Swiss scientists and chocolatiers have developed a healthier and more sustainable chocolate recipe that swaps sugar for waste plant matter.

Scientists Develop a Healthier and More Sustainable Chocolate Recipe

Instead of just using the beans, scientists have also incorporated the pulp and cocoa pod, which resulted in a fibrous and sweet gel that could replace the powdered crystalline sugar in traditional chocolate. According to a report published in Nature Food, this approach makes for a more nutritious product that uses less land and less water.

“The cocoa fruit is basically a pumpkin and right now we’re just using the seeds,” said Kim Mishra, a food technologist at ETH Zürich and lead author of the study. “But there’s a lot of other marvellous stuff in that fruit.”

Though the researchers found that the new method used 6% less land and water, it did increase emissions by 12% because it required an extra drying step that consumed large amounts of energy. However, they found greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by scaling up the process and drying the pulp in the sun or using solar panels.

According to Mishra, this method could make chocolate healthier and more sustainable and give farmers a new revenue source. Pulp processing would have to happen in the countries where the cocoa is grown, which could benefit local farmers.

Though the gel’s sweetness is comparable to that of traditional chocolate, it doesn’t have the same fine-tuning ability as powdered sugar. The researchers behind the study stated that the lab-based chocolate was “basically identical” to dark chocolate in texture and similar in taste to flavourful dark chocolates from South America.

“Making this chocolate is all about balance – if you add too much of the sweetening gel, your chocolate is unprocessable; if you add not enough, your chocolate is not sweet enough.” stated Mishra.