Green innovations in chocolate production and crop protection by drone

October 05, 2022 — Indulging with a conscience is a robust trend here to stay. In the field of confectionery, chocolate suppliers, flavor houses and food artisans are well aware of their common imprint. FoodIngredientsFirst is aimed at major brands to present this year’s trends and developments in the field of planet-conscious production.

“Cocoa is a vulnerable crop. Weather, pests and diseases, land competition, agricultural standards, political factors and poverty can all influence the quality and quantity of supply,” notes Kate Clancy, group sustainability director, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate.

“Many smallholder farming households struggle to make a living from cocoa and have limited access to the infrastructure, training and finance they need to invest in their farms and run a successful business, on and off the farm. “, she notes.

“Supporting farmers and their families to build socio-economic resilience is therefore an essential prerequisite for securing the future of cocoa and helps ensure prosperity where cocoa is grown.

Läderach has replaced dairy products with cashew milk in its new plant-based offer (Credit: Läderach).Innova Market Insights claims that ethical practices and fair trade are increasingly being addressed in chocolate NPD. Products with fair trade and plant-based claims are also on the rise, the market researcher explains.

Dairy-free fun
Innovation in plant-based confectionery continues to accelerate as consumers seek out this dairy-free option due to its perceived sustainability qualities.

Symrise’s latest edition of its proprietary Trendscope consumer research proves that the demand for plant-based alternatives indeed shows no signs of slowing down.

“Sustainability plays an important role, especially for the increasingly large consumer groups of Generation Z. They are increasingly opting for vegan alternatives when buying chocolate confectionery,” comments Annika Lafontaine, Head of category for chocolate confectionery.

“However, we know that not all consumers are willing to compromise on taste and seek the fantastic, soothing, melt-in-your-mouth indulgence we all think of when it comes to chocolate – also when trying alternatives. vegan.”

Domenik Spirer, Vanilla Product Manager in the EAME region, points out that the flavor house masters these particular challenges with its Symlife technology and sustainably sourced flavors – Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar being at the forefront. “With these, we support our customers’ sustainable chocolate products in every way – in traditional chocolate applications or plant-based alternatives.”

Cargill, meanwhile, kicked off the year with the introduction of its Chocolate ExtraVeganZa range, a range of vegan chocolates and couverture chocolates, reflecting the growing demand for vegan and plant-based options.

“To create the new range, our chocolate engineers identified key plant-based ingredients like sunflower seed powder and rice syrup. These ingredients provide a distinctive taste and texture profile, allowing us to create vegan chocolate recipes that reinvent plant-based pleasures,” says Philippe Bernay, Trade Marketing Manager for Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate – Europe.

“The versatile offering can be used in a range of applications, including bakery, confectionery and dairy, replacing regular chocolate. Further differentiating the range, our Chocolate ExtraVeganZa uses nut-free and gluten-free ingredients.

From its flagship FrischSchoggi (large slabs of fresh chocolate bark), bars to chocolate-covered popcorn, Swiss artisanal chocolate brand Läderach Chocolatier Suisse has unveiled new vegan chocolates in these varieties.

Drone technology is being applied in Ecuador’s cocoa plantations to spray fungicides and fertilizers after rain, helping to alleviate labor shortages.In addition to the existing pure and selected dark chocolate with fruit and nuts, Läderach’s new vegan chocolates include cashew milk instead of dairy milk, coconut blossom sugar instead of sugar and no preservatives.

The coconut blossom sugar comes from Indonesia (organic quality), the cashew milk from Vietnam, and the cocoa beans from Ecuador and Ghana. Its product innovation is led by master chocolatier Elias Läderach.

Drones to fight disease
As the world’s largest cocoa exporter, Ecuador is the leading country for high-quality cocoa beans, the major ingredient in single-origin chocolates. Smallholder farmers represent more than 90% of cocoa producers. However, the downward trend in cocoa prices and the capricious weather have pushed more pressure on preserving yields.

