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Rebecca Mallett

Dark chocolate: health food in Europe?

by Rebecca Mallett | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

July 31, 2012 | 2 Comments »

Making any kind of health claim on food products is big business these days. Health and wellness food and drinks sales are expected to grow from $601 billion in 2010 $691 billion in 2015, according to Euromonitor International.

But health claims aren’t just for health foods. In fact more and more, I see labels like gluten-free or high in fiber on sugary or high calories snacks that don’t typically fit into the health food genre. Such labels can help me and other consumers justify an indulgence for an otherwise not-so-healthy snack, like chocolate.

At least, that’s what European confectioner Barry Callebaut is hoping. The company, which is one of the biggest makers of chocolate candy, has requested approval from the European Food Safety Authority to put health labels on foods with dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains cocoa flavanols which can improve blood circulation. Flavanols may also reduce risk for heart disease and lower blood pressure. The benefits of dark chocolate are not a new discovery, but health labels on candy would definitely be new.

Since 2005 Callebaut has been collecting scientific evidence to support its health claims. The company also processes its chocolate in unconventional ways to preserve the flavanols. If approved by the European Food Safety Authority, Callebaut could use flavanol health claims on products sold in the EU for five years. For more information about cocoa health claims In Europe, refer to this Wall Street Journal article by Marta Falconi.

Other confectioners, such as The Hershey Company, Nestlé, and Kraft-owned Cadbury support Callebaut’s efforts. Health labels create new sales opportunities for confectioners including commanding a higher price tag and reaching health conscious consumers. Dark chocolate sales are already growing in areas like Italy and China, but health labels could further boost sales in countries that are lower consumers of chocolate, according to the Candy Manufacturing industry profile by First Research.

In my daily hunt for more info on exercise and diet, I ran across someone who said, to satisfy his sweet tooth and keep from overeating stuff like this, he has a couple of pieces of 85% dark chocolate. I haven’t tried it yet, but the operative word there is yet. I prefer dark to milk chocolate, so I love the idea of being able to grab a little bite or two every so often as long as it’s doing me more good than harm. Dark chocolate, at a certain percentage and certain moderation, seems to fit that bill.

Also I’ve noticed that most health writers have cautioned that the benefits of high fiber and so on in offerings that have downsides like lots of sugar get cancelled out by that downside. No matter how we try to avoid it, I think, it really comes down to eating a balanced diet of natural foods. I always ignore label and other marketing claims and look at the whole picture on the ingredients and nutrition info. One thing I noticed long ago is, as you point out, Becca, an unbelievable amount of so-called healthy foods, such as cereals for example, just don’t earn that claim, often losing out because of too much sugar.

Rebecca Mallett

Yeah, I think the key is moderation. One piece of dark chocolate versus one bar. Similar to how one glass of red wine a day is good for your heart, but only if you keep it to one glass. It’s easy for people to buy into health claims when they want to eat something they know may not be that healthy, especially in excess. You can easily fool yourself into thinking you’re doing your body good. But you’re right, a healthy diet really is all about balance…like most things in life.

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