Two Compounds Can Make Chocolate Smell Musty and Moldy

Chocolate is a beloved treat, but sometimes the cocoa beans that go into bars and other sweets have unpleasant flavors or scents, making the final products taste bad. Surprisingly, only a few compounds associated with these stinky odors are known. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry have identified the two compounds that cause musty, moldy scents in cocoa — work that can help chocolatiers ensure the quality of their products.

Cocoa beans, when fermented correctly, have a pleasant smell with sweet and floral notes. But they can have an off-putting scent when fermentation goes wrong, or when storage conditions aren’t quite right and microorganisms grow on them. If these beans make their way into the manufacturing process, the final chocolate can smell unpleasant, leading to consumer complaints and recalls.

So, sensory professionals smell fermented cocoa beans before they are roasted, detecting any unwanted musty, moldy, smoky or mushroom-like odors. Even with this testing in place, spoiled beans can evade human noses and ruin batches of chocolate, so a more objective assessment is needed for quality control.

In previous studies, researchers used molecular techniques to identify the compounds that contribute to undesirable smoky flavors, but a similar method has not clarified other volatile scent compounds. So, Martin Steinhaus and colleagues wanted to determine the principal compounds that cause musty and moldy odors in tainted cocoa beans.

The researchers identified 57 molecules that made up the scent profiles of both normal and musty/moldy smelling cocoa beans using gas chromatography in combination with olfactometry and mass spectrometry. Of these compounds, four had higher concentrations in off-smelling samples. Then, these four compounds were spiked into unscented cocoa butter, and the researchers conducted smell tests with 15-20 participants.

By comparing the results of these tests with the molecular content of nine samples of unpleasant fermented cocoa beans and cocoa liquors, the team determined that (–)-geosmin — associated with moldy and beetroot odors — and 3-methyl-1H-indole — associated with fecal and mothball odors — are the primary contributors to the musty and moldy scents of cocoa beans. Finally, they found that (–)-geosmin was mostly in the beans’ shells, which are removed during processing, while 3-methyl-1H-indole was primarily in the bean nib that is manufactured into chocolate.

The researchers say that measuring the amount of these compounds within cocoa beans could be an objective way to detect off-putting scents and flavors, keeping future batches of chocolate smelling sweet.

Source: American Chemical Society

Adventurous Consumers Repurpose Chocolate for Savory and Alcoholic Applications

Katherine Durrell wrote . . . . . . . . .

Chocolate is no longer just a sweet treat, with the ingredient now appearing in applications from meat and bread to alcoholic beverages. The COVID-19 pandemic has also given a new twist to this space as people turn to cocoa’s mood-boosting properties.

FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with experts from Kerry and Cargill about the current market conditions shaping the world of cocoa.

“Cocoa and chocolate have been used in many new applications over the years, ranging from sweet to savory. Now, chocolate is being increasingly used in exciting new applications that encompass both the savory and spicy palates,” says Nicolas Barthes, R&D project manager Europe, Kerry. .

Coralie Garcia Perrin, global strategic marketing director at Kerry adds that there aren’t many truly “new” innovative applications, given that a lot have already been fully explored. However, experimenting with new and unusual combinations and formats has never been more acceptable than it is today.

“There appears to be a renewed willingness by consumers to sample new and intriguing recipes – chocolate sauce for meat dishes is one very interesting example,” says Garcia Perrin.

Some examples of savory recipes using chocolate include chili con carne with dark chocolate; venison with chocolate and fig; and Mexican mole sauce.

Philippe Bernay, commercial marketing lead EMEA at Cargill cocoa and chocolate, also observes new applications for chocolate and cocoa opening up.

He illustrates this with the rise of cocoa powder as an ingredient for bread dough within gourmet channels in Japan.

A sweeter sip

New applications for cocoa have also been seen in the alcoholic drink domain. Bernay is seeing chocolate flavored beer becoming more popular. It is particularly successful in darker beers such as stout, where it delivers both appetizing flavor and color.

“This further illustrates the ubiquitous nature of this multi-functional ingredient that benefits from a true natural advantage,” he states.

In addition to spotting chocolate in beer, Garcia Perrin also has seen it appear in soft drinks. For harder beverages, Kerry offers a chocolate extract called Chocolate Ext U09.

“This extract is designed to be used at around a 1 percent dose in beverage applications. It provides flavor notes such as ‘cocoa alcoholic,’ ‘cocoa liqueur’ and ‘rummy,’ as well as dried fruit tones and the always-loved vanilla.”

Mood-boosting offerings

Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic is significantly influencing the chocolate market. Garcia Perrin speculates that it is the reason for a surge of interest in chocolate in new applications.

“The advent of COVID-19, with its associated lockdowns, has affected public eating habits by leading more consumers to take up creative cooking,” she explains.

