Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Healthy Chocolate? Endangered Species Chocolate have added Yacon and Açaí for our health...and they threw in some social responsibility too!

After a sugary-sweet Easter weekend, I ventured into my chocolate tasting cabinet today with the goal of finding something bitter and healthy.  What I pulled out was more than that, it was also socially and environmentally responsible too! While on recent travels, I picked up an Endangered Species Chocolate bar with organic dark chocolate and cacao nibs, yacon and açaí.

I tried some small, individually-wrapped pieces of Endangered Species Chocolate in the past, and I can't recall liking it very much.  Mind you, it was years ago and purchased at a health food store where it sat on the counter in the direct sunlight, which may have been the problem. That often is the issue with small retailers - they put their chocolate display in direct sunlight and it messes with the texture and taste of the chocolate from being melted every day at the same time, then solidified again as the evening cools. But when I saw this chocolate bar a few weeks ago in the Chicago airport, I thought I'd give Endangered Species Chocolate another try.

The texture of this chocolate bar is nice.  It has extremely tiny cacao nibs for just a little crunch - which I like.  Some other chocolate bars with cacao nibs are unpleasant when the cacao nibs are too large and I spend most of my time chewing.  This chocolate bar is also a bit on the sweet side for a 70%, where the vanilla is predominant, and there is no real flavour profile to the chocolate, other than the vanilla and a fruity flavour added by the açaí and yacon. There are no chunks of açaí in it, so it doesn't impede the chocolate's ability to melt in your mouth.

There was no shine to the bar, in fact there was a bit of powder on the outside of the entire chocolate bar.  A good snap, but the taste showed that it had been stored improperly (i.e. at the wrong temperature).  This likely was not the fault of the manufacturer, but the retailer or wholesaler, as I mentioned above is a common problem.

I do feel that Endangered Species focuses more on the health benefits and social/environmental responsibility of their chocolate, rather than on the quality and taste of their chocolate.  So if you like chocolate and want to add some health benefits and feel good about your contribution to the environment, but are not trying to be a chocolate connoisseur, then Endangered Species Chocolate is just the chocolate for you.

The health benefits of this particular chocolate bar are the addition of Yacon and Açaí, in addition to the added benefit of antioxidants in the cacao nibs.  The company says that yacon root contains potassium and antioxidants and has an apple-like favour.  Wikipedia says it has floral undertones to its flavour. Açaí, on the other hand, is a small, round "black-purple" fruit that resembles a small grape, but has less pulp. It is native to Central and South America, with Brazil being the main producer. According to Wikipedia, when made into a powdered preparation from freeze-dried acai, it contains 44.2 grams of dietary fiber to 100 grams of powder, and has low sugar value. It is also used as a dietary supplement for weight loss, although there is some controversy to the effectiveness of açaí supplements for weight loss available on the market. What hasn't been contested though, is that it is high in antioxidants, so you are getting a triple blast of antioxidants in this bar from the high cacao content and nibs, the yacon and the açaí.

Endangered Species Chocolate also promotes this chocolate bar as a product that is environmentally and socially responsible. They donate 10% of net profits, it is certified organic, and the cocoa comes from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. The Rainforest Alliance offers a "family" of marks that companies can apply for and use (if approved and certified) to indicate that their products are truly sustainable and "socially, economically and environmentally". Agrochemicals are prohibited and they do not allow certified farms to "use chemicals listed on the Dirty Dozen list of the Pesticide Action Network North America". The certified farms are also required to use "biological or mechanical alternatives to pesticides whenever possible". This does not just apply to cacao farming, but certification can be achieved by farms that produce about 100 different kinds of crops, like coffee, fruit, tea and many others.

Another way this specific chocolate bar is being socially responsible is the packaging.  Now I'm not saying the packaging is anything special in terms of biodegradable properties, but Endangered Species Chocolate uses both the inside and outside of its wrapper to bring awareness to various issues. On this chocolate bar label, they write about the shrinking habitat (i.e. the rainforest) of the red-eyed tree frog. They also use the packaging to promote recycling and the use of reusable containers for water and coffee, instead of disposable plastic bottles and paper cups.

Overall, I'm not sure that I love the taste of their chocolate, but I do appreciate their cause. In fact, they support organic agriculture, rainforest protection and environmental consciousness, along with being aware of other health concerns that the average consumer may face (i.e. this chocolate is gluten free).

The cost was fairly high (at least where I bought it from) at $5.49 for 85 grams  (3 oz), so more than $5 for a chocolate bar that was not even a full 100 grams. However, the website sells this same chocolate bar for $3.89 US, which is considerably better, but you will need to consider the additional shipping costs when you order online. Do check the website for more info. If you are not into acai and cacao nibs, they have chocolate bars with pecans, maca and goji berries, among other interesting healthy flavour options.  They also offer a milk chocolate bar and a solid dark chocolate bar that are organic. and smaller organic bars with flavours that include peanut butter and milk chocolate, among others. Additionally, they offer a full line of gourmet chocolate confections and a line of all natural chocolate bars with many more flavours. So although I wasn't super keen on the flavour of this particular chocolate bar, I can't write off Endangered Species Chocolate because there are still many more flavours for me to taste and review in the future.

As I always provide at the end of every post, below you will find the key manufacturer details and ingredients from the package of the chocolate bar that I tasted today:

Endangered Species Chocolate Organic Health Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs, Yacon & Acai (70% cocoa), 85g
Endangered Species Chocolate, LLC, Indianapolis, IN (U.S.A.)
Ingredients: Organic dark chocolate (*organic chocolate liquor, organic dried cane syrup, *organic cocoa butter, organic soy lecithin, organic vanilla), organic cacao nibs, organic yacon syrup, organic freeze dried acai powder.  Allergens: contains soy.  Produced on equipment that also processes product containing milk, peanuts and tree nuts.
*cocoa comes from rainforest alliance certified(TM) farms.
Certified organic by Oregon Tilth.


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