Chocolate is amongst the most-loved confectionery merchandise worldwide. However with cocoa a main ingredient, and sourcing related to pressured labour and local weather threat, chocolate’s sustainability credentials are attracting elevated consideration.
In keeping with entrepreneurs Ahrum Pak and Dr Johnny Drain, customers are more and more involved about deforestation, habitat destruction, and unfair labour practices throughout the typical chocolate provide chain, which for essentially the most half originates in West Africa – the place round 70% of the world’s cocoa is sourced.
In response, the duo based WNWN (pronounced win-win) Meals Labs to make the product customers know and love, however with out cocoa and its often-problematic origins. “We love cocoa and chocolate, however solely chocolate that has been made with out slave labour and tropic deforestation,” Dr Drain informed FoodNavigator, “and, it’s potential.”
Darkish chocolate from carob and barley
Based in 2020, WNWN launched its first product – a cocoa-free darkish chocolate – final yr. Already, an inside life cycle evaluation has urged its darkish choc emits 80% much less greenhouse gasoline than typical chocolate.
Manufacturing, the co-founders defined, will not be so radically totally different to that of typical chocolate. To make chocolate, cocoa beans are fermented after which roasted, earlier than being processed into the ultimate product.
As an alternative of cocoa, WNWN makes its darkish chocolate various from barley and carob utilizing typical chocolate making gear. Barley – an ‘unimaginable’ grain, in line with CTO Dr Drain – has been consumed in bread and alcohol for a number of hundreds of years. Leaning on conventional fermentation strategies and ‘modern-day meals science’, the start-up transforms barley right into a ‘mega chocolatey’ product, Dr Drain beforehand informed this publication.
Carob is a sub-family of the legume household, Fabaceae. The plant is extensively cultivated for its edible and chocolatey fruit pods. WNWN’s carob is grown in Spain and Italy and is licensed natural.
As soon as these uncooked supplies are fermented, the processing stage begins, the co-founders defined throughout a current go to to WNWN’s R&D lab in Hackney, London. “We combine these uncooked supplies with fats and sugar,” chocolate maker Jon Hogan confirmed us.
Ghanian shea butter, which Hogan informed us simulates cocoa butter, is the fats of selection. However the start-up continues to experiment with quite a lot of components, and on the day FoodNavigator visited the lab, an algae-based fats beneath trial.
The target of the subsequent step, the refining course of, is to attain particle sizes of between 15-20 microns. “Premium chocolate has round 15–19-micron particles, business chocolate has round 22-25 micron particles,” WNWN’s Hogan informed this publication. For WNWN, particle sizes of 15-20 microns makes for the ‘greatest flavour launch’.
The chocolate is then tempered for snap and ‘meltability’. “You need it to soften at physique temperature,” Dr Drain defined.
When it comes to flavour, the start-up says it has achieved the archetypal bitterness related to darkish chocolate, in addition to its ‘fruity acidity’. “We have now crimson berries, prunes, notes of butterscotch within the lengthy end and maltiness coming via from the barley,” Dr Drain beforehand informed FoodNavigator. “It’s a flavour profile that’s similar to that of premium darkish chocolate: numerous acidity, brightness, complexity, and bitterness.”
‘Milk’ chocolate from oats and tiger nuts
Darkish chocolate is taken into account essentially the most complicated of all chocolate sorts. Because of this, WNWN was eager to attain a cocoa-free darkish chocolate first. “We set the
bar very excessive for us, to show we may do it,” recalled CEO Pak. After reaching cocoa-free darkish chocolate, the start-up believed ‘all different merchandise ought to fall in line’.
This technique seems to be working. Lately, WNWN accomplished the recipe and course of for cocoa-free ‘milk’ chocolate. Equally to its darkish chocolate various, the ‘milk’ chocolate is dairy-free and made with its ‘hero’ components carob and barley.
However its most up-to-date innovation additionally accommodates a mix of oat milk powder and tiger nuts. “The method is comparable, however the components are totally different,” defined Dr Drain, including that apart from the oats and tiger nuts, the start-up has additionally elevated the vanilla content material.
What’s a tiger nut, readers might ask? They’re, in reality, not nuts in any respect. Slightly, tiger nuts are edible tubers from the grass-like Cyperus esculentus plant with origins in Northern Africa (however WNWN sources them from Spain). Tiger nuts have a decrease water footprint than almonds, soybeans and oats.
The tubers are maybe greatest recognized for his or her use within the milk-like drink horchata. When the tubers are floor down, they flip ‘milky’.
Utilizing conventional meals, resembling tiger nuts, is core to WNWN’s philosophy, defined the CTO. “In the mean time in meals tech, lots of people try to reinvent the wheel…However folks have been making dairy-free milks for years, horchata being an important instance. So generally, in addition to wanting ahead [for solutions] to deal with issues, we additionally look again to custom and deep-rooted culinary practices for inspiration. That’s the place [our inclusion] of tiger nuts got here from.”
WNWN says its ‘milk’ chocolate is sweeter and creamier than its darkish counterpart, with notes of mocha, malt and hazelnut, and a buttery end. When it comes to diet, WNWN’s chocolate will not be dissimilar to standard chocolate, solely with barely much less sugar.
The product is now present process testing in varied purposes by CPG and foodservice operators, with plans to launch later this yr.
When it does go to market, by way of D2C and/or retail channels, it’s going to take the type of a chocolate bar. The providing presents a chance for WNWN to construct consciousness round present moral and unsustainable provide chains within the typical chocolate sector, defined WNWN advertising supervisor Adam Partridge.
“However on the identical time, deliciousness is on the high of our precedence listing. We actually want to have the ability to supply customers each: a choc that’s actually tasty, and that in time will obtain value parity in order that the change from typical chocolate is simple to make.”
As to the ‘milk’ chocolate’s carbon footprint, WNWN is presently conducting third-party testing to match its plant-based milk choc to dairy- and cocoa-based milk chocolate emissions.
Growing a advertising technique: cocoa-free or carob-rich?
WNWN hopes its cocoa-free ‘milk’ chocolate product will enchantment to standard chocolate lovers in addition to vegans. If style is king, the start-up is worried the dairy-free chocolate market is lower than scratch.
“We’ve tasted loads of vegan milk sweets, and that market is kind of poorly served,” he informed this publication. “There are loads of unhealthy ones, so we wish to present that selection in vegan confectionery, which regularly states of coconut oil or date syrup. We expect vegans deserve higher.”
Precisely how WNWN will market its product – to vegans, flexitarians, and eco-conscious customers alike – has not but been finalised. It will seem the start-up has a few choices: to clearly market the product as cocoa-free chocolate, to take a extra sustainability-by-stealth strategy. “That continues to be to be seen,” defined CEO Pak. “We’re doing that train internally, with the patron in thoughts, to [determine] how greatest to strategy that.”
Dr Drain agreed the reply will not be an apparent one. Both the corporate defines the product by what’s not in it (cocoa-free chocolate), or else it celebrates what is in it. “Carob has a tremendous antioxidant profile and is tremendous sustainable. Tiger nuts are tremendous sustainable. So can we market that, or can we market that it’s cocoa free?…It’s actually tough.”
One other potential communication problem lies in educating customers across the issues – each moral and environmentally sustainable – within the typical cocoa chain. However QR codes may assist play a job right here, urged advertising supervisor Partridge. “In the course of the pandemic, QR codes got here again with a vengeance. So maybe we’d harness one thing like that, and direct customers to a web page on our website that actually lays out all the problems.”
However once more, it’s not all about sustainability: it’s additionally about style, Partridge continued. “We would like customers to purchase it for its style, after which study its context.”