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1. Van der Kooij, S. “Market study of fine flavour cocoa in 11 selected countries-revised version.” Royal Tropical Institute. KIT Development Policy & Practice. Amsterdam (2013).


The ‘market study of fine flavour cocoa’ was published in June 2013, commissioned by the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in collaboration with the Russian trading company Inforum. However, important comments were made after publishing that are worth being mentioned in the report. Therefore, this revised version has been written which is published in October 2013. Although this version can be considered as final, there is still a lot to learn about this topic. For KIT it is journey that we have just started. The fine flavour cocoa (FFC) market is a relatively new area of interest. The cocoa sector is in need of clear and accurate information about FFC since there is a lot of confusion about numerous aspects of FFC, as was learned during this research. However, it turned out to be quite difficult to get access to accurate information and consensus is lacking about definitions and numbers.
The ‘market study of fine flavour cocoa’ was conducted as a quick market scan, carried out in the short period of 5 weeks. The countries were chosen by the client (Inforum), and do not represent the fine flavour cocoa sector. (Joint) work is still on going to understand the FFC sector better. In the coming months, KIT will conduct new research regarding fine flavour chocolate and sustainability.

2. Andres-Lacueva, C., et al. “Flavanol and flavonol contents of cocoa powder products: influence of the manufacturing process.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 56.9 (2008): 3111-3117.

Major brands of cocoa powder products present in the Spanish market were analyzed for monomeric flavanols [(+)-catechin and (−)-epicatechin] and flavonols [quercetin-3-glucuronide, quercetin-3-glucoside (isoquercitrin), quercetin-3-arabinoside, and quercetin]. In addition, the influence of the manufacturing process of cocoa powder products, in particular, the alkalinization treatment (Dutching), on the original content of these flavonoids has been studied. (−)-Epicatechin was in the range of 116.02–730.26 µg/g, whereas (+)-catechin was in the range of 81.40–447.62 µg/g in the commercial cocoa products studied. Among flavonols, quercetin-3-arabinoside and isoquercitrin were the major flavonols in the cocoa powder products studied, ranging from 2.10 to 40.33 µg/g and from 3.97 to 42.74 µg/g, respectively, followed by quercetin-3-glucuronide (0.13–9.88 µg/g) and quercetin aglycone (0.28–3.25 µg/g). To our knowledge, these results are the first quantitative data in relation to the content of individualized flavonol derivatives in commercial cocoa powder products. The alkalinization treatment resulted in 60% loss of the mean total flavonoid content. Among flavanols, (−)-epicatechin presented a larger decline (67%, as a mean percentage difference) than (+)-catechin (38%), probably because of its epimerization into (−)-catechin, a less bioavailable form of catechin. A decline was also confirmed for di-, tri-, and tetrameric procyanidins. In the case of flavonols, quercetin presented the highest loss (86%), whereas quercetin-3-glucuronide, quercetin-3-arabinoside, and isoquercitrin showed a similar decrease (58, 62, and 61%, respectively). It is concluded that the large decrease found in the flavonoid content of natural cocoa powder, together with the observed change in the monomeric flavanol profile that results from the alkalinization treatment, could affect the antioxidant properties and the polyphenol biovailability of cocoa powder products.

3. Caligiani, A., Cirlini, M., Palla, G., Ravaglia, R., & Arlorio, M. (2007). GC‐MS detection of chiral markers in cocoa beans of different quality and geographic origin. Chirality: The Pharmacological, Biological, and Chemical Consequences of Molecular Asymmetry, 19(4), 329-334.

Fermented cocoa beans (Theobroma cacao L., Sterculiaceae) from different countries of origin (Ecuador, Ghana, Trinidad) and cocoa beans roasted under defined conditions (industrial roasting; 150–220°C for 20 min, dry roasting in conventional oven) were analyzed for their contents of certain chiral hydroxy acids, catechins, and amino acids. Cocoa beans are fermented, dried, and industrially transformed by roasting for the production of chocolate, cocoa powders, and other cocoa‐related products. Fermentation and roasting conditions influence the contents of chiral compounds such as hydroxy acids, amino acids, and polyphenols, depending on technological procedures as well as some technical parameters. The aim of this work was to check if the content and nature of the named chiral compounds present both in fermented and roasted cocoa beans could be related to the traditional parameters used to classify the variety of seeds and the degree of fermentation. The extent of racemization of amino acids in fermented cocoa beans was low while it slowly increased during roasting, depending on the temperature applied. L‐lactic acid was always higher than the D‐form while citric acid was generally the most abundant hydroxy acid detected in beans. A correlation was found between polyphenol content and degree of fermentation, while epimerization of (−)‐epicatechin to (+)‐catechin was observed during roasting. On the whole, results showed that several chiral compounds could be considered as good quality markers for cocoa seeds and cocoa‐related products of different quality and geographic origin.

4. Teresa Wilson. (4 April 2016). Wonder and Destruction, Cacao Nacional in Peru. 

5. Jalil, A. M. M., & Ismail, A. (2008). Polyphenols in cocoa and cocoa products: is there a link between antioxidant properties and health?. Molecules, 13(9), 2190-2219.

Cocoa and cocoa products have received much attention due to their significant polyphenol contents. Cocoa and cocoa products, namely cocoa liquor, cocoa powder and chocolates (milk and dark chocolates) may present varied polyphenol contents and possess different levels of antioxidant potentials. For the past ten years, at least 28 human studies have been conducted utilizing one of these cocoa products. However, questions arise on which of these products would deliver the best polyphenol contents and antioxidant effects. Moreover, the presence of methylxanthines, peptides, and minerals could synergistically enhance or reduce antioxidant properties of cocoa and cocoa products. To a greater extent, cocoa beans from different countries of origins and the methods of preparation (primary and secondary) could also partially influence the antioxidant polyphenols of cocoa products. Hence, comprehensive studies on the aforementioned factors could provide the understanding of health-promoting activities of cocoa or cocoa products components.

6. Smith, D. F. (2013). Benefits of flavanol-rich cocoa-derived products for mental well-being: A review. Journal of Functional Foods, 5(1), 10-15.

This review explores the possibility that central actions of flavanol-rich cocoa-derived products are of benefit in the prevention and treatment of mood disorders. Flavanol-rich cocao-derived products have been studied in both neuromolecular and psychological tests. Neuromolecular effects of flavanols in cocoa-derived products include antioxidant, vasodilatory, anticoagulant, and antiinflammatory properties that may serve to counteract depressive brain disorders. Psychological studies in humans have described links between intake of flavanol-rich cocoa-derived products such as dark chocolate and improved mood, while behavioral studies in laboratory animals have reported antidepressant effects of flavanols. It is therefore likely that flavanol-rich cocoa-derived products such as dark chocolate may have beneficial effects as add-on items together with traditional antidepressant regimes

7. Pase, M. P., Scholey, A. B., Pipingas, A., Kras, M., Nolidin, K., Gibbs, A., … & Stough, C. (2013). Cocoa polyphenols enhance positive mood states but not cognitive performance: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of psychopharmacology, 27(5), 451-458.

This study aimed to examine the acute and sub-chronic effects of cocoa polyphenols on cognition and mood. In a randomized, double-blind study, healthy middle-aged participants received a dark chocolate drink mix standardized to contain 500 mg, 250 mg or 0 mg of polyphenols (placebo) in a parallel-groups design. Participants consumed their assigned treatment once daily for 30 days. Cognition was measured with the Cognitive Drug Research system and self-rated mood with the Bond–Lader Visual Analogue Scale. Participants were tested at baseline, at 1, 2.5 and 4 h after a single acute dose and again after receiving 30 days of treatment. In total, 72 participants completed the trial. After 30 days, the high dose of treatment significantly increased self-rated calmness and contentedness relative to placebo. Mood was unchanged by treatment acutely while cognition was unaffected by treatment at all time points. This randomized controlled trial is perhaps the first to demonstrate the positive effects of cocoa polyphenols on mood in healthy participants. This provides a rationale for exploring whether cocoa polyphenols can ameliorate the symptoms associated with clinical anxiety or depression.

8. Ramiro, E., Franch, A., Castellote, C., Andrés-Lacueva, C., Izquierdo-Pulido, M., & Castell, M. (2005). Effect of Theobroma cacao flavonoids on immune activation of a lymphoid cell line. British Journal of Nutrition, 93(6), 859-866.

We analysed the effect of (−)-epicatechin and cocoa extract on the activation of a lymphoid cell line. Particularly the expression of IL-2 receptor α (IL-2Rα or CD25) and, the secretion of IL-2 and IL-4 were established after flavonoid treatment. Two media culture conditions (1 and 10 % of fetal calf serum supplementation) and the different moments of flavonoid addition (simultaneously or 2 h before cell-activation) were compared. IL-2Rα (CD25) expression on activated cells was significantly reduced by epicatechin and cocoa extract in a dose-dependent manner, achieving the highest inhibition of about 50 % when flavonoids were added 2 h before stimulation. IL-2 secretion was also inhibited by the presence of both epicatechin and cocoa extract, displaying 60 and 75 % of inhibition, respectively. Cocoa flavonoids were also able to enhance 3–4·5-fold IL-4 release. In summary, cocoa extract down-modulated T lymphocyte activation and therefore the acquired immune response. This fact could be important in some states of the immune system hyperactivity such as autoimmune or chronic inflammatory diseases.

9. Erdman Jr, J. W., Carson, L., Kwik-Uribe, C., Evans, E. M., & Allen, R. R. (2008). Effects of cocoa flavanols on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 17(S1), 284-287.

Epidemiologic investigations support the hypothesis that regular consumption of flavonoid-containing foods can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). While flavonoids are ubiquitous in plants, cocoa can be particularly rich in a sub-class of flavonoids known as flavanols. A number of human dietary intervention trials with flavanol-containing cocoa products have demonstrated improvements in endothelial and platelet function, as well as blood pressure. These studies provide direct evidence for the potential cardiovascular benefits of flavanol- containing foods and help to substantiate the epidemiological data. In this review, results from selective published trials with cocoa and chocolate focused on risk for CVD will be discussed along with a study we recently completed evaluating the effects of the daily consumption of flavanol-containing dark chocolate (CocoaVia ™) with and without plant sterol esters on CVD markers in a normotensive population with mild hypercholesterolemia. In this study, the daily consumption of flavanol-containing dark chocolate was associated with a significant mean reduction of 5.8 mmHg in systolic blood pressure. Together the results of these human dietary intervention trials provide scientific evidence of the vascular effects of cocoa flavanols and suggest that the regular consumption of cocoa products containing flavanols may reduce risk of CVD.

10. Afoakwa, E. O. (2014). Cocoa production and processing technology. CRC Press.

One of the largest food commodities exported from the developing countries to the rest of the world, cocoa has gained increasing attention on the global market—raising many questions about its quality, sustainability and traceability. Cocoa Production and Processing Technology presents detailed explanations of the technologies that could be employed to assure sustainable production of high-quality and safe cocoa beans for the global confectionary industry. It provides overviews of up-to-date technologies and approaches to modern cocoa production practices, global production and consumption trends as well as principles of cocoa processing and chocolate manufacture.
The book covers the origin, history and taxonomy of cocoa, and examines the fairtrade and organic cocoa industries and their influence on smallholder farmers. The chapters provide in-depth coverage of cocoa cultivation, harvesting and post-harvest treatments with a focus on cocoa bean composition, genotypic variations and their influence on quality, post-harvest pre-treatments, fermentation techniques, drying, storage and transportation.
The author provides details on cocoa fermentation processes as well as the biochemical and microbiological changes involved and how they influence flavour. He also addresses cocoa trading systems, bean selection and quality criteria, as well as industrial processing of fermented and dried cocoa beans into liquor, cake, butter and powder. The book examines the general principles of chocolate manufacture, detailing the various stages of the processes involved, the factors that influence the quality characteristics and strategies to avoid post-processing quality defects. This volume presents innovative techniques for sustainability and traceability in high-quality cocoa production and explores new product development with potential for cost reduction as well as improved cocoa bean and chocolate product quality.

11. Grimes, J. (2009). Rediscovering the Cacao in Ecuador’s Upper Napo River Valley. FOCUS on Geography, 51(4), 23-30.

12. Dias, G. P., Cavegn, N., Nix, A., do Nascimento Bevilaqua, M. C., Stangl, D., Zainuddin, M. S. A., … & Thuret, S. (2012). The role of dietary polyphenols on adult hippocampal neurogenesis: molecular mechanisms and behavioural effects on depression and anxiety. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2012.

Although it has been long believed that new neurons were only generated during development, there is now growing evidence indicating that at least two regions in the brain are capable of continuously generating functional neurons: the subventricular zone and the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. Adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) is a widely observed phenomenon verified in different adult mammalian species including humans. Factors such as environmental enrichment, voluntary exercise, and diet have been linked to increased levels of AHN. Conversely, aging, stress, anxiety and depression have been suggested to hinder it.However, the mechanisms underlying these effects are still unclear and yet to be determined. In this paper, we discuss some recent findings addressing the effects of different dietary polyphenols on hippocampal cell proliferation and differentiation, models of anxiety, and depression as well as some proposed molecular mechanisms underlying those effects with particular focus on those related to AHN. As a whole, dietary polyphenols seem to exert positive effects on anxiety and depression, possibly in part via regulation of AHN. Studies on the effects of dietary polyphenols on behaviour and AHN may play an important role in the approach to use diet as part of the therapeutic interventions for mental-health-related conditions.


14. Ziegleder, G., Stojacic, E., & Stumpf, B. (1992). Occurrence of beta-phenylethylamine and its derivatives in cocoa and cocoa products. Zeitschrift fur Lebensmittel-Untersuchung und-Forschung, 195(3), 235-238.

2-Phenylethylamine was extracted from cocoa nibs and chocolates and analysed by coupled gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy. The amine concentration increases in fermentation of cocoa and decreased during roasting and alkalization. Its concentration in chocolates is dependent on non-fat cocoa contents. Previously unreported aldimines were found in cocoa powders, which arise from the condensation of phenylethylamine and aldehydes. The main component of these products is N-phenylmethyl-N-phenylmethylene amine (CAS 3240-95-7).

15. Nehlig, A. (2013). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 75(3), 716-727.

Cocoa powder and chocolate contain numerous substances among which there is a quite large percentage of antioxidant molecules, mainly flavonoids, most abundantly found in the form of epicatechin. These substances display several beneficial actions on the brain. They enter the brain and induce widespread stimulation of brain perfusion. They also provoke angiogenesis, neurogenesis and changes in neuron morphology, mainly in regions involved in learning and memory. Epicatechin improves various aspects of cognition in animals and humans. Chocolate also induces positive effects on mood and is often consumed under emotional stress. In addition, flavonoids preserve cognitive abilities during ageing in rats, lower the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and decrease the risk of stroke in humans. In addition to their beneficial effects on the vascular system and on cerebral blood flow, flavonoids interact with signalization cascades involving protein and lipid kinases that lead to the inhibition of neuronal death by apoptosis induced by neurotoxicants such as oxygen radicals, and promote neuronal survival and synaptic plasticity. The present review intends to review the data available on the effects of cocoa and chocolate on brain health and cognitive abilities.