Uses and products of cocoa beyond chocolate

VSHocolate is one of the most beloved foods in the world, especially here in the United States, where it can be found everywhere from expensive specialty truffle stores to the dollar store checkout line. But ask the average person how chocolate is made or where it comes from, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a shrug and a guess like: Hershey Park?

In fact, chocolate comes from the cocoa fruit, grown near the equator in countries like Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. While processed chocolate tends to be loaded with added sugar, raw cocoa does not, yes, zero. Here’s another fact about chocolate: only a small part of the cocoa fruit is used to make it.

Although the pulp, juice, and shell of cocoa fruits are not used to produce chocolate, more and more food companies are incorporating these plant parts in creative ways. It not only reduces food waste, but also brings more health benefits, because cocoa fruit is very rich in nutrients.

Read on to find out which brands are using cocoa fruit sustainably, and to find out why it’s so good for you.

Cocoa fruit 101 — and why whole fruits are good for you

Before we get into all the interesting ways to use the cocoa fruit, it helps to know what we are actually talking about in terms of the whole plant. Here is a little anatomy lesson of the cocoa fruit. Cocoa is a large, colorful fruit. It has a hard outer shell which can be red, yellow, green, pink, purple, or orange. If you open its shell, you will see pods. Each has a protective coating, inside of which are the cocoa beans (the seeds of the plant) and the pulp.

“For centuries, only the seeds of the cocoa fruit have been used to make chocolate, which means that around 70 percent of the fruit has been thrown away as waste,” explains Sylvie Woltering-Valat, Marketing Manager at Cabosse Naturals , a brand that puts every part of the fruit to use. It’s an effort that Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, a registered dietitian, says she’s excited to see more happen, as the whole cocoa fruit is packed with nutritional benefits. “Many people already know that cocoa beans [used to make chocolate] are high in antioxidants, but the pulp and juice of the fruit are also high in antioxidants, ”she says. Antioxidants that are linked to heart health, brain health, and the prevention of chronic inflammation, explains Largeman-Roth.

But that’s not the only benefit of consuming more parts of this plant. Largeman-Roth says that the beans, pulp and juice of the fruit also contain magnesium. “Most people don’t get enough magnesium in their diet, and it’s very important for heart health,” she says. “It’s also linked to relaxation and better sleep.”

Like all fruits, cocoa contains fiber, especially the fleshy pulp that is so often thrown away, also points out Largman-Roth. Considering that fiber is so crucial for gut health and preventing chronic inflammation, it’s a shame that the fibrous parts of cocoa plants are usually wasted. But, of course, several brands are working to change that.

How brands are using cocoa fruits in exciting new ways

Cocoa Naturals, Blue Stripes and CaPao are three food brands that strive to use every part of the cocoa fruit, and the result is a wide range of delicious foods and drinks. Before founding Blue Stripes, Oded Brenner was known as one of the best chocolatiers in the world, as the founder of Max Brenner Chocolate. One of the perks of running a chocolate business – besides being a Willie Wonka in real life – is traveling to meet the farmers who grow cocoa. When Brenner went to Ecuador and saw the process firsthand, he realized that there was so much more to the fruit than just making chocolate. So he decided to launch a new brand that did it all.

Blue Stripes offers a wide range of products which includes cocoa water, granola with the fruit pulp as a basic ingredient and even a pancake mix where the cocoa shell is ground into flour. “For me, discovering the cocoa fruit was like becoming Alice in Wonderland; it led me to discover after discovery how it can be used,” says Brenner. Cocoa beans taste completely different from pulp and juice; the last two have a more tropical fruit taste than chocolate. Like other tropical fruits, Brenner has found the pulp to pair perfectly with nuts in the form of granola, energy bites, and bars.

Similar to Blue Stripes, CaPao also incorporates cocoa fruit pulp into bites made with other dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Shannon Neumann, Associate Brand Director, says sustainability is the main driving force behind the business. “We learned that 70 percent of the fruit was going to go to waste and that the other parts of the fruit were also overshadowed by the cocoa beans,” she says. “Cocoa beans create delicious chocolate, but we have seen using [the pulp] as a way to reduce food waste while introducing people to this delicious flavor which is also very good for them. “

The cocoa beans and pulp also pair well, which is exactly what Cacao Barry and Cabosse Naturals (both members of the Barry Callebaut chocolate company) are doing with their new chocolate couverture that chefs can use to create their own. cocoa from fruit. desserts. “Cabosse Naturals recycles everything: the seeds, pulp and skin of the fruit. This means there is no wasted delicacies and wasted nutrition,” Woltering-Valat explains. She adds that even the shell is ground into flour and used in bars.

In addition to reducing food waste, using the whole cocoa fruit means that farmers and producers are also able to profit more, Brenner said. “The owners of these small farmers in Ecuador [where Blue Stripes sources is cacao fruit] can make more money because they don’t just sell the cocoa beans, they sell all the parts of the fruit. Pods cost more than beans, ”he says. Brenner says it’s actually less work for them too because instead of opening the pod and getting the beans, the whole cocoa fruit is shipped to the Blue Stripes manufacturing plant, where he is then processed and transformed into different products.

The tl; dr is this: Using the whole cocoa fruit means more money for farmers, less food waste, and more nutritional benefits for us. It is an all-out victory. But whatever the food “trend,” Largeman-Roth says, it’s important to read labels and research more on companies before spending money to support them. Companies that genuinely support cocoa farmers should highlight this on their website, or even on their packaging. Even better, have a Fair Trade certification, showing that a reputable third party organization holds them accountable for safe working conditions and sustainable practices.

When reading your label, Largeman-Roth says it’s a good idea to watch the sugar and sodium content. Even though cocoa fruits are naturally sweet, you want to be sure that brands don’t add a ton of sugar or salt to what would otherwise be a healthy product. As a general rule of thumb, keep added sugar below 25 grams per day and sodium below 2300 milligrams per day.

With these tips in mind, you are ready to reap the full benefits of cocoa fruits. Trying it is bound to be a (ahem) fruitful experience.

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