To facilitate sustainable cocoa production, XAG has introduced an agricultural drone adopted by cocoa farmers in Ecuador, which will provide relief from labor shortages during peak season.

XAG’s drone technology is applied in cocoa plantations in Ecuador to spray fungicides and fertilizers after rains, protecting cocoa fruits from yield loss due to diseases and pests that plague the season rains.

XAG’s local partner, Megadrone, dispatched an agricultural services team to deploy drone technology on a 180-hectare cocoa farm in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second largest city.

The cocoa farm is located on mountains and the sloping and hilly terrain makes it difficult to reach by large ground machinery. In previous years, crop spraying and fertilizer application were mostly done manually by hired workers. It took at least a month to cover all the fields even with sufficient manpower.

During the operation, the XAG P Series agricultural drone was equipped with a tank full of foliar fertilizers and fungicides. It took off from the slope and flew over clumps of bushes to precisely spray the cocoa trees.

Due to the powerful downdraft under the propellers, the chemical droplets can be easily transported throughout the plant and cling evenly to the leaves. Two sets of XAG agricultural drones were able to service the entire 180 hectares of cocoa trees in three to four days.

“XAG’s agricultural drone can be easily operated by most people. Before launching the drone, the pilot simply plans the flight path and configures the settings on a mobile app. It’s handy to learn even for our older workers,” comments a farm owner of the project.

Over the next three months, cocoa plantations in Ecuador will enter a vital phase where foliar feeding and insecticide spraying are needed for a bumper crop of cocoa pods.

Palm oil free remains a key positioning in chocolate as consumers remain wary of deforestation.New cocoa innovations
“Palm free” is a ubiquitous claim in the marketplace, as consumers are increasingly wary of the impact palm oil production can have on deforested areas. This complaint is directed at Cargill’s newly expanded coatings and trim production facility in Deventer, the Netherlands. The plant will add 60% to the volumes of coatings and fillings currently produced, with a particular focus on nut-free and reduced-sugar offerings.

This expansion is only the first of several ongoing projects. “We have also expanded our Gerkens portfolio of cocoa powders. Gerkens DB400 cocoa powder responds to consumer demand for dark brown products with a strong chocolate promise,” Bernay points out.

“With its deep tonal aspects, dark richness and delicious taste, this distinctive cocoa powder has been created using state-of-the-art Dutch processes and efficient innovation capabilities, delivering superior consistency in sensory experience. .

To bring the product to market, Cargill invested in new processing capacity at our Yopougon processing site in Ivory Coast, as part of a US$100 million expansion of the facility to be completed in 2021. With the new technology in place, we are now equipped to supply the full range of our customers’ needs, from delicately light Gerkens cocoa powders to intensely dark powders,” says Bernay.

Gerkens Sweety cocoa powders complete the Cargill range. These cocoa powders allow beverage makers to strike the right balance for a trifecta of consumer demands: less sugar, natural reduction and great taste.

“Developed specifically for chocolate drinks, Sweety cocoa powders reduce sugar by 30%. Cocoa powder is an ingredient that adds bitterness to the flavor of the final application and sugar is used to offset this bitterness. Sweety cocoa powders are low in bitterness, with a strong, well-balanced chocolate flavor and a sweet perception,” explains Bernay.

Finally, this year marked the opening of Cargill’s House of Chocolate, which FoodIngredientsFirst attended. This 6,200 square meter complex – built next to the company’s existing chocolate production facility – includes a state-of-the-art Chocolate Experience Center, a unique pilot factory with sensory expertise and a creative workspace for its European R&D team of chocolate engineers.

“It provides a place where customers can explore the entire world of chocolate under one roof, allowing them to taste, smell, smell and see chocolate in all its forms. At La Maison du Chocolat, customers can collaborate with our experts and leverage our resources to create products inspired by the latest trends. It’s a place designed to bring ideas to life and get them to market quickly,” notes Bernay.

By Benjamin Ferrer

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