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.

Warmer Ice Cream?

What if you could tweak the recipe on ice cream to keep it frozen at higher temperatures? The idea comes from massive conglomerate Unilever. Among other things, the brand owns a wide variety of ice cream brands, from Ben & Jerry’s to the Magnum and Cornetto lines. Instead of running freezers at the industry standard of -18 °C (0°F), the company is experimenting with upping the temperature to -12 °C (10 °F) instead.

First off, you’d save a lot of electricity. Thanks to the way the industry works, the company actually owns the vast majority of the three million or so display freezers that are used to sell its stock to customers. Running at a higher temperature could slash the freezer’s energy use by 20% to 30%, according to the company’s calculations. The company also estimates that the energy used by these freezers makes up around 10% of its total greenhouse gas footprint, so it’s better for the environment too.

Of course, there’s savvy commercial reasons behind the idea. Unilever had noticed its ice cream sales dropping in 2022. The company believes this was in part due to retailers unplugging their freezers earlier than usual as winter approached, due to high energy bills. If the company’s freezers aren’t humming, they’re doing less business. If shaving down the freezer’s energy use helps retailers keep them plugged in and the lights on, that’s a net bonus to the company’s bottom line. It could also make their freezers unhospitable places for rival products, giving them an edge in the marketplace.

But this is all business intrigue. Let’s instead take a deeper look at ice cream.

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Hackaday Links: May 29, 2022

It looks like the ongoing semiconductor shortage isn’t getting any better, and if the recent spate of computer thefts from semi trucks is any indication, it’s only going to get worse. Thieves seem to be targeting the Freightliner Cascadia, probably the most popular heavy freight truck on the road in North America today, with “smash and grab” thefts targeting the CPC4, or Common Powertrain Control module. These modules are sitting ducks — they’re easy to locate and remove, the chip shortage has made legit modules nearly unobtanium from dealers, and the truck won’t run without them. That’s driven the black market price for a CPC up to $8,000 or more, making them a tempting target. And it’s not only individual trucks parked in truck stop lots that are being hit; gangs are breaking into trucking company lots and bricking dozens of trucks in short order. So the supply chain problem which started the semiconductor shortage caused the module shortage, which drives the thieves to steal modules and take trucks off the road, which only worsens the supply chain shortage that started the whole thing. Nice positive feedback loop.

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