The rise of ‘Alt Choc’ cacao free chocolate could herald a new dawn

This week’s release of a non-cacao based chocolate from UK startup firm WNWN is one of the very first of its kind, and as such, represents a significant milestone.

As the company makes a strong point of noting, the ability to have a markedly positive impact on supply chain processes by creating products entirely free of deeply concerning problems such as child labour and deforestation is a laudable proposition indeed.

The major sticking point for any business attempting what is being termed as ‘alt choc’ is whether it is possible to deliver the same flavour profiles as conventional chocolate ranges lies at the heart of this issue.

Is this technical feat possible? Well, the young entrepreneurs behind WNWN certainly believe so, after employing some considerable science and research into the subject, it will surely be interesting to see if consumers can buy into the concept. It is radical in its approach, as the chocolate bar as we know it is very much centred on its core ingredient of cacao for its core characteristics.

As Confectionery Production has previously covered, there are other businesses entering this field, including German-based QOA, which has already attracted considerable investment funding for developing its own ‘alt choc’ venture. Clearly, this is industry momentum behind pursuing cocoa alternatives for premium, as well as mass market confectionery.

But the other significant question arising from this, where do such developments leave the traditional cocoa sector serving the chocolate industry? For Ghana and the Ivory Coast, it remains a significant portion of agricultural focus, yet as we have covered on numerous occasions, farmers remain entrenched earning below poverty-line wages of around $1 a day, for which supplementing wages with additional crops is a significant challenge.

But despite the efforts of industry, governments and civil society, there remain huge systemic tests in terms of tackling child labour in particular – affecting 1.5 million minors in the region, as well as deforestation – with Ivory Coast having lost 80% of its natural forested areas over the past fifty years, which authorities are battling to reverse the tide on.

As the development teams at QOA have explained to this title, they are not seeking to replace conventional cocoa, and believe that there is in fact room for both its science-based alternative formulations as well as traditional means of producing chocolate that have been the prevailing norm during the past couple of centuries.

Hopefully, the awareness that cacao alternative chocolate brings in terms of its claimed ethical production values will have an overall positive impact on the industry over the coming years around the world. Change clearly won’t happen overnight, as any new significant product range or category often takes a period of years to gain an acceptance with consumers.

But these are certainly interesting times we inhabit in terms of genuine innovations that may well help shape the way we produce and consume our product ranges for many decades to come, especially given the increasing pressure on natural resources and existing supply chains around the world.

Neill Barston, Confectionery Production editor.

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