Healthier chocolate now a sweet reality

22nd February 2021 | Alison Turner

Chocolate: it’s Mother Nature’s way of making up for Mondays. But if you’ve been feeling a tad guilty about scoffing down all those Valentine’s Day chocolates that your long line of admirers sent you this year (yeah, us too), take heart: next year you might have a little less to regret. Food scientists from the University of Southern Queensland have teamed up with skilled chocolate-makers to invent a healthier chocolate alternative – essentially removing the guilt from what is, for many of us, a favourite indulgent pleasure.

Dominated by nutrient-rich, organic ingredients like Australian blueberries and native macadamia nuts, the new dark chocolate substitute is packed full of antioxidants. And it’s made right here in Australia, in the fruitful farming region of the Darling Downs.

This choc-spirational new sweet treat is the brainchild of Sarah Pozzebon, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Southern Queensland last year. After months of research, her product finally came to fruition in late 2020.

Sarah Pozzebon chose blueberries as her chief ingredient, to boost the chocolate’s health properties.

“I wanted to keep my chocolate natural,” she says. “That’s why I chose organic blueberries as the main ingredient. They’re full of antioxidants, which help the body to repair itself.”

While it might not exactly replace a post-workout protein shake or a big bowl of chicken and salad, Pozzebon says a dark chocolate alternative like hers is a healthier substitute for those looking for a sweet energy boost after hitting the gym.

“It contains much larger amounts of cacao and less sugar than milk chocolate,” she says.

Cacao is rich in flavonoids – natural compounds found in many fruits and vegies – and cacao’s high flavonoid content has been found to help boost blood flow to the heart and brain, lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease. Cacao may also help to increase insulin sensitivity, potentially reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Metiisto crafts its “bean to bar” chocolate in Toowoomba.

Good for body and soul

Trevor Smith, award-winning owner of Metiisto Artisan Chocolate where Pozzebon’s chocolate is to be produced, says that all of their cocoa is ethically and morally sourced – which means it’s good for both the body and the soul. (To clear up any confusion, cacao and cocoa come from the same cacao bean – the difference lies only in how the two are processed. Cocoa is made from cacao beans that have been roasted.)

“We source our cocoa from neighbouring countries like the Solomon Islands, so we can guarantee that it’s been harvested without the use of forced or child labour,” he says.

Cocoa is a big export earner and important source of rural livelihoods in the Solomon Islands.

Cocoa is one of the Solomon Islands’ biggest export earners, and a main source of income for many rural communities – and more than half of the islands’ cocoa producers are women. The nation’s cocoa has increasingly been sought out by international chocolate makers after chocolatiers began winning awards for their creations based on Solomon Islands cocoa. Cocoa grown, fermented and dried in the Solomon Islands also won a leading international cocoa award in 2015, with judges calling it the “find of the competition”.

What chocolatey magic will Pozzebon come up with next?

The future looks bon-bonny

At just 20 years of age and with a food science degree and a new chocolate already up her sleeve, Pozzebon is now looking to what is likely to be a very bright future. She ultimately hopes to secure a job as a product development expert in food manufacturing, and is currently interning at Priestley’s Gourmet Delights in Brisbane, which produces some rather awe-inspiring cakes and desserts for foodservice and consumers.

“I want to develop more chocolates and continue experimenting with flavours,” she says.

For all of the chocophiles among us (*waves hands in the air frantically*), this is very sweet news indeed. So watch this space to find out how you might be able to get your hands on some of Pozzebon’s creations.

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