Dark chocolate, with its antioxidants and decadent flavor, has been driving growth for chocolate.

Two trends driving the food industry — health and indulgence — seem at odds with each other. Categories such as breads, flatbreads and savory snacks are benefitting by turning to better-for-you formulations while sweet goods, cakes, cookies and pies are getting a lift from going more delectable than ever. Chocolate is one ingredient that sits at the intersection.

“Chocolate is definitely a tool for food manufacturers in baking and snacks because it fits both of those worlds,” said Laura Bergan, director of innovation and market development, Barry Callebaut. “Part of that is it’s indulgent and there’s a premium to it, but also consumers have figured out there are some health benefits primarily due to the fact that it has natural antioxidant properties and flavanols that happen in the cocoa bean.”

On its own, chocolate possesses antioxidants that have been linked to cardiovascular health. Much of the growth in the industry associated with chocolate’s natural health halo is driven by dark chocolate. However, chocolate is unique in that not only does it carry its own antioxidants, but it is also very amenable to being fortified with other nutrients or having negative attributes removed.

“Due to the ‘better for you’ (BFY) trend in the food industry, there are many chocolate and compound coating products that have been specially developed to have an impact on the nutrition label, such as reduced sugar, added protein, added fiber and reduced fat/­calories, which can confer benefits onto the baked good or snack,” said Jenna Derhammer, applications and innovation manager, Blommer Chocolate. “The desired benefit will drive the chocolate or compound selection to help achieve it.”

Chocolate’s indulgent flavor can help bakers deliver on promises, such as reduced sugar and added protein, while still providing taste and texture. “Our chocolates and compounds really help enhance the overall eating experience,” said Adam Lechter, director of chocolate technology, CQC. “They bring some different textures and enhance the overall eating experience of bars or baked goods, which is good if you’re trying to increase the nutrition.”

All of these attributes make chocolate and its associated ingredients the perfect vehicles to help bakers and snack producers improve the nutritional impact of their finished products while still maintaining taste and an indulgent profile. Although new chocolate and compound coatings can help bakers reduce sugar and fat, the most prevalent ways these ingredients contribute to a product’s BFY image are through bringing natural antioxidants to the table or the extra boost of protein or fiber.

Read on to learn about the myriad healthy benefits of chocolate.