Chocolates are enjoyed in various forms, including treats, desserts, baking, and beverages. Daniel Peter, a Swiss chocolatier, is credited with introducing dried milk powder into chocolate, creating milk chocolate in 1876. He later collaborated with Henri Nestlé, leading to the establishment of the Nestlé Company and widespread access to milk chocolate.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, family-owned chocolate companies like Cadbury, Mars, and Hershey mass-produced a variety of chocolate confections to meet the growing demand for this delightful treat.
This article will explore chocolate production and the benefits of plant-based chocolate. It will also explore the differences in the production of plant-based and traditional chocolate, highlighting their composition and preparation.
The Making of Chocolates
In the Pre-Classic Period (1900 BC – 250 AD), cacao trees thrived in Central and South America. Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations like the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs cultivated and brewed a bitter, frothy beverage called “chocolatl” or “chocolātl.” It was made by grinding roasted cacao beans, blending them with water, spices, and sometimes chili peppers, and used in rituals and ceremonies.
Chocolate comes from cacao tree fruits called pods, each containing around 40 cacao beans. These beans are dried and roasted to become cocoa beans. Modern chocolate production usually involves large-scale refinement, but some artisanal chocolatiers still make chocolate by hand, using pure ingredients.
In addition to product innovations, chocolate production has seen shifts towards sustainability. Many manufacturers now prioritize sourcing cacao from sustainable farms and cooperatives, ensuring fair compensation for farmers and environmental preservation.
Plant-based chocolate, also known as vegan chocolate, contains no animal-derived ingredients such as milk, butter, cream, and eggs commonly found in traditional recipes. Instead, it utilizes plant-based alternatives for its composition.
Various plant-derived milk, such as almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, and coconut milk, can serve as substitutes for dairy milk in the production of plant-based chocolate. Additionally, plant-based fats like cocoa butter and shea butter are employed in place of animal-derived fats.
The rising demand for plant-based chocolate aligns with the growing popularity of vegan and dairy-free diets, offering inclusivity for those with food allergies or sensitivities. Plant-based chocolate comes in diverse flavors and styles, including dark, milk, white, and varieties with various inclusions, catering to various preferences.
Advantages of Plant-Based Chocolates
Plant-based chocolate contains no animal ingredients, rendering it a suitable choice for vegans and vegetarians. This allows people with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies to indulge in chocolate without experiencing any discomfort.
2. Health Benefits
Growing health consciousness is driving demand for plant-based chocolate as a perceived healthier option compared to traditional dairy-based varieties. Research indicates that 86% of global consumers prioritise both taste and health in chocolate. The increase in milk allergies is driving the demand for plant-based chocolate as consumers seek delicious dairy-free confectionery options.
3. Reduced Environmental Impact
The manufacturing of plant-based chocolate typically results in a reduced environmental impact when compared to traditional dairy-based chocolate. This process consumes fewer resources and generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
How plant-based chocolates are made?
Crafting plant-based chocolate is an extraordinary feat, as it entails the challenging cultivation and harvest of cacao beans. It takes hundreds of cacao tree pods to yield a single pound of dark chocolate, and the quality of each pod should be ensured in order to proceed to the next processing stage.
Following harvest, cacao beans typically undergo a specialized fermentation process spanning several days. This meticulous fermentation not only enriches the chocolate’s flavor but also mitigates its tart and acidic qualities. Unfermented cacao lacks the deep, fudgy notes that make chocolate desirable, explaining its infrequent use.
After fermentation, beans are meticulously dried, ensuring quality. Roasting follows, enhancing flavor and eliminating microorganisms.
Once shells are removed and beans cracked, creativity flourishes. Cocoa nibs become cocoa liquor, a basis for cocoa powder or butter. Further, sweeteners and cocoa butter from plant-based chocolate, are customized with additional ingredients through blending and conching.
Plant-based chocolates are crafted differently from traditional chocolates
The production of plant-based chocolate diverges from traditional chocolate manufacture in several significant ways.
1. Milk Substitutes
Traditional Chocolate: Dairy-based milk in the form of milk solids or milk powder is incorporated to impart a creamy texture and flavor.
Plant-Based Chocolate: It uses non-dairy alternatives like almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, or coconut milk to replicate creaminess while avoiding animal-derived ingredients.
2. Dairy Fat Replacement
Traditional Chocolate: The norm entails the inclusion of dairy-based fats, such as milk fat or butter, to bestow a desired texture and mouthfeel.
Plant-Based Chocolate: Opts for alternative fats like cocoa butter, shea butter, or coconut oil to attain a velvety and luxurious texture, all while avoiding the use of animal-based fats.
Traditional Chocolate: Sugar used in traditional chocolate may be refined sugar or variations of it.
Plant-Based Chocolate: It employs plant-based sweeteners like cane sugar, coconut sugar, or agave syrup, aligning with vegan and natural ingredient preferences.
The emergence of plant-based chocolate represents a notable shift in the chocolate industry. As plant-based chocolate continues to gain popularity and evolve, it exemplifies the ongoing transformation of the chocolate industry in response to changing consumer demands and a growing awareness of health, ethics, and sustainability. This shift underscores the enduring appeal of chocolate and its capacity for reinvention in a dynamic world.