Chocolates are undeniably the most popular sweet treats in the world, considering it is estimated that as much as 7.2 million tons are consumed each year. Manufacturers of the most popular chocolate products are located in Switzerland, operating under renowned brands Toblerone, Lindt, Nestle and Sprungli. That being the case, it is not surprising at all, if the Swiss are found to be the largest consumers of chocolates; having an annual per capita rate of 30 pounds of chocolate consumption per person.
Yet many chocolate connoisseurs prefer Belgian chocolates. Actually, when it comes to traditionally manufactured chocolates, Belgium is at the forefront of that reputation.
Production of chocolates in Belgium follows certain government regulations to ensure that manufacturers produce only high quality chocolates. It is estimated that there are about fifteen (15) chocolate factories and more than 2,000 chocolatiers in this country. The world famous Godiva is the leading contributor to an estimated $12 billion in annual sales generated by the country’s chocolate industry.
Example of Belgian Law Imposed on Producers of Belgian Chocolates
Belgian laws require all manufacturers to use a minimum of thirty-five percent (35%) pure cocoa per pound of chocolate to ensure purity of quality. Producers, are in fact, not allowed to use artificial or low quality fat as ingredient.
All manufacturers of brands identified and labeled as Belgian chocolate therefore, are prohibited from diluting their products with palm-based or vegetable oil, or any type of artificial oil whatsoever. In light of all government restrictions covering the country’s chocolate industry, producers follow traditional manufacturing methods. In fact, a notable number of Belgian chocolate producers process their ingredients without the use of modern equipment.
Yet when it comes to the real reason why some chocolate products are better tasting and therefore more addictive, food biotechnologist Professor Luc De Vuyst, says that proper fermentation of the cocoa bean is the most critical process toward producing high-quality chocolates.
Why Variations in Cocoa Fermentation Processes Affect Quality of Chocolates
In the different countries that produce cocoa for chocolate production, some farms use defective harvesting equipment that tend to gather fungus-infected cocoa pods. Such conditions can be detrimental especially if fermentation processes occur under poorly supervised and unsanitary conditions.
Prof. De Vuyst, of the Faculty of Science and Bio-Engineering Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, explains that if the ascetic acid of microbes fail to penetrate and neutralize the plant embryo, the embryo will continue to grow. If so, the embryo continues to use up the cocoa bean fats essential to chocolate production. In such cases, Professor De Vuyst further explains that
“An entire series of enzymatic reactions takes place in bean fermentation,”…“The chemical products of those reactions contribute to the flavor and color of the final chocolate.”