Unwrapping the delights of healthy confectionery this World Chocolate Day

Dr Naveen Pessani, Technical Category Manager for Chocolate & Confectionery, ofi


World Chocolate Day occurs globally on July 7th each year, with some suggesting this marks the anniversary of the introduction of chocolate to Europe in 1550. It’s a day for chocolate lovers around the world to celebrate and indulge in their favorite treat. And whilst the worldwide love for chocolate continues to be unwavering, consumer preferences are changing when it comes to chocolatey treats. At ofi, we see a shift towards healthier confectionery as well as good for the planet options. Consumers are seeking out products that are keto, low-sugar, organic, high in fiber and protein, and contain lower salt. However, it’s plant-based chocolate and confectionary which continues to grow in popularity.


To celebrate the occasion of World Chocolate Day, we delve deeper into these changing tastes and how we’re offering solutions that deliver on these, alongside the same great quality and flavor you’d expect in your favorite ofi products.

Plant-based is no longer an alternative


The demand for plant-based is no longer limited to meat and dairy, with consumers now seeking out plant-based options in the bakery, chocolate, and confectionery sectors. And it’s a trend that is continuing to grow. In fact, ofi’s proprietary research found that 58% of consumers expect their plant-based consumption to increase in the next two years, with 67% of people attributing this to a desire to add health credentials to their diet.


Customers aren’t willing to compromise on taste 


As plant-based diets and options become more mainstream, there is a growing expectation for products that deliver the same creamy, indulgent taste and experience as traditional dairy options. It’s clear that consumers are no longer willing to accept plant-based products with ‘off’ flavors and textures. In fact, our research revealed that 35% of consumers say they are yet to find plant-based dairy products which satisfy their preferences.


Creating plant-based products that are indulgent and satisfactory in taste and texture can be a challenge when it comes to alternative ingredients, which can perform in a different way.

Overcoming challenges in product development


Current market offerings of plant-based versions of milk chocolate are fairly limited due to the lack of understanding of the alternatives for milk solids. Almonds, hazelnuts, and rice have been used recently by the chocolate industry as a replacement for milk and have seen some success. However, the full potential of nut-based ingredients has yet to be realized to its fullest potential.


They give a clean and pleasant taste and add a creamy texture, giving a smoother mouthfeel. Additionally, in chocolate applications, some of these nut-based ingredients provide additional sweetness and a well-rounded flavor. An example of this is our Gianduja plant-based chocolate. With a complex and uniquely West African flavor expression, this whole bean-roasted cocoa liquor brings a rich, round, consistent taste profile. It provides the right balance with our specialty hazelnut paste that naturally has a lower amount of fat, giving the Gianduja a good snap, and adding to the sensory experience.


We’ve also found that when comparing key qualities of the various plant-based chocolate contenders – including hardness, sweetness, creaminess, and melting time – with what we’d expect to see in dairy chocolate, ofi’s almond, and cashew protein powders displayed the most similar qualities. So, when creating creamy, rich, and indulgent plant-based confectionery, including cashew or almond protein power can effectively recreate a comparable experience.

New ingredient innovations


On top of plant-based and healthier confectionery options, consumers are also looking for new innovations in flavors and ingredients, which meet changing preferences. Underutilized ingredients, including fruits and vegetables like beetroot, can provide a natural sweetness when blended with cocoa which can reduce the sugar needed in certain applications.


As the demand for plant-based products continues to grow, new product developments will need to prove their worth as more than just a substitute. And brands need to demonstrate their ability to be innovative in creating plant-based products that don’t compromise on taste and texture, whilst still delivering the health and environmental benefits consumers expect. 


Dr Naveen Pessani |

Technical Category Manager for Chocolate & Confectionery, ofi