US researchers are developing a precision authentication testing method to determine “without any doubt” the chocolate’s country of origin to ensure that it has not been adulterated with inferior ingredients and is as sustainable as the label suggests. Chocolate ecology is a vital step that helps manufacturers determine what to put on-pack to appeal to conscious consumers looking for organic, fairtrade and certified products. However, this can be tricky as many factors can affect a chocolate’s flavor, including processing, and contribute to its unique chemical make-up.

FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with Shannon Stitzel, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator, who explains how the drive behind this work is to add to the traceability toolbox available. This, in turn, helps identify a cocoa sample’s place of origin and may potentially pinpoint the specific farm where a chocolate’s beans were grown.

The flavor and aroma of a chocolate product emerges from its ecology, in addition to its processing.

“Some companies are sourcing directly from local farmers and know exactly where and from whom they are purchasing their cocoa. But other companies are not able to trace back the points of origin for all of the cocoa they’ve used, and this can be a problem for a variety of reasons,” she explains.