Choosing a Chocolate That’s Right for You

VIENNA, Va., (PRNewswire) — As consumers face a large and expanding selection of premium/specialty chocolates and many new choices
the Chocolate Manufacturers Association (CMA) has put together an online consumers’ guide, “Making Sense of % Cacao.” The information is designed to help chocolate lovers better understand the cacao or cocoa percentage labels that appear on a growing number of chocolate and cocoa products.

The term ‘% cacao’ refers to the total percentage of ingredients (by weight) which come from the cacao bean (or cocoa bean) such as chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder found in a chocolate product. The term is being increasingly used in connection with premium chocolates — including dark chocolate.

“The ‘% cacao’ number is a key part of what consumers should consider when searching for specific flavor intensity, whether eating a bar of
chocolate or consuming it in other forms such as baking and drinking,” said Dr. Leah Porter, vice president of the American Cocoa Research Institute (ACRI), the research arm of the CMA. “In general, the ‘% cacao’ number can guide you towards milder or deeper chocolate flavor intensity, depending on your taste preferences or the needs of your recipe.”

‘% Cacao’ – Characteristics of Chocolate — The Higher the Cacao Percentage, the Greater the Flavor Intensity: In
general, a higher ‘% cacao’ means a more intense chocolate flavor. For example, the U.S. cacao standards require a milk chocolate to contain
at least 10% chocolate liquor. Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate must contain at least 35% chocolate liquor, resulting in a higher ‘% cacao’
and a more intense chocolate flavor. White chocolate has a very different flavor profile because its entire ‘% cacao’ comes from only
cocoa butter.

— Higher Percentage Equals Less Sweetness: A higher ‘% cacao’ means less added sugar. For example, a 72% cacao dark chocolate has less sugar than a 60% cacao dark chocolate. Unsweetened baking chocolate is a 100% cacao product with no added sugar, and is very bitter.
— Cacao Percentage and Flavanol Content — Not Always Related: Much of the recent positive news from the health research community is linked to the presence of certain flavanol compounds in chocolate and cocoa products. While these compounds are associated with the non-fat cocoa solids, actual levels of flavanol content may fluctuate widely depending upon recipe, cocoa bean selection, subsequent processing
practices, and storage & handling conditions. Therefore, ‘% cacao’ may not necessarily indicate the flavanol content of chocolates.

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