Sponsored by Nexxus Foods
Cocoanex™, a roasted carob powder-based cocoa replacement powder, has tailored functionality for superior cocoa replacement in many applications. The ingredient is poised to make in-roads into the global market by offering a healthier, more sustainable alterative to cocoa powder.
The base roasted carob pulp used in the functional Cocoanex™ blends and roasted cocoa beans come from different plant sources and have similar taste, but both have very different and distinctive properties. Standard roasted carob powders typically have diminished flavor, reduced mouthfeel, better stability and dispersion when compared with cocoa bean powders, which have been the "gold standard" in the industry for chocolate and cocoa flavored products. Nexxus Foods, through tailored application research has designed several unique Cocoanex™ powder blends that yield superior functional characteristics that enhance mouthfeel, flavor, dispersibility and promote better stability in a low fat, water continuous system, key attributes when attempting to replace cocoa powder, a high fat ingredient, in foods. Cocoanex™ is also organic, highly nutritious, hypoallergenic, has substantially lower fat calories than cocoa, and, unlike cocoa powder, has no caffeine or theobromine for those sensitive to stimulants. In addition, unlike cocoa powder, Cocoanex™ has no oxalic acid, a concern for individuals with kidney problems. Cocoanex™ is the new cocoa for making chocolate flavored sweet baked goods, dairy-based beverages, and GMO- and allergen-free chocolate flavored products. In addition to its superior chocolate taste, it can also prevent sugar crystallization or be used as a stabilizer, thickener, or emulsifier in foods.
A principal raw material used to make Cocoanex™ comes from the carob tree. The tree is found in eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, and produces long seed pods, and inedible seeds, which are removed prior to the pods being milled and used to make nutritious, high fiber containing foods or roasted for cocoa replacement. The carob plant's use has been dated to 4000 years ago, having earned the name St. John's bread or locust bean for being mistakenly eaten by John the Baptist as a locust nest.
Like the carob tree, the cacao tree produces cacao pods that contain beans (seeds), which when fermented and roasted are turned into cocoa powders. Primarily due to its unique flavor profile, the cocoa bean has been the go-to raw material to make cocoa powder and has been the main ingredient in chocolate products for centuries. Pre-Columbian cultures in the Yucatán consumed it more than 4000 years ago, and, according to World Atlas, it originated in Central America 5000 years ago.
Carob and cacao trees are distinctly different and grown in widely different geographical and climatic locations. As cacao trees, unlike carob trees, grow in a narrow tropical band within 15 to 20 degrees latitude on either side of the equator, and come from four West African countries: Côte ď Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon (World Atlas), which produce about 70% of the global supply, from smallholder farmers, production supply and pricing can be volatile. Given its relatively narrow growth band, the world cacao tree population is already beyond its optimal production capacity by about 10 years, according to Confectionery News. Climate change, population growth and social labor issues have already caused significant production issues. According to the World Cocoa Foundation, the demand for cocoa continues to increase with bean production growing about 30% in the last 15 years, leading to a steep decline in world market price. This resulted in smallholder cocoa farmers, already hurting with poverty, and that carry all the risk of a volatile price, saw cocoa income decline by as much as 30-40% in a couple of months a year ago. While world prices are now increasing the production rate is expected to slow in coming years, even as demand is projected to continue to increase. Currently, efforts to establish new production is set up at the expense of native forests. In fact more than 90% of West Africa's original forest are now gone, according to the Cocoa Barometer. Child labor also remains at very high levels in the cocoa sector, with an estimated 2.1 million children working in cocoa fields in Côte ď Ivoire and Ghana alone. No government or a single company is near reaching the objective of eliminating or meeting commitments of a 70% child labor reduction by the end of 2020. Given the worldwide demand for cocoa, the key factors affecting cocoa production such as disease, over production and child labor issues in producing countries, the market is not easily sustained, resulting in lower than expected pricing or fluctuating supply and continued pressure on cocoa pricing (Cocoa Barometer).
