Innovative method improves chocolate’s health benefits and sustainability

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) have introduced a groundbreaking method for chocolate production. The new recipe replaces traditional granulated sugar with a sweet jelly derived from the cocoa pulp and inner shell, addressing environmental and health concerns associated with conventional chocolate manufacturing.

This innovative approach, detailed in a study published in the journal Nature Food, utilizes the entire cocoa pod, including the husk that is typically discarded, to create a healthier and more sustainable chocolate product. By incorporating the husk, which is rich in fiber, into the chocolate-making process, the researchers have developed a natural sweetener that effectively replaces granulated sugar.

Known as “cocoa-fruit chocolate,” this new product offers several benefits over traditional chocolate. It has a higher fiber content, lower saturated fat, and promises to reduce land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with cocoa farming. Moreover, a life cycle assessment conducted by the researchers shows that large-scale production of this new chocolate could significantly reduce land use and global warming potential compared to average European dark chocolate production.

This innovative method not only contributes to environmental sustainability but also offers economic benefits to small-scale farmers. By diversifying their product offerings with the newly developed cocoa jelly powder, farmers could increase their income and improve their livelihoods.

While still in the lab phase, where it has been deemed appealing and comparable in flavor to traditional chocolate, there is ongoing work to scale up production and adapt the value chain. The researchers aim to transform the cocoa value chain, addressing nutritional and environmental challenges, while supporting the socio-economic conditions of cocoa farmers.

ETH has filed a patent for the cocoa-fruit chocolate recipe, highlighting the researchers’ confidence in the potential of this innovation to revolutionize the chocolate industry. The chocolate has potential to transform the industry by offering a healthier and more sustainable alternative to traditional chocolate products.