Cocoa – the antioxidant-rich raw ingredient used to make chocolate – is poised to become a major force in the market for functional and healthier food products, according to Julian Mellentin, director of consultancy New Nutrition Business.
Pointing to an Article 13.5 health claims application recently lodged by chocolate producer Barry Callebaut, Mellentin said that cocoa had the potential to be “a health ingredient as successful as cranberries”.
Cocoa, he said, was now at a “tipping point” as a result of the “convergence of scientific and technological progress, corporate strategy, consumer awareness and consumer desire for foods that can claim to be naturally healthy”.
Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut is seeking approval from EFSA for a claim linking cocoa flavanols with a healthy blood flow. The company has admitted to being confident that the dossier, which contains five clinical studies, will succeed.
Julian said: “I’m not surprised that Barry Callebaut is bullish about the prospects for its health claims application. Thanks to a huge investment in research by the leading cocoa processors – Barry Callebaut, Mars, Hershey and Meiji – there is a significant and ever-growing body of evidence for the health benefits of cocoa flavanols, particularly in relation to cardiovascular health. In fact, there have been over 100 published clinical studies so far.”
Consumer awareness of the benefits of cocoa is also good, he said, creating the perfect environment for companies to market successful health products based on cocoa. “Consumers make an association between dark chocolate – the form in which they usually encounter cocoa – and its naturally high content of antioxidants, and they’re prepared to pay more for it,” he explained.
“In many countries sales of dark chocolate grew at an annual rate of 20%-25% in the first decade of the 21st century. Even global recession didn’t halt the growth – all the more impressive since dark chocolate retails at up to a 100% premium over milk chocolate.”
New Nutrition Business has just published a new report on the potential for cocoa in the market for nutritious food and beverage products. Entitled Cocoa – a ‘naturally functional’ health ingredient at the tipping point? – the report contains detailed analysis of the opportunities and challenges for companies marketing cocoa-based products. It also presents several case studies exploring brands that have already taken the plunge in this rapidly emerging category
Julian said that companies wishing to capitalise on cocoa’s growing ‘health halo’ would need to consider carefully which product format they used, particularly as it might be hard to convince many consumers that a simple chocolate bar is good for them. “It isn’t surprising that, with its GoodnessKnows brand, Mars is using fruit such as cranberry and blueberry, nuts and whole grains as the carriers for the health message,” he says. “These are credible in the mind of the consumer in a way that chocolate is not.”
But he adds: “Significant advances in processing technology allow cocoa to be formulated into many more new product formats with a better health image than chocolate confectionery, while retaining its health benefits and delivering good taste. Its in beverages and bars that cocoa will make its mark.”
Source: New Nutrition Business
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