Understanding the physico-chemical behaviour of cocoa powder in water

Attractive, but not easy
Chocolate in various forms is pleasure food number one for many consumers. New chocolate flavoured products are being developed, but the bottleneck in innovations is the unpredictable rheology and solubility of cocoa powder, causing serious trouble in production and unstable products.

A concerted effort
Barry Callebaut, leading manufacturer of high quality cocoa, chocolates and confectionery products, and NIZO food research worked together in a three year project, with financial support from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, to improve the fundamental understanding of the physico-chemical behaviour of cocoa powders in water. Cargill, ADM and Dutch Cocoa participated in the advisory committee for the project. “Communication is crucial in consortia,” explains project leader Igor Bodnár. “The regular progress meetings with Barry Callebaut really helped to tune our research to the requirements of the cocoa industry.”

More than meets the eye
“Until now, processing of cocoa powder has been mostly steered on colour, taste and fat content,” continues Bodnár. “In this project product characteristics such as solubility, rheology and thickening were coupled with processing parameters of the powder production and the dissolving conditions.” In short, design rules for the processing of cocoa powder were set up, towards applications in aqueous environments.

Not just any cocoa
The achievements show that the release of polysaccharides from the cocoa matrix is a key parameter for the behaviour of cocoa powders in water and affects viscosity. The role of these components depends on the processing of the powder as well as on the dissolution time and temperature. Especially for use in milk based systems this is crucial for the processability of cocoa powders towards e.g. instant hot chocolate.

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