Have you noticed that nearly all the functional chocolates available these days range from waxy and cloying, to mediocre and just barely tolerable?
Trust me, I’m a scientist—I’ve carried out careful sensory evaluation on a significant sample size of the functional chocolates. The results have been…disappointing. But I’m still hopeful. Why?
Because it means there’s a huge opportunity for a functional foods company (like yours) to corner the market niche of high-quality functional chocolate.
Until that happens though, we’re all consigned to gulping down “chocolates” that taste like muddy, bittersweet medicine. Gross.
At least each dose is small enough to take down in a bite or two…
But what if I told you that functional chocolate can be as fantastically flavored and gourmet as anything you’d find in a San Francisco Whole Foods or from a multi-generation French chocolate maker?
It just takes a little focused food science and finesse.
How to use functional ingredients in chocolates
I’m glad you asked. Whether you are trying to incorporate CBD, melatonin, or a newly available functional ingredient into your chocolate—high quality functional ingredients should be your starting point for making functional chocolate, not an afterthought.
Most functional chocolate producers add their functional ingredients almost as an afterthought. It’s just there to pack a punch and deliver a dose. So they can boast some fantastic milligram total on the packaging, and shove mediocre products down our greedy throats.
But don’t our greedy tongues deserve to be in on the experience too? Shouldn’t the chocolates we eat TASTE as good as they are a benefit to our health?
If you agree, here’s the start of an answer:
Think of your functional ingredient as a flavor ingredient. Not just a magic or medicinal one.
If it has clear aroma, bitter, or astringent notes, for example, these should be considered as components of the product from the ground up, not at the final moment.
What’s the best functional ingredient for chocolate?
First and foremost, invest in high-quality ingredients that have minimal off-flavors, if possible. In poorly purified ingredients there can be an array of unpleasant flavors. This is particularly common in the growing edibles industry.
But this is usually avoidable, because there are often a number of functional ingredient producers/vendors representing a range of qualities from cheap and dirty tasting, to clean and virtually without aroma, even if bitterness still needs to be dealt with.
Because don’t your customers deserve better?
So why would you use anything other than high-quality ingredients in functional chocolates?
How to make high-quality functional chocolate?
Be thoughtful about every ingredient!
Making top quality chocolate always revolves around at least three main taste elements: sweet, bitter, and sour. Not to mention aroma and other sensory characteristics like astringency.
Cocoa is naturally bitter, and so are many functional ingredients. To compensate for the bitterness of functional ingredients, many brands will simply drop the cocoa percentage and drive up the sugar. But all of that sweetness also drives out the complexity.
There are many ways to mask, balance, and/or incorporate bitterness in functional foods, such as CBD-containing edibles, but remember—every adjustment you make in a chocolate recipe has a ripple effect.
Choosing ingredients that enhance existing flavors while naturally balancing those that tend to be more unpleasant, can go a long way toward creating top-quality functional chocolate to enchant the market. There are many ingredients we can use with this seemingly magical ability. If you’re wondering, one such great example is sea salt. It packs a huge punch when it comes to enhancing flavor of virtually any product.
You don’t need to go bean-to-bar for gourmet functional chocolate
As a functional chocolate producer, you’re better off as a chocolatier rather than a chocolate maker. Going all the way back to the bean adds little to your goals and process except extra steps and stress.
Chocolate maker is someone who makes chocolate from scratch, using different percentages of cacao (cocoa beans that need to be sourced, roasted, and further processed) and other ingredients.
Chocolatier sources finished chocolate from a chocolate maker, and adds ingredients and flavors to create their own bar or confection.
You should certainly source one or more high-quality chocolates that will pair well with the flavor and aroma profile of whichever functional ingredient(s) you choose. And another thing…
Don’t try to cram maximum functional ingredients into every bite
Not only does that let your customer enjoy a few more bites of your delicious chocolate per dose, but decreasing the density of functional ingredient also automatically decreases the bitterness you have to deal with.
This can work on a marketing level too. Who sells more bars? The brand with 10 doses per bar, or the one that is super delicious and mouthwatering, costs less, and sacrifices only a few doses?
Summary: How does food science lead to better functional chocolate?
When it comes to formulating the best functional chocolate for the market, there are a lot of elements to consider.
- Functional ingredients vendors
- Format of the functional ingredients (oils, powders, etc.)
- Cocoa percentage
- Sweet, sour, bitter balance
- Overall flavor bouquet
As a food scientist with a PhD in flavor chemistry, when it comes to functional chocolate formulation, one of my most important and unique tools is formal experimental-design. I have the software, lab experience, and deep knowledge of taste and flavor on a molecular level that you can’t get anywhere else.
And by the way, before becoming a functional food science consultant, I was for many years an award-winning chocolate maker and confectioner, with additional experience in formulation of bakery items, ice cream, beverages, and more.
Any worthwhile chocolate consultant could hopefully help you source a decent chocolate; but only food science can help you pinpoint the best possible version, based on multi-variable experiment setup, multi-objective optimization, and formal sensory analysis (including consumer testing, if you have the budget and time).
So what it comes down to fundamentally is this: What are you trying to achieve?
Are you trying to make excellent-quality functional chocolate that loyal customers will buy over and over again because it’s so delicious?
Or are you just trying to get a bunch of one-time sales?
If you answered Yes to the first question, reach out and let’s formulate some gourmet functional chocolate at a quality level that still rarely exists in the functional foods market.
MORE: Want to see more about how functional chocolate formulation works? Follow us on LinkedIn!