be perceived differently.
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