By contrast, the carob trees used to make raw material for Cocoanex™, grow abundantly in more diverse geographical locations, such as the subtropical climatic regions of the Mediterranean basin, California, Arizona, and Mexico, Australia, South Africa, Chile and Argentina, and can even grow in semiarid environments on poor soils. Portugal, Italy and Spain are currently the largest carob producers. Due to its large potential for production and its cultivation diversity, carob does not have the same geographical production limitations, diseases and social pressures or ethical issues associated with cocoa, thus reducing its potential for supply interruptions and price volatility. Cocoanex™ certifies that it does not utilize ingredients produced using any child labor. Nexxus Foods is strongly opposed to this practice.
By comparison, cocoa powders and Cocoanex™ are both highly nutritious ingredients and offer health benefits, particularly due to their high antioxidant content. Both contain high levels of polyphenolic compounds, such as isoflavones, flavanones, flavones, flavan-3-oles, flavonols, tannins, phenolic acids, proanthocyandins and inositols. These compounds are known to scavenge free radicals and inhibit lipid peroxidation in the body to have antitumor properties, and help reduce low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol, that along with effects on lowering blood pressure, reducing plaque on artery walls and improving circulation, help reduce risk of heart disease. However, with exception to the total caloric content between carob and cocoa, and their respective antioxidant content, significant differences are apparent in the composition of key macro- and micronutrients between the two ingredients (Table 1).
Of notable difference, however, is that cocoa powder is significantly higher than Cocoanex™ powder in total fat and protein, ash, oxalic acid and in the xanthine stimulant, caffeine, and the methylxanthine stimulant, theobromine. By contrast, Cocoanex™ powder is much higher in total carbohydrates and natural sugars, dietary fiber, and the alkalizing micronutrient calcium. In fact, the calcium content of Cocoanex™ powder is so high that it can be compared to calcium intake from a cup of cow's milk. The high oxalate content of cocoa powders also gives concern under certain conditions in the formation of kidney stones, and based on the oxalic acid content of cocoa, chocolate made from cocoa is considered a high-oxalic acid food. In fact, the Oxalosis and Hyperoxaluria Foundation, Mayo Clinic, and the Kidney Foundation recommends that persons with enteric hyperoxaluria and kidney problems avoid chocolate consumption. By contrast, Cocoanex™ powder contains no oxalic acid.
Of growing concern, especially in North American markets, is cocoa with high heavy metal contamination, particularly cadmium, from beans produced on heavy metal laden volcanic soils. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, cadmium toxicity can lead to several negative health effects including renal tubular dysfunction, disrupted calcium metabolism, osteomalacia, increased blood pressure and liver damage. Cocoanex™ does not contain any heavy metals, and is consistently tested to assure levels are below method detection limits.
When it comes to flavor, cocoa powder has been established as the gold standard and is the benchmark in the industry for chocolate confections and other cocoa-flavored foods, such as sweet baked products, milk beverages, mousse, low-fat yogurts and others. Cocoa powder has a robust flavor profile and depending where it is produced and how it is processed, has variable levels of bitterness and flavor complexity. By comparison, most cocoa connoisseurs would say that standard roasted carob powder lacks some of the flavor intensity of cocoa powder, and lacks key functional attributes to replace cocoa powder effective. This fact can translate to end users having to place significant emphasis and time on product formulation when using standard roasted carob powders for high cocoa powder replacement. Nexxus Foods has developed a series of Cocoanex™ blends that marry the health-promoting and positive social attributes of roasted carob powder with tailored functional improvements to result in superior functional cocoa replacements in a wide range of chocolate flavored food applications, such as sweet baked goods, milk-based beverages, mousse, and these foods with specific GMO- and allergen-free labeling. According to Julie Néron, R&D Director at Nexxus Foods, Cocoanex™ used to replace 50% of the cocoa in sweet baked goods and milk beverages has provided superior chocolate flavor perception when compared with the products using 100% cocoa.
Typically, for most cocoa-flavored products, Nexxus Foods recommends replacing cocoa powder with about 50% Cocoanex™, although in some applications 100% replacement is possible. Charif Geara, President of Nexxus Foods, says, "partnering with our clients to help them design tailored applications when formulating foods with our ingredient blends often minimizes development time and can make the difference between obtaining unfavorable results or achieving a successful product launches." "Providing this level of service is how we approach business".