Whole-Fruit Chocolate: Skipping The Sugar By Using The Entire Cacao Pod

Images of whole-fruit chocolate formulations after kneading at 31 °C and subsequent heating to 50 °C. The ECP concentration in the sweetening gel and the added gel concentrations into the CM are shown on the x and y axis, respectively. (Credit: Kim Mishra et al., Nature Food, 2024)
Images of whole-fruit chocolate formulations after kneading at 31 °C and subsequent heating to 50 °C. The ECP concentration in the sweetening gel and the added gel concentrations in the CM are shown on the X and Y axes, respectively. (Credit: Kim Mishra et al., Nature Food, 2024)

It’s hard to imagine a world without chocolate, and yet it is undeniable that there are problems associated both with its manufacturing and its consumption. Much of this is due to the addition of sugar, as well as the discarding of a significant part of the cacao pod, which harbors the pulp and seeds. According to a study by [Kim Mishra] and colleagues in Nature Food, it might be possible to ditch the sugar and instead use a mixture of cacao pulp juice (CPJC) and endocarp powder (ECP), which are turned into a sweetening gel.

This gel replaces the combination of sugar with an emulsifier (lecithin or something similar) in current chocolate while effectively using all of the cacao pod except for the husk. A lab ran a small-scale production, with two different types of whole-fruit chocolate produced, each with a different level of sweetness, and given to volunteers for sampling. Samples had various ECP ratios in the gel and gel ratios in the chocolate mixture with the cacao mass (CM).

With too much of either, the chocolate becomes crumbly, while with too little, no solid chocolate forms. Eventually, they identified a happy set of ratios, leading to the taste test, which got an overall good score in terms of chocolate taste and sweetness. In addition to being able to skip the refined sugar addition, this manufacturing method also cuts out a whole supply chain while adding significantly more fiber to chocolate. One gotcha here is that this study focused on dark chocolate, but then some chocolate fans would argue vehemently that anything below 50% cacao doesn’t qualify as chocolate anymore, while others scoff at anything below 75%.

Matters of taste aside, this study shows a promising way to make our regular chocolate treat that much healthier and potentially greener. Of course, we want to know how it will print. Barring that, maybe how it engraves.

34 thoughts on “Whole-Fruit Chocolate: Skipping The Sugar By Using The Entire Cacao Pod

    1. Sugar is still a problem, here is something that we can fix, don’t turn it into something we cannot fix
      If you want to hack society to fix child labour that is a whole different arguement

    2. thing is in places where child labor exists, the children (predominantly orphans) would otherwise starve if they did not work. you can stop buying those products of course, but then if the employer doesn’t get paid, the children starve. it may be exploitative, but can you name a minimum wage job that isn’t? i still have a problem with child slave labor though, pay your damn orphans.

        1. depends on the minimum. for slave labor $0 is the minimum wage. or if you are paying just enough to avoid being called a slave owner, but nothing that can buy basic food and shelter in the local economy.

        1. “in the west” is a different matter. here simply being able to be useful in the labor market requires at least some education. in places where a large portion of the population is illiterate or school is not a public service, trade work becomes a lot more important and that is mostly experience based. starting early has its advantages in the long run. if the parents are farmers, that means the kids help out in the fields.

    3. There was me thinking that the problem was that the people who grow and do the initially processing of the Cacao pod have, and will, never taste Chocolate during their entire life.

      There are ethically sourced supply chains, but even they are abused.

  1. Cacao pulp is very good to eat, even on its own. It’s a shame that it usually goes to waste. This is a very nice development, that may increase sustainability and hopefully will increase income for cacao farmers. I hope it catches on soon.

  2. If the value could be added closer to the farm, that would be better for the growers, and if their situation improves then maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to have their children work?

  3. Interesting article, Lindt are already selling whole cacao fruit chocolate made in quite a similar way (no milk or sugar added, made only from cacao fruit). Tastes okay, a bit like a less sweet dark chocolate. There’s a Swiss company called KOA that sources and finds uses for the leftover cacao pulp.

    1. No. It doesn’t go to waste. It’s used as mulch, and the endocarp they’re harvesting attracts pollinators for the next crop. It can also be fed to livestock which is why so many Central American cacao farms also raise cattle or sheep.

  4. There’s a small premium chocolate industry on Hawaii. No child labor involved (though some of it is owned by Dole), and it tastes far better than Hersheys.

  5. Many people that are into chocolate scoff at the American taste in chocolate, so that brings up the question if the taste test was done with American volunteers or an international group.

    1. Most people are cork sniffing ‘snobs’ (unaware idiots aping other idiots).

      American mass market chocolate candy is indeed crap.
      But so is all mass market chocolate candy.
      Cadbury = Hersey’s.

      That said, my extended family has been running a north Atlantic praline smuggling operation for decades. Dad once got busted with an overweight suitcase…He had maybe 50 boxes. 6 large boxes choc = about 750ml brandy. The were bad at math, didn’t understand or just didn’t care.

      I will say that Ghirardelli isn’t very good. N Cal seems to think it’s Lindt, but no.

      1. “Most people are cork sniffing ‘snobs’”

        Not “most”. But there are people who call what many other people like “crap” and then even associate it with a specific nationality.

        On the “cork sniffing” thing:

        Adam Ruins Everything – Why Wine Snobs Are Faking It


        He has many excellent episodes, like how the not worth nearly as much as you paid for it if you try to sell it expensive diamond engagement ring tradition got started and how diamonds are actually not that rare.

