3 Mystifications About White Chocolate Debunked—Why White Chocolate Deserves Better Education And Marketing

In the last 20 years, chocolate lovers from all over the world felt progressively less guilty for their diet and more confident in their choices when, guided by the marketing of those few premium companies dedicated to working on “rediscovered” formulations of authentic chocolate, became educated on the health benefits and the quality of the ingredients used in dark chocolate.
If the wider availability of cocoa- and chocolate-related information for the consumers was a good thing on one side, on the flip side the market share competition of the companies globally manufacturing dark chocolate has grown at such a pace to make the chocolate makers almost blind to experiment and, consequently, adopt strategic marketing for other types of chocolate (milk and white), with the latter being the most demonized.
Nowadays, the result of this “dog chasing its own tail” is having a horde of partly-prepared high-end consumers, brainwashed with the idea that dark chocolate must be the limit of their theobroma cravings.

Although certain concepts were carved in people’s mind for legitimate reasons, especially because dark chocolate is the version containing less sugar and avoid of dairy ingredients (identified as food allergens for some consumers), this trend does not justify the onset of some unfortunate misconceptions against chocolates other than dark. In blue I have debunked the main three about white chocolate:

 

  1. White chocolate is not chocolate. Whereas there’s a degree of truth attesting that both dark and milk chocolate may be considered chocolate just for the presence of cocoa mass (cocoa solids + cocoa butter), white chocolate also has cocoa, even if only its fat part. Regulations both in the US and Europe even define what white chocolate is and what’s allowed in its formulation. (For the US, see the 21 CFR 163.124 HERE; for Europe, the Directive 2000/36/EC HERE). According to both the regulations, white chocolate must contain at least 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk solids, 3.5% milkfat. Moreover, the American rule is even more stringent regarding the maximum amount of sweeteners allowed (55%), the optional ingredients added as flavor and the ban of colorants.
    In any case, companies can invest a lot of their creativity and craftsmanship in producing a different array of high-quality white chocolates.
  2. White chocolate is not healthy. Try googling “dark chocolate” and you’ll come upon endless posts including a list of health benefits associated with the consumption of dark chocolate. Do the same research with “white chocolate” and chances are you’ll get disheartened by the results displayed just on page one. Pointless discussions on the evidence that whether white chocolate is still chocolate make my blood boil in the veins (just to name a title, “White chocolate is a big, fat lie”). In the best case, you’ll find a heap of forums and blogs directing people on how to choose the best white chocolate for baking and frosting. Being such the demeanor, hardly is a word spent on the health benefits of white chocolate. More likely, the general perception is to see white chocolate being mortified like cheap candy! The good news is that even the “anonymous guest” in the chocolate family has a few health perks, provided that good-quality white chocolate (made up of 35-50% cocoa butter and no other types of vegetable fat added) is chosen and consumed occasionally during the week or as a small square per day. Believe it or not, studies confirm that potential heart benefits are only partly linked to the flavanol content mostly retained in dark chocolate. In fact, white chocolate, despite not reporting the same content in flavanols, still offers cardiovascular benefits, as platelet enhancement and regulation of bad cholesterol. Furthermore, as I mentioned in a post on the advantages of dark chocolate one year ago, cocoa butter has anti-aging and thickening properties for the skin and protective effects on the sheath of nerves. Moreover, if dark chocolate can help prevent anemia with its content in iron, white chocolate compensates for this mineral lack with the naturally-occurred calcium in its dairy ingredients. Lastly, as both milk and dark chocolate contain alkaloids, like theobromine and caffeine, white chocolate is more indicated for those needing to avoid alkaloids for dietary reasons or to steer utterly clear of such stimulant type components.
  3. You are a real chocolate connoisseur if you never give a chance to white chocolate. The previously listed myths just introduce the cause of this bias. Also, many people feel white chocolate has no flavor complexity to deserve further attention and investigation. As a result, a real culture about white chocolate is not only lacking, but also perpetuating too rigid a stance. It’s no wonder I usually find tons of reviews on dark chocolate—and just to a lesser extent milk chocolate—whereas far fewer are about white chocolate. Under a better lens, white chocolate has an advantaged sensory diversity to make it appealing even to the palate of the most tireless dark chocolate adherents. To start with the gustatory attributes, white chocolate does not have the pronounced bitter, tannic, or acidic notes you may even find in particular high-end dark chocolate. When it’s high-quality white chocolate, cocoa butter still renders subtle floral and vanilla flavors, while dairy ingredients and optionally added flavors can build a melody of according or contrasting hints in the mouth. Secondly, regarding the tactile sensations, stripping out the gritty cocoa solids does wonders for white chocolate’s texture, with end results much smoother and silkier than its darker counterparts.

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    How could you resist this? | Photo credit: Nake Luke Photography for Askinosie chocolate

 

Now that some significant reasons to not snob white chocolate have come out, how is the current situation in the market?
Fortunately, far away are the days of the Galak bars. (It is thought that the first white chocolate was patented in the 1930’s by Swiss chocolate giant Nestlé because of a powdered milk surplus after World War I.) A few select companies started breaking the monotone dark chocolate trend for some years now, innovating the chocolate market with the inclusive placement of all types of chocolate.
Less teasing is the fact that very few of those making great white chocolate advertize it with well-positioned marketing, thus not informing people and retailers enough on the added value of their unique offer.

Realistically, how many of you would be able to go out there or inquire the Internet to look for high-quality white chocolate? Which attributes would you use to base on your research? Do you feel comfortable enough to affirm you can choose good white chocolate with the same level of confidence you have developed for dark chocolate?
That’s exactly what moved me to open a thorough discussion in the largest forum of chocoholics and chocolatiers, TheChocolateLife. Some interesting points came out from the public debate:

  • Almost all white chocolate is made from deodorized cocoa butter; that is, high-heat steam-treated cocoa butter (the steam being used as a distilling liquid retaining the odors), and then filtered to make it a neutral, flat base suitable for cosmetic and cleansing use. In other words, deodorizing cocoa butter tames the chocolate flavor considerably. Interestingly, undeodorized cocoa butter resists oxidation longer than deodorized cocoa butter for containing natural vitamin E (an antioxidant micronutrient). So, in addition to making a better-tasting white chocolate, it’s also more beneficial for your nutrition.
  • The importance of the milk used is crucial too, as it adds further flavor complexity to the product. Some use goat’s milk, others cow’s.

 

That pointed out, I would like to see changes in that better education and marketing will guide consumers’ choices for white chocolate. I have indeed seen companies almost hiding the fact their white chocolate is made from undeodorized cocoa butter. As I am convinced this is unacceptable as an all-around chocolate lover, most chocolate companies still have a lot to learn in mastering the art of knowing closer their followers and communicating better what differences they are offering, in terms of either their ingredients or manufacturing (ethical and environmental commitment apart).