Supplier Bunge Loders Croklaan, which specialises in oils and fats solutions for the food industry, is tapping the sustainability and health credentials of shea -- a lost crop of Africa -- to offer confectionery manufactures a cocoa butter equivalent with the same neutral taste, sensory and functional qualities of cocoa butter.
Shea grows wild in the ‘shea belt’ of West Africa and requires no fertilizers or pesticides to cultivate. The shea tree is an important source of income for the communities that live in this area.
Rafael Zegarra, BLC Global Marketing Director, told FoodNavigator that the company was attracted to shea’s positive sustainability story.
"The uniqueness of shea is that very few crops at this moment can say that they are still picked in the wild and we have no plans to do it by any other means.”
As the shea tree is an important source of income for the communities that live in this area, BLC is hoping to have a positive impact on the lives of those collecting the shea in Ghana.
BLC sustainability programme – called Where Life Grows – was set up with the objective to empower shea collecting women, create socio-economic value in their communities, and conserve and regenerate the shea landscape in the region.
As part of its commitment to strengthen shea infrastructure and supply chain it plans aims to have 6,000 shea seedlings per year.
BLC’s new product, called Karibon, is a patent-pending 100% shea-based premium Cocoa Butter Equivalent (CBE).
Zegarra added said the ingredient’s health credentials allows manufacturers to reformulate products to tap health concerns among consumers.
Karibon improves the nutritional value of a chocolate product. Because it is 100% shea-based, Karibon is more abundant in stearic acid and has lower levels of saturated fats compared to cocoa butter and other more commonly used CBEs.
“It offers all the processing and versatility of a CBE with the health and sustainability benefits of shae - so it's a double-edged benefit when you compare it to cocoa butter,” Zegarra told us.
Imro ‘t Zand, Global Confectionery Innovation Lead, added the product delivers versatile benefits including better heat stability, fast crystallization and great sensory experience.
“Shea has a stronger compatibility with cocoa butter and improved bloom stability, enabling smoother processing.”
The company spend two years to successfully formulate a shea-based product that allows manufacturers a CBE with the same texture, neutral taste and shelf life as a cocoa butter, he explained.
"It will give it sufficient texture because it is a CBE. Compared to cocoa butter it will give you the same texture and the also the same sensory qualities because the melting profile will not be touched. it will not have a shea nutty taste because we refine the product to have a neutral taste so that it doesn't effect the taste of the ingredients that you incorporate in the products."
"The challenge was to make a product with a good texture and shelf life because what's important in chocolate products is that the surface of the chocolate remains glossy and if the product is not good the surface will become dull. it was important to give the manufacturers the same performance with this product as with cocoa butter. Manufacturers don't have to invest in new equipment. It has the same sensory characteristics of chocolate where you use pure cocoa butter and it will remain glossy for a very long time.”