        1. What I’ve seen of ‘Adam Ruins Everything’ had me thinking ‘Adam Understands Nothing’.

          BTW A real wine ‘snob’ knows _not_ to sniff a cork. Rather squeeze it, if mush wine is surely corked.
          Poseurs copying other posers sniffing corks, drinking wine with pinkies extended.
          Wine frog will never say a thing.
          Would you tell customer he’s idiot in front of date, explain why…Get great tip?

  6. What is the cost of this manufacturing technique? Everyone seems to love to discuss the politics of this but money talks. If I sold the “slightly less unethical and artifically sweetened chocolate” at 10x the cost I’m going out of business and people are using the old stuff.

    1. The Fruit doesn’t ship.
      Like a prickly pear.
      Choices are air ship, cooled all the way, or not at all.

      Or make the final product at source. Perhaps some intermediate step.
      Which could work if source isn’t a kleptocracy.
      That lets out 90% of cocoa’s source nations.
      Do you want to invest in Liberia?

      Good chocolate has 10-20% sugar anyhow.

      You’d be amazed how expensive the ‘sniff their own farts’ end of the chocolate market is.
      Makes places like Andre’s in KCMO look cheap.
      $50 1 bar. Single sourced bean artisanal, ground with kegel muscles etc etc.

  7. Can someone explain the issue with the sugar? A chocolate bar has like 26g of sugars in it, presumably mostly sourced from beet or cane (white) sugar. A 12oz (350 mL) can of coke is like 39g for comparison. I’m as critical as about anyone against eating way more sugar than necessary, especially corn syrup and “regular” sugar but, come on. Eating a bar of chocolate once in a while or having a can of Coke once in a while isn’t going to have any health implications.
    Sure, a few cans (or bars?) a day can’t possibly be good for you (see: most of USA) but modest intake? Seems fine.

    1. You are not wrong, but in nowdays industrial food, there are a lot of hidden/added sugar sources, even where there shouldn’t be any. So a lot of us are already eating too much sugar, even without succembing to temptation of a soda can, or chocolate bar.

      And also, it is really boring and difficult to scrutinize the composition of everything you eat to track how much sugar you are eating everyday, to try to not overcome the World Health Organization recommandation of 50g/day maximum.

      So i think that every reduction in sugar you can simply and easily make by trying to select products with reduced amount of sugar in it is a good way to stay in control without too much thinking.

      And in addition to 40% less sugar, this wholefruit chocolate does also contains 90% more fibers and 25% more proteins, which is also great and makes this chocolate an healthier product.

      Also, it’s better to eat a whole orange rather than drinking the same amount of orange juice, because in an orange the sugar is stored in a “matrix” of other components (fibers mostly), so is more difficultly and progressively released in the organism, when the sugar in a juice is completely free and induce a sudden peak of blood sugar, which is not good.

      Maybe this wholefruit chocolate with much more fibers could have a similar effect, i don’t know.

      1. “And in addition to 40% less sugar, this wholefruit chocolate does also contains 90% more fibers and 25% more proteins, which is also great and makes this chocolate an healthier product.”

        Where did you get that? It’s not in the article or study linked. Regardless… that’s not how it works. You want 40% less sugar, eat a bar with 40% less sugar. This process has the same amount of sugar, it’s just derived from the sole source of fermentation which is the primary stage of flavor activation. Same sugar, different source, catastrophic taste, texture, and tempering. This whole thing is an abomination. Introduce water into the cocoa mass then counteract the hydrophobic nature of cacao with pectin? Who wants to eat cocoa jelly? This whole thing is a terrible idea, trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

  8. “It’s hard to imagine a world without chocolate, and yet it is undeniable that there are problems associated both with its manufacturing and its consumption.”

    Newsflash: *everything* is “problematic”.

  9. I’ve been a bean to bar chocolate maker for 15 years, and it’s one of the main focuses for my maker/hacking projects. I have relationships with cacao farmers in Mexico, Central, and South America. I can’t see this having any real world application and the study itself is sadly ignorant of regenerative forestry and how famers actually produce cacao.

    First off, the “often-discarded” endocarp is a critical component in attracting pollinators and returning sunk nitrogen to the soil. It’s “discarded” into a mulch pile that’s used to feed the next generation of pods.

    Secondly and most importantly, the vast majority of the sugars reside in the pulp which in this lab experiment is “harvested and pressed for its juice.” Pulp is the active component of the fermentation phase of cacao processing, and it’s the first step in developing the bean’s flavor. Their own reference article refutes their statement that “partial removal of pulp juice did not affect bean fermentation”, instead saying that “the chemical and physical changes that take place in the course of cocoa fermentation and sweating play important roles … to give the beans the required chocolate flavor.” Their reference article is about “sweatings” (pulp fermentation run-off) from the fermentation process – not the pulp itself. You can not remove the pulp without significantly – even catastrophically – impacting flavor development. Yes, you can use the sweatings, but – again according to their reference article – only the first 6 hours has a worthwhile level of usable sugars. And there ain’t that much of it to begin with!

    Finally, they use a lab testing protocol for food tasting. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. They compared single-origin beans to chocolate made from cocoa powder as the benchmark? No normalization tastings? Blindfolded… for a chocolate tasting? I can’t even with this. It “solves” a problem that doesn’t exist by creating problems in a process that works efficiently, sustainably, and regeneratively.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.