Shea and palm oil derivatives may lead the way as the most common sources of cocoa butter alternatives for use in chocolate, but researchers are discovering novel forms ranging from mango seed to camel hump fat.
The authors of one study on cocoa replacement said: “There are intensive efforts to replace cocoa butter in chocolate production for technological reasons such as low temperature resistance in hot tropical climates, fat bloom, and higher tempering time, and also for economic reasons since cocoa butter is an expensive commodity with a wide range of price fluctuation.”
Cottage vs. industrial production
These researchers looked at the inclusion of Kokum kernel - a small evergreen tree found in several parts of India and a by-product of the country’s agro-processing industry. They said the cocoa butter alternative, which contained about 40–50% fat, used an economical and eco-friendly extraction process to make commercial use of the waste material. However it added that such extraction techniques are currently only practiced at small-scales, which would prove inefficient for industrial-scale production.
In terms of functionality, two papers published in the Food Chemistry journal by the same scientists in 2012 and 2013 looked at the possibility of using sunflower hard searins and found that its crystallization behavior was similar to that of confectionery fats, with triacylglycerol composition having a “clear impact” on crystallization properties. They found that high oleic-high stearic sunflower oil hard stearins were similar to cocoa butter equivalents produced from vegetable fats and tropical butters from shea, mango kernel or kokum fat in terms of e utectic (lowest possible temperature for solidification) and softening .
Standing the heat
Mango seed fat and palm stearin were highlighted by Malaysian researchers last year as holding the capacity to withstand high temperatures, something which could help manufacturers in tropical countries.
According to the research published in Food Chemistry, the replacer maintained fat structure at 37.5 °C.
After looking at the possibility of converting olive pomace oil to a cocoa butter-like fat in a packed-bed enzyme reactor, researchers at the University of Gaziantep in Turkey found that this produced something with a comparable melting point to that of cocoa butter but concluded this would serve only as a partial replacer.
Meanwhile enzymatically-modified tea seed oil as a cocoa butter replacer in dark chocolate was shown to have a positive influence on bloom development in an article in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology . The research found that of the replacement rates of 5%, 10%, 15% and 20%, adding up to 10% of the modified tea seed oil to cocoa butter proved optimal in reducing bloom development and keep crystal formation and sensory qualities.
Got the hump
New alternatives have not all been plant-based. Research in the Journal of Supercritical Fluids by Shekarchizadeh et al. suggested a cocoa butter analog could be obtained from an unlikely source – the camel. In the study, the researchers developed what they called the optimum process to produce a cocoa butter alternative made from camel hump fat and tristearin.