Olam Cocoa launches innovative reduced-sodium dark cocoa powder

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01 Dec 2017 --- Olam Cocoa has been showcasing its new dark cocoa powder without added sodium during Fi Europe this week – and it’s proving to be a big hit. The experts in cocoa wanted to give clients an excellent tasting, dark-colored cocoa powder but with less sodium. Following a period of research and development, Olam cocoa pioneers came up with the premium cocoa powder deZaan D11BK, which it has been presenting at the trade fair throughout this week.

According to Olam, deZaan D11BK cocoa powder is the first ever nib alkalized, black cocoa powder that provides both intense cocoa flavor and very dark color, without added sodium.

Excessive salt intake remains a serious health concern globally, with the majority of it consumed unknowingly in processed foods. 

Unlike other dark cocoa powders, which are typically processed using sodium alkalizing agents, D11BK uses potassium instead, reducing the sodium in the formulation while maintaining the flavor and color impact benefits of a typical dark cocoa powder.

Speaking exclusively to FoodIngredientsFirst at Fi Europe this week, Olam executives Rinus Heemskerk (pictured, right), Global Head of Product Development & Innovation and Alain Fredericq (pictured, left), Global Head of Cocoa Powder, explains the key points about deZaan D11BK as well as leading trends within the cocoa category. Click to Enlarge

“Obviously, health and wellness is very important in the food business and also in cocoa. Cocoa, fortunately, has a lot of very good things in it already. It’s full of antioxidants and flavonols. It is very rich in fiber; a third of cocoa powder is fiber. It’s rich in potassium, but there are still things that you can improve.”

“Black cocoa powder is used for biscuits, for very famous brands, and obviously it’s a powder that is very special, both in color and flavor. Making a black powder is not very difficult. Making a black powder have a cocoa taste is very useful.”

“We have a fantastic black cocoa powder. We have been the leading brand in black cocoa powder for decades, but today it’s alkalized with sodium as the alkalization agent. Unfortunately, in our diets, we have too much sodium. The World Health Organization (WHO) says a maximum of three grams per day, and we consume almost double that. It’s not just in the West, it’s also in the East. So reducing sodium is a big thing for many companies.”

Heemskerk explains how many large-scale food companies have publicly stated a need to cut the salt in their products and this was a key driver behind the creation of deZaan D11BK.

“For us, it was important to have a look at our black cocoa powder and see: Can we replace the sodium with potassium as an alkalizing agent? Potassium is a mineral that we don’t get enough of, so we would be reducing ‘the baddie’ and increasing ‘the goodie’.”

“Our new D11BK has a fantastic cocoa taste and is a very black cocoa powder. This allows you to reduce the sodium content in these kinds of products by a third.”

“It’s easy to get the color but it’s very difficult to get the flavor right. This is a fantastic cocoa-tasting black powder, but it doesn’t have any sodium added to it and it delivers the full flavor and color potential of the cocoa powder.”

Tapping into the health and wellness trend
Olam Cocoa is closely following trends surrounding health and wellness, two factors which are driving other innovations in the company. Another interesting creation is Olam’s cocoa powder, Fresco. 

“If you go through the supermarket aisles, you will find meters and meters of yogurt products, none of them having cocoa. On the dessert side, you have meters and meters of products and almost all of them have cocoa. So why is there no cocoa in yogurt? A very simple reason: acidity and bitterness don’t go together,” explains Heemskerk.

“We have developed a cocoa powder, which we call Fresco, that is reduced in bitterness. So you have a great chocolate experience, but you don’t have the bitterness. Therefore, it goes very well with these acidic products. That is relevant for dairy, but it’s also relevant in a wider context.”

Click to Enlarge“Many companies today want to reduce added sugar. Well, chocolate is a balance of bitterness and sweetness, so if I’m able to reduce the bitterness, automatically the sweetness will increase. That’s why this cocoa powder is also very relevant for people who are looking for solutions which contain less added sugar in their formulations.”

Switching gears
Another trend that Olam is tapping into right now is targeting the Millennial market by offering new and exciting experiences around cocoa. By adopting similar multi-option techniques used in tea and coffee categories, Olam Cocoa has been working with a Dutch Michelin-star chef to stimulate interest in cocoa drinks. 

Working alongside Olam on flavor associations, the specialists started a journey to discover how to make new and exciting products using different flavors of cocoa. 

“If I offered you tea I would probably bring you a box with six or seven different types of tea in it. If I offered you coffee and I had an espresso machine, I would have ten capsules of different coffee blends. But typically, if I offered you cocoa, I would give you a choice of one,” Heemskerk explains. 

“It’s very unfair because there are so many different flavors, so this is some inspiration for our customers with very different flavors: six cocoa drinks, each with their own positioning, each with their own excitement, where we use some of these associations that the chef has been giving us to create new flavors, to create new experiences for the customers.”

Many people tried out Olam Cocoa’s hot drinks range as well as other products on display at Fi Europe, giving positive feedback on the variety and particularly the “inspiration” they offer.

“Quite a few people have said, ‘this is a great idea, we should work on this.’ We invite them to come to our cocoa innovation centers. We have six cocoa innovation centers around the world where we can work with our customers; we have the pilot facilities, we can imitate the processes and we can help them to develop new products much quicker than they would be able to on their own,” adds Heemskerk.

Cocoa sustainability
Alain Fredericq explains how Olam has been at the forefront of sustainability and traceability initiatives for many years. Its goal is to be fully traceable by 2020, a target it is already very close to achieving. 

“Thanks to our history and our presence in all the major cocoa-producing countries, Olam has long been present and very close and going, I would say, the extra mile closer to the primary producers: the cocoa growers in West Africa, Asia and Latin America. This addresses several expectations from the most discerning and more demanding consumers about traceability: Where does the food come from? Where does the cocoa I’m eating in my biscuit, or in my ice cream, or in my chocolate come from?” Fredericq explains. 

“Cocoa grows mainly in countries where you have quite a few social challenges in terms of the living conditions of these farmers, especially in West Africa. There is environmental pressure on the forests especially, and the combination of all of this is the economic conditions of those farmers.”

“Olam is really taking a lot of energy and allocating many resources to really support the primary producers, the cocoa growers around the world, without whom we wouldn’t exist.”

“If there were no cocoa growers, there wouldn’t be any cocoa and we wouldn’t have any business. So for us, those cocoa growers are probably the most important business partners.”

Olam Farmers Information System
Fredericq explains how by working sustainably, Olam can offer farmers commercial support by giving them a regular outlet for their cocoa, while also providing full traceability to customers. 

“We provide our customers with a traceability system and assure them that the cocoa they are getting is coming from that area and might come from that cooperative, which is supported by this program, to which we pay a premium every year.”

“This is now also documented by an innovative platform called the Olam Farmers Information System. We have already been mapping out the cocoa growers we are working within several countries in Africa – and also in Asia – for two years. I think we are now getting to over 150,000 that are mapped out, and you can then zoom into them on the web platform and trace where this cocoa is coming from.”Click to Enlarge

“For example, you might find out that it’s coming from Côte d'Ivoire, from this region, from this cooperative, from that farmer. And you can see that this farmer has a plot of 2.5 hectares and he’s got three kids and the closest school is three kilometers away.”

The goal is to develop this platform into a traceability reference for all customers wanting to track back the cocoa ingredients they are buying from Olam. 

“Every day we keep adding farmers. This includes mapping and GPS mapping. Through those GPS we are able to map out and find out what they are growing in the area, and therefore if you can measure you can manage it, so we can help them manage their production system better.”

“Knowing their acreage and knowing how many bags of cocoa they’ve got this year and next year, thanks to input of fertilizer or thanks to better practices. Now we are able to manage that, to measure it and to help them progress and improve their livelihood.”

A legacy of leadership looks to the future
At FIE, Olam Cocoa also unveiled the latest edition of the deZaan Cocoa Manual, one of the most respected and coveted cocoa reference resources in the industry. 

Starting from the first manual edition published in 1969, the manual’s content has been unmatched in depth and scope of information, aimed at helping customers keep abreast of global trends.

The new 2017 version includes a chapter dedicated to the health aspects of cocoa. The manual exemplifies Olam Cocoa’s ability to provide expertise, value-added benefits and unique opportunities to its customers, according to Olam Cocoa’s CEO, Gerard A. Manley.

“We are incredibly proud of the heritage and legacy of cocoa innovation excellence that the deZaan Cocoa Manual represents. We are pleased to now present this newest edition, the latest in a long line of important references resources for the cocoa and chocolate confectionery industries,” he finalizes.

By Elizabeth Green & Gaynor Selby

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