Sunday, March 20, 2011

Looking for healthy chocolate? Mars, Incorporated says they have the answer in CocoaVia (but only a beverage, they don't make the chocolate anymore!)

As most of us chocolate addicts know, we feel best when we find a good reason to justify our chocolate indulgences. In recent years, the news reports that dark chocolate is actually good for our health because the antioxidants in cocoa could help prevent heart disease and cancer only helped us justify our addiction. It also caused more of us to switch to dark chocolate, and likely caused some non-chocolate eaters to start snacking on the dark stuff on occasion.

In recent years, some manufacturers have gone beyond the simple claim that dark chocolate is healthy for us. They are actually adding healthy ingredients directly to the chocolate during the manufacturing process. More and more, I see chocolate bars with such additives as active bacterial cultures, echinacea, ginseng, vitamins, calcium, and other additives which are supposed to be good for our health.
The CocoaVia brand, owned by Mars, Incorporated and its entrepreneurial, scientific division called Mars Botanical(TM) that was established in 2007, is one of those manufacturers that focuses on increasing the healthiness of chocolate. Their goal is to deliver "...the natural power of cocoa flavanols found in in their Cocoapro(R) cocoa extract." In other words, they claim to harvest cocoa in a healthier way.  On their website, this is how they describe their process:

While traditional processing, like is commonly done in making chocolate, the most popular product from cocoa often destroys many of these beneficial phytonutrients, the Mars, Incorporated patented and proprietary process called Cocoapro™ helps retain the efficacy of the flavanols. Building off of years of manufacturing experience, Mars scientists have perfected this process to reduce the cocoa bean’s exposure to high temperatures, helping protect the flavanols inside. This process ensures delivery of cocoa extract and powder ingredients that are guaranteed to have consistently high levels of cocoa flavanols.

I have tasted the results of their research first hand when relatives, who had travelled to the U.S.A., brought me some of the CocoaVia branded chocolate products last year. CocoaVia was a wonderful selection of small, portion-controlled chocolate snack bars and packets of chocolate-covered almonds, as well as a beverage that used their specialty health-promoting cocoa.

I had kept just one of those dark chocolate snack bars in my chocolate cabinet, and just the other day, I decided to re-taste it and blog about CocoaVia. I recall that I hadn't really liked the taste of it when I first tried it,  but I had liked the concept so much that I was still willing to try any of the other chocolate bars in the their product line. So giving CocoaVia dark chocolate the benefit of doubt, my plan was to re-taste it and write a nice blog post about what Mars is doing to create a healthier chocolate.

After I wrote most of my post, I went to the Mars website and soon discovered that my efforts were in vain.  It appears that there is no longer a chocolate product line under the CocoaVia brand.  The website now only shows one product, which is a cocoa powder supplement that enables you to get the maximum flavanols from a powdered drink supplement, even more than from a chocolate bar.  So it looks like CocoaVia no longer makes or promotes the chocolate bar line that they introduced only a few years ago. Although this is great for people who prefer to drink their chocolate, it really is too bad for solids chocolate eaters.  I liked what Mars was trying to do with chocolate. I particularly liked the size of their chocolate bars - they were only 0.78 oz (22.1 grams), making it impossible to feel guilty about indulging in a chocolate snack after lunch! I also liked that they had added folic acid and calcium - great for pregnant women like me!

Of course, I'm not saying that you should only eat chocolate to get your vitamins, but if you travel a lot, you'll know what I mean about days when it is hard to get the right nutrition from foods purchased at airports, hotels or train stations.  A chocolate snack with added vitamins and minerals would help a lot on those days!

In checking around on the Internet, I found that the chocolate covered almonds and bars were discontinued in 2008 or 2009, according to Wikipedia.  I am very sad about this development, since I thought that Mars had introduced such a great chocolate concept to us. Perhaps the flavour wasn't there yet, or the market wasn't quite ready for such a healthy chocolate. But hopefully, with more research, they can introduce something similar in the future.  For now, if you want to get the maximum benefit from the flavanols in cocoa, you have to settle for the dietary supplement beverage called CocoaVia, only available online.

In case you are interested, here were the details that had been on the CocoaVia-branded chocolate bar package, now discontinued:

CocoaVia(TM) Original Chocolate Bar, 22.1 g (0.78 oz)
Distributed by Masterfoods USA
A Division of Mars, Incorporated
Hackettstown, NJ
http://www.cocoapro.com/
Ingredients: Semisweet chocolate (chocolate, sugar, soy lecithin, natural flavor), soy sterol esters, vitamins and minerals (calcium carbonate, asorbic acid, vitamin E acetate, cyanocobalamin, folic acid, pyridoxine HCL). Allergy information: May contain peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk and wheat.

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