First-ever cacao fruit juice nutraceutical, for circulatory health, unveiled by Barry Callebaut

The drink, called Elix, is the latest milestone in Barry Callebaut’s mission to bring functional, health-supporting cocoa flavanol products to market.

Cocoa and chocolate ingredients supplier Barry Callebaut (Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Zurich, Switzerland) today unveiled what it calls the first cacaofruit juice nutraceutical ever launched. The cacaofruit elixir, brand name Elix, is a functional beverage that not only supports circulatory health, in addition to blood pressure, brain, and skin health, but can also leverage Barry Callebaut’s official health claim linking cocoa flavanols to circulatory health.

In 2013, the European Commission approved Barry Callebaut’s health claim for cocoa flavanols and healthy blood flow. The claim states that “cocoa flavanols help maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, which contributes to normal blood flow.” The health claim applies to dark chocolate products providing a minimum of 200 mg of cocoa flavanols per daily intake, or to cocoa powder beverages delivering 200 mg of cocoa flavanols per daily intake. A similar health claim pending FDA approval is expected in spring 2022, the firm says.

Made from 100% pure cacaofruit, the new Elix drink contains 350 mg of cocoa flavanols per bottle, with the advice that consumers drink one bottle per day to support circulatory health. In addition, the beverage maintains blood pressure, brain health, and skin health, the company says. It is a good source of