Conversely, some consumers are also turning to chocolate as a source of comfort in tumultuous times. Bernay explains that COVID-19 has led to greater consumer emphasis on mental health amid increased anxiety and concern about the pandemic’s financial and health impacts.

“This is now also being confirmed in the latest survey data, where consumers said they have adopted a more holistic approach to their health, including mental and spiritual well-being. Two in five EU consumers say they are more focused on their mental health since COVID-19 began,” he details.

Additionally, six in ten EU consumers have sought out mood-boosting foods more frequently in the last month due to COVID-19.

“Chocolate is well known among consumers as a mood-boosting ingredient. In fact, proprietary European consumer research from early 2020 found that 63 percent of consumers to agree with the statement ‘I eat chocolate to improve my mood.’”

The number of consumers doing this was particularly high in the UK (80 percent), Germany (80 percent) and Belgium (78 percent).

Bernay also points to a host of research linking dark chocolate to reduced risks of depression. Garcia Perrin also says cocoa is associated with improved cognitive function, stress relief and mood management, particularly when consumed as dark chocolate.

However, Bernay stresses that for most consumers, chocolate is an indulgent treat that is not consumed for any reason apart from having something sweet and relaxing.

“Nonetheless, the enjoyment and relaxation benefits that chocolate brings are undoubtedly important in themselves for improving the mood during these challenging times.”

Highlighting health benefits

While chocolate as a finished product usually contains added fat and sugar – making it appropriate as an indulgent treat in moderation – the pure ingredient contains a host of healthy compounds that are becoming increasingly well-known.

Garcia Perrin notes that the perception of cocoa has evolved markedly in recent years. Previously, it was considered a “permissible indulgence,” but Kerry is now seeing more products targeted at exploring chocolate’s health benefits.

Notably, the ingredient is rich in polyphenols, catechins and epicatechins – all naturally occurring antioxidants.

“Studies have also associated cocoa with heart health benefits such as reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as blood glucose control. At Kerry, we even measure the level of catechins and epicatechins in some of our cocoa extracts,” she explains.

Sugar reduction on the rise

Another way that the chocolate industry is appealing to the health-conscious crowd is by offering reduced sugar variants. In 2019, Cargill invested US$5 million in its Mouscron, Belgium, site to enhance its capabilities for producing chocolate with lower sugar levels.

“We created a sugar-reduced chocolate recipe using an optimized blend of sugar replacers, while still managing to get all the other elements like taste and texture right,” says Bernay.

Stefan Vervliet, senior R&D specialist chocolate at Cargill cocoa and chocolate, adds that this was not without its challenges.

“Sugar traditionally accounts for a large bulk of a chocolate product, but it also serves as a flavor carrier for the flavor particles. Removing the sugar and replacing it with something else therefore presents a big technical challenge, as you do not want to lose that flavor roundness or expression,” he explains.

Cargill’s strategy is to work with natural fibers like inulin, which can serve as an alternative for calorie reduction without impacting taste and efficacy.

Naturality in focus

Another trend in the chocolate space is naturality. Cargill’s Gerkens cocoa powder range is set to expand its organic and clean label offerings soon.

Bernay explains that there is a growing demand for more clean label options that are lower in alkalization with reduced acidity.

“In this case, we have developed a new range, called GS, with a lower alkali content while still delivering the same flavor and color. On the back of this R&D success, we are now looking to develop an increased number of solutions to reduce the alkali content.”

Meanwhile, Barthes of Kerry notes that many consumers are seeking natural flavors and extracts in chocolate applications.

“The challenge is to find a liposoluble extract to make them suitable for chocolate or biscuit filling. Another solution would be to aid chocolate in working as a non-soluble flavor or extract, perhaps by incorporating emulsification properties,” he concludes.

Source: Food Ingredients 1st

New Chocolate Bar Sweetened with Dried Cocoa Pulp Unveiled

Gaynor Selby wrote . . . . . . . . .

Lindt & Sprüngli, in cooperation with the Swiss-Ghanaian start-up Koa, has revealed a chocolate bar that is sweetened with dried cocoa pulp. Koa uses the cocoa pod’s pulp, thus reducing food waste and providing cocoa smallholders with an additional income.

Hailed as a necessary step for sustainable and responsible chocolate, this innovative ingredient is the cornerstone of the new Excellence Cocoa Pure bar.

According to Lindt & Sprüngli, it is the first time a chocolate bar has been sweetened with dried cocoa pulp, which comes from small-scale farmers.

“2021 will be the year of the cocoa fruit. Using the cocoa pulp is key to sustainable, healthy and delicious chocolate,” says Anian Schreiber, co-founder and managing director of Koa.

Until now, the pulp that surrounds the cocoa beans could not be processed in cocoa-growing countries due to a lack of infrastructure and technology.

In conventional cocoa processing, only a small part of the white pulp was used for fermentation. Koa has found an innovative way to gently process the cocoa fruit in close cooperation with 1,600 smallholders.

“This is how we enable Ghanaian cocoa farmers to increase their income by up to 30 percent while boosting value creation in rural Ghana,” Daniel Otu, operations director at Koa in Ghana, explains.

Koa powder opens up new ways for chocolate

Koa’s “breakthrough” is being hailed as “a groundbreaking innovation.” Koa is the first company to launch Koa powder, the 100 percent natural and gently dried cocoa fruit pulp.

The tropical-fruity powder opens up new opportunities for chocolate and bakery products – whether it is to replace conventional, refined sugar, create new flavor experiences or demonstrate sustainable value creation in the cocoa-growing countries really means.

The first application from Lindt & Sprüngli’s new Excellence bar is 82 percent cocoa beans and 18 percent Koa Powder.

Using cocoa fruit to fight smallholder poverty

Koa is the first company to launch Koa powder, the 100 percent natural and gently dried cocoa fruit pulp.

Smallholders with farms of two to three hectares form the backbone of cocoa farming worldwide. More than 90 percent of cocoa comes from smallholders, 75 percent of which live in West Africa.

In Ghana, the second-largest cocoa producer, around 800,000 smallholders cultivate mixed crops. The cooperation with Koa and the use of the cocoa pulp not only increases the income of smallholders by up to 30 percent, but it diversifies their income source.

Lindt & Sprüngli launched its sustainability program, the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program in 2008. A voluntary premium is paid per ton of cocoa beans purchased, which flows into the program.

At Lindt & Sprüngli, the beans come from the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program, as is with the new Excellence Cocoa Pure.

“As young entrepreneurs, we are particularly proud to cooperate with the renowned Lindt Maîtres Chocolatiers and to share the same goal,” adds Schreiber.

By 2030, Koa wants to establish a partnership with 80,000 smallholders and sustainably transform cocoa farming.

Excellence Cocoa Pure will initially be available next month in limited quantities in selected Lindt shops in several countries and Lindt’s online shop.

Source: Food Ingredient 1st

More Healthful Milk Chocolate by Adding Peanut, Coffee Waste

Milk chocolate is a consumer favorite worldwide, prized for its sweet flavor and creamy texture. This confection can be found in all types of treats, but it isn’t exactly health food. In contrast, dark chocolate has high levels of phenolic compounds, which can provide antioxidant health benefits, but it is also a harder, more bitter chocolate. Today, researchers report a new way to combine milk chocolate with waste peanut skins and other wastes to boost its antioxidant properties.

The researchers will present their results today at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2020 Virtual Meeting & Expo. ACS is holding the meeting through Thursday. It features more than 6,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

“The idea for this project began with testing different types of agricultural waste for bioactivity, particularly peanut skins,” says Lisa Dean, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator. “Our initial goal was to extract phenolics from the skins and find a way to mix them with food.”

When manufacturers roast and process peanuts to make peanut butter, candy and other products, they toss aside the papery red skins that encase the legume inside its shell. Thousands of tons of peanut skins are discarded each year, but since they contain 15% phenolic compounds by weight, they’re a potential goldmine of antioxidant bioactivity. Not only do antioxidants provide anti-inflammatory health benefits, they also help keep food products from spoiling.

“Phenolics are very bitter, so we had to find some way to mitigate that sensation,” Dean says. In fact, the natural presence of phenolic compounds is what gives dark chocolate its bitterness, along with less fat and sugar compared to its cousin milk chocolate. Dark varieties are also more expensive than milk ones because of their higher cocoa content, so the addition of a waste like peanut skins provides similar benefits for a fraction of the price. And peanut skins are not the only food waste that can enhance milk chocolate in this way; the researchers are also exploring the extraction and incorporation of phenolic compounds from used coffee grounds, discarded tea leaves and other food scraps.

To create their antioxidant-boosted milk chocolate, Dean and her team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Research Service worked with peanut companies to obtain the peanut skins. From there, they ground the skins into a powder, and extracted the phenolic compounds with 70% ethanol. The lignin and cellulose left behind can be used in animal feed as roughage. They also worked with local coffee roasters and tea producers to obtain used coffee grounds and tea leaves, using a similar methodology to extract the antioxidants from those materials. The phenolic powder is then combined with maltodextrin, a common food additive, to make it easier to incorporate into the final milk chocolate product.

To make sure their new confection would pass gastronomic muster, the researchers created individual squares of chocolate with concentrations of phenolics ranging from 0.1% to 8.1% and had a trained sensory panel taste each one. The goal was to have the phenolic powder be undetectable in the flavor of the milk chocolate. The taste-testers found that concentrations over 0.9% were detectable, but incorporating the phenolics at 0.8% resulted in a good compromise of a high level of bioactivity without sacrificing flavor or texture. In fact, more than half of the taste testers preferred the 0.8% phenolic milk chocolate over the undosed control milk chocolate. This sample had higher chemical antioxidant activity than most dark chocolates.

While these results are very promising, Dean and team also acknowledge that peanuts are a major food allergy concern. They tested the phenolic powder made from the skins for presence of allergens, and while none were detected, they say that a product containing peanut skins should still be labeled as containing peanuts.

Next, the researchers plan to further explore the use of peanut skins, coffee grounds and other waste products into additional foods. In particular, Dean is hoping to test whether the antioxidants in peanut skins extend the shelf life of nut butters, which can go rancid quickly because of their high fat content. While commercial availability of their boosted chocolate is still a ways off and subject to corporate patents, they hope that their efforts will eventually lead to a better milk chocolate on supermarket shelves.

Source: American Chemical Society

New Chocolate Design Not a Chip Off the Old Block

Larissa Zimberoff wrote . . . . . . . . .

Remy Labesque has a compelling day job: He’s senior industrial designer at Tesla in Los Angeles. But for three years, he’s worked on a side project that’s enviable to people outside Elon Musk’s universe. Labesque has re-engineered the classic chocolate chip because, he says, the 80-yearold teardrop shape is ill-suited to its function.

“The chip isn’t a designed shape,” says Labesque. ‘It’s a product of an industrial manufacturing process.”

The baking standby is optimized for mass production, not for baking in cookies whose broad surface area is better suited to maximize taste and melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Labesque’s redesign for artisanal Dandelion Chocolate is a square, faceted pyramid, kind of like a flattened diamond. Two edges are thick, and two exceedingly thin, for even more textural pleasure. The Dandelion chip project was born of necessity. For years, the San Francisco chocolatier’s executive pastry chef, Lisa Vega, had been hand piping quarter-sized chocolate discs for her top-selling “Maybe the Very Best Chocolate Chip Cookie.” It took individuals up to four hours to create the chips, which were inconsistently shaped and barely met demand.

She pointed out the problem to Todd Masonis, who opened Dandelion with Cameron Ring after selling their tech start-up Plaxo to Comcast for around US$170 million. In 2017, Labesque was enlisted to help.

Masonis was already in the process of building a US$10 million-plus Willy Wonka-esque facility, which opened in 2019, to upgrade the company’s chocolate production. The tempering line alone, which was eventually outfitted with Labesque’s moulds to create exquisitely smooth, uniform chips, cost about US$500,000. Last year, Dandelion sold almost 30,000 chocolate chip cookies from its three San Francisco stores. (There are also five locations in Japan and one in Las Vegas.) Labesque first got involved in Dandelion projects when he lived in San Francisco and attended Dandelion’s Chocolate 101 class in 2013.

“I was struck by their attention to detail. It was remarkable that they were as obsessive as they were, while still shipping at scale,” he says. Past Labesque-Dandelion collaborations include a cookie “holster” that fits on a to-go coffee cup. The designer gets paid in chocolate.

Labesque’s industrial design process includes hand-sketching concepts that are turned into computer drawings; the most promising are made into physical prototypes. (At Tesla, his focus is on solar roofs, vehicle accessories, and charging.) “I find that that’s a really effective way of thinking through the form development process,” he says.

At Dandelion, the design brief was to make “the best chip for the experience of tasting chocolate,” says chef Vega.

Experts claim the way to do that is to let it melt on your tongue.

Each time a prototype came off the line, Vega would start baking. “They stay whole, but once they’re baked, the centre of the chip gets soft,” she observes, a benefit for experiencing the chocolate’s texture. Labesque designed the thin, melt-in-your-mouth edges to be sturdy enough to hold their shape in baking and not to break when the chip is unmolded.

Labesque, Vega and Masonis eventually settled on a square shape. It gave Dandelion a distinctive look, and it allowed for flat, faceted surfaces.

Dandelion currently sells its “facets” in three distinct, 70 per cent singleorigin, types: from Ecuador, Costa Rica and Madagascar. Additional single-origin styles are planned for the future. The lengthy research and development and ingredient sourcing comes at a cost: a 499-gram bag of the chips goes for US$30.

Michele Tanenbaum, a recipe developer in Brooklyn, N.Y., was impressed with the quality of Dandelion’s facets.

When heated, they shine like glass but keep a recognizable shape and enviable texture. “You don’t experience that,” she says. “Even with the better chips, they turn waxy.”

Still, Dandelion has a long way to go to catch up to Nestlé, which remains the champion chip maker. In 2019, Toll House produced 115.5 billion chips, up from 90 billion in 2018. And a 340gram bag costs around US$3.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press