The health and wellness benefits associated with cocoa consumption continue to make headlines in consumer press, making high-quality, chocolate-containing foods, including dairy products such as frozen desserts and milk, increasingly appealing to today's label-reading consumer.

Source: MilkPep


Source: NutriSystem

The health and wellness benefits associated with cocoa consumption continue to make headlines in consumer press, making high-quality, chocolate-containing foods, including dairy products such as frozen desserts and milk, increasingly appealing to today's label-reading consumer. This helps explain why the number of new global chocolate product introductions has more than doubled in the past decade. Interestingly, chocolate products that contain nuts (such as some frozen desserts) account for almost one-fourth of new chocolate product introductions, according to Mintel, Chicago. Both dark chocolate and nuts are recognized as containing nutrients known to decrease the risk of heart disease, among other benefits, which makes them an attractive pairing.

The media coverage keeps getting more positive. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (January 2011), for the first time, cocoa flavanols, also often referred to as catechins, have been shown to exert a positive effect on select gut bacteria in humans. Until now, the majority of science into the potential benefits of cocoa has revolved around cardiovascular health. This new study now suggests that cocoa flavanols may also exert a prebiotic effect, much like soluble fiber.

Source: Dean Foods

This is just one of a number of new "positives" associated with cocoa consumption. The December 2009 volume of Journal of Proteome Research includes a study showing that daily consumption of 40 grams of dark chocolate significantly changed a person's metabolism, as well as changed the metabolism of the gut microflora. The implications of the study are that subtle changes in dietary habits, such as eating dark chocolate, can benefit both host and microflora metabolism with potential long-term health benefits.

It is important to point out that these benefits are associated with cocoa, not chocolate. Cocoa is a component of chocolate, which means that chocolate ingredients are a diluted source of cocoa and marketers who want to make cocoa claims must ensure that the chocolate ingredients being flagged in product formulations contain a high percentage of cocoa flavanols.

Source: Red Mango

Using quality chocolate

Two Dallas-based dairies welcomed 2011 with an emphasis on new cocoa-containing products. Red Mango, a retailer of probiotic frozen yogurt and fresh fruit smoothies, rolled out a decadent dark chocolate frozen yogurt.

"Our new low-fat, all-natural dark chocolate frozen yogurt is a tribute to the health, taste and style that has made our brand a national success,” says Dan Kim, founder and chief concept officer of Red Mango.

According to Kim, the new flavor is made with Ghirardelli premium dark chocolate and Red Mango's all-natural nonfat yogurt. Kim says that the rich and creamy sensation offers antioxidants naturally found in chocolate, and features patented probiotics that help promote a healthy immune and digestive system.

Nearby, Dean Foods announced that is has lowered the sugar and calories in its chocolate milk in efforts to appeal to parents that want healthier choices for kids' beverages. The company's new Start Right End Right promotion features the newly reformulated flavored milks that have 10% to 15% fewer calories and 20% to 25% less sugar.

According to the company, Start Right End Right is about doing just that: starting the day right with white milk and ending the day right with a delicious and nutritious chocolate milk treat. Dean Foods' new chocolate milk formulation contains pure cocoa powder.

"Nutrition experts confirm that flavored milk combines the same essential nutrients as white milk with a taste that kids love,” says Andrea Carrothers, a registered dietitian who is the nutrition communications manager for Dean Foods. "Children need the goodness of dairy, and studies show that drinking flavored milk helps them meet more of their nutrient needs. Our new, 150-calorie flavored milk products satisfy kids, but avoid the unnecessary sugar and calories that moms worry about.

"With the new formula, Dean Foods chocolate milk is an excellent option after school or on the go and certainly beats sugary sports drinks and carbonated sodas,” she adds. "…our commitment to research and development brings innovation to our formulas and makes the chocolate milk decision easier for moms."

Consumers recognize that cocoa, and the chocolate made from it, is one of life's greatest, simplest pleasures. We also know that flavanol-rich cocoa possesses some remarkable health benefits. When choosing cocoa and chocolate for your dairy product formulations, remember that quality counts!