More consumers are looking for plant-based credentials in the chocolate aisle and brands in the category have responded accordingly with vegan and dairy-free chocolate products. Globally, the sector recorded a 24% compound annual growth rate for 2018 to 2020 with North America accounting for 21% of new plant-based chocolate launches, according to Innova Market Insights data.
And while there is clearly a lot of activity and consumer demand for chocolate products made without dairy, formulations have typically relied heavily on costly cocoa butter used in combination with lecithin, which has functional limitations, noted Palsgaard.
Dairy-free chocolate challenges
Removing milk fat to create a dairy-free version of chocolate is not an easy task, explained Arne Pendersen, regional application manager, bakery & confectionery, Palsgaard.
"When making plant-based chocolates you typically need to replace the milk components with other sugar and protein sources to get the milky-like appearance and mouthfeel," Pedersen told FoodNavigator-USA.
"Typically, these replacements will absorb more of the fat than the milk components with a resulting higher viscosity of the liquid chocolate and a more dry mouthfeel in the finished product. To avoid this, it is common to add 2 – 3% more cocoa butter to the recipe, which is very costly. Instead of adding more of the expensive cocoa butter, a replacement of lecithin with Palsgaard AMP 4455 will do the job."
To put the cost savings into perspective, for a medium-sized manufacturer producing 10,000 MT of chocolate a year, switching to AMP 445 and in the processing cutting down on the amount of cocoa butter used translates to savings of €700,000 (US$790,000), according to Palsgaard.
Pedersen also noted in addition to cost savings, manufacturers will likely see an improvement in texture, flavor, and other critical sensory attributes of chocolate by swapping out lecithin for AMP 4455.
"Lecithin is a traditional emulsifier used in chocolate (and a variety of other applications), but it has its limitations on functionality and dosage. We have seen huge variations in the commercial lecithin qualities – both concerning functionality but also color and odor. The qualities have ranged from brown to black and the odor from mild to very distinct, so it is clear that especially in milk and white chocolate, this will have an impact on both taste and color," noted Pedersen.
"Palsgaard AMP 4455 is light in color and neutral in taste so unwanted off-flavor from lecithin is avoided. As Palsgaard AMP 4455 is made from standardized sunflower oil in a controlled process the functionality is very stable from batch to batch which will give the manufacturer a more smooth production with far fewer adjustments," he said.
The company's AMP 4455, which was created specifically for chocolate formulations, can also be used in traditional chocolate as a replacement to lecithin, added Palsgaard.
Product applications and market demand
Palsgaard has developed two prototype recipes to demonstrate the functionality and performance of AMP 4455: a plant-based chocolate bar made with rice flour using AMP 4455 in place of lecithin and a rice-based hot chocolate product for hot drinks that has zero sedimentation even when dissolved in plant-based milk alternative such as almond and soy milk.
Palsgaard is currently available in the US where the company is seeing strong interest from both plant-based and traditional chocolate manufacturers.
"It’s an interesting market for chocolate manufacturers to explore, and we hope to be part of this," added Pedersen.