The chocolate and confectionery industry is one of the most important customers for speciality fats but coming up with a speciality fat that will ensure efficient processing, texture, taste demands and long final product shelf life involves steep technology.
With regards to formulation science, two of the more critical components are fats and proteins. Barrier fats and their ability to stop bloom caused by fat migration are the focus of recent ingredients from Danish company Aarhus United.
For the company's Barrier Fat 50, recommended for pralines, a thin layer of the fat is applied to the chocolate shell using frozen cone technology. Aarhus United has also developed Barrier Fat 76 that maintains the crunch in novelty biscuit products and 'improves the shelf life of confectionery and snack products where biscuit comes in contact with fillings, toppings or desserts with a high water content. Combined with cocoa powder, the barrier fat may be perceived as a luxurious chocolate layer.'
A supplier of speciality fats, Swedish company Karlshamns has developed several vegetable alternatives, called Cocoa Butter Alternatives (CBA), that include CBE (Cocoa Butter Equivalents), CBS (Cocoa Butter Substitutes) and CBR (Cocoa Butter Replacers).
By completely or partly replacing cocoa butter with these alternatives, chocolate makers can achieve economic and process benefits as well as better quality end products, claims Karlshamns.
The first European Union chocolate directive was agreed in 1973 and allowed the then new entrants to the European Community, the UK, Ireland and Denmark, to use a small amount of vegetable fats in their chocolate. Since this time, other European countries, notably Germany, have been fighting with chocolate 'puritans' - notably France, Belgium and Italy - for the right to use vegetable fats and still call their products chocolate.
The fight ended in 2000, and in August this year Europe enforced new legislation that allows manufacturers to replace up to 5 per cent of chocolate's cocoa butter content with vegetable fats.
"This decision guarantees more choices for European consumers," said Caobisco, the organisation representing more than 3,000 chocolate makers in Europe, in a statement when the rules were cleared.
For the first time, the milkier formulation of British milk chocolate is now recognised throughout Europe, although in the rest of Europe it must be labelled as 'family milk chocolate'.
"For many years the German confectionery industry lobbied strongly to say that if vegetable fats are going to be used [by UK, Denmark and Ireland], let there be a level playing field," Cliff Luckloo, from the UK Biscuit Cake Chocolate Confectionery Alliance (BCCCA), that represents 95 per cent of the manufacturered products in the UK, told FoodNavigator.com.
The crux of the matter is that vegetable fats are cheaper to use than cocoa butter. Manufacturers can slice a considerable sum off production costs when replacing the cocoa butter and so pitch their prices to the consumer below pure cocoa competitors.
"Although member states could use vegetable fats for use outside the EU, they could not manufacture such products for their domestic market and call it chocolate. Ultimately, it's a labelling issue," added Luckloo.
The impact of the new rules will be felt more strongly in Europe than in the UK where vegetable fats have been allowed for decades. The UK represents a market value of £4 billion, mirroring a consumption of 7.8 kilo per person per year of chocolate.
According to Caobisco - Association of the Chocolate, Biscuit & Confectionery Industries of the EU - in 2001 Switzerland, coming in at 10.6 kilos, topped the graph for the highest consumption of chocolate confectionery per head per year in Europe. Austria came in second with 9.6 kilos, followed closely by Ireland with 8.8 kilos per capita, Norway 8.6, Denmark 8.4 kilos and Germany 8.2 kilos.
Caobisco represents nearly 2000 companies in Europe that collectively turn over more that €39 billion annually.