Valorization of Cocoa Pod Side Streams Enhances Nutritional and Sustainability Aspects of Chocolate

by Ella

Chocolate production faces nutritional, environmental, and socio-economic challenges inherent in the conventional cocoa value chain. This study introduces a method to address these issues by repurposing the often-discarded pectin-rich cocoa pod endocarp, converting it into a gel using cocoa pulp juice concentrate as a replacement for traditional sugar. Despite potential limitations from the swelling of fibers, proteins, and starches, the proposed chocolate formulation incorporates up to 20% gel by weight. This new chocolate maintains a comparable sweet taste to traditional chocolate while improving its nutritional profile by increasing fiber content and reducing saturated fatty acids. A cradle-to-factory life cycle assessment suggests that large-scale production of this chocolate could reduce land use and global warming potential compared to average European dark chocolate production. Additionally, this process offers opportunities for diversifying farmers’ incomes and technology transfer, providing socio-economic benefits for cocoa-producing regions.


Chocolate, despite its global popularity, poses health, socio-economic, and environmental sustainability challenges. In 2017, chocolate confectionery in the United Kingdom contained an average of 47.3 grams of sugar per 100 grams and had an energy density of 527 kcal per 100 grams, contributing to the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. The high saturated fatty acid (SFA) content in chocolate is linked to inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Efforts to reduce SFAs and improve the nutritional profile of chocolate include air inclusion, additive manufacturing, and substituting cocoa butter with oleogels or fish oil. These nutritional improvements should be coupled with environmental impact reductions.


Globally, about 70% of cocoa is produced by smallholder farmers in high-biodiversity regions. These farmers face trade-offs between productivity, environmental impact, and socio-economic sustainability. As the world moves towards a more circular and sustainable economy, innovative food sector technologies are essential. Maximizing food utilization can help reduce associated environmental burdens, which is crucial for high-impact foods like cocoa products. Cocoa production can result in emissions ranging from 1.25 to over 46.7 kg CO2 equivalents per kg of dark chocolate, mainly from cocoa cultivation due to the low yield of dry beans per cocoa pod.


Using other parts of the cocoa pod, such as the pulp and husk, could enhance income diversification and reduce environmental impacts. Previous studies have shown that removing some pulp juice does not affect bean fermentation and could be repurposed. Cocoa pod husks, which make up to 75% of the pod, are often discarded or used as fertilizer, which can harbor pests and diseases. This study developed a chocolate production process that enhances nutritional value, environmental sustainability, and income diversification for smallholder farmers. The process uses only cocoa pod components in the chocolate. The endocarp is extracted, dried, and milled into a powder, while the pulp is pressed for its juice and concentrated. The cocoa pulp juice concentrate (CPJC) and endocarp powder (ECP) are mixed and heated into a gel, which is then added to cocoa mass (CM).


Manufacture and Characterization of Sweetening Gels

Introducing water into cocoa mass (CM) can cause thickening and phase inversion. However, using a gelling agent like pectin can prevent these effects by restricting water from interacting with the CM matrix. The high pectin content in ECP is ideal for gelling aqueous phases with high sugar and low pH, like CPJC. Various ECP concentrations were tested in an artificial sugar solution to quantify gelling properties. Cooling the gels from 80°C to 31°C showed a consistent increase in storage modulus (G′) and loss modulus (G″), with higher concentrations resulting in stronger gels.


Colloidal Stability of Whole-Fruit Chocolate

Whole-fruit chocolate formulations were made by mixing ECP gels and CM at 31°C. The colloidal stability of the chocolate depends on the interaction of free water in the ECP gels with the CM matrix. Increasing the gel concentration in the CM decreases the chocolate’s gloss and can induce a crumbly texture, especially at lower ECP concentrations. At high ECP concentrations, the water in the gels is absorbed by the protein and fiber particles in the CM, minimizing rheological changes. Higher gel additions can cause the biopolymer particles to swell and form strong networks, leading to a crumbly texture.


This innovative process of utilizing cocoa pod side streams to enhance the nutritional and environmental profile of chocolate shows promising potential. By incorporating components like the pectin-rich endocarp and cocoa pulp juice, the resultant chocolate offers improved health benefits and sustainability. This method not only addresses significant industry challenges but also supports socio-economic benefits for cocoa farmers through diversified income sources and technology transfer.



Wellfoodrecipes is a professional gourmet portal, the main columns include gourmet recipes, healthy diet, desserts, festival recipes, meat and seafood recipes, etc.

【Contact us: [email protected]

Copyright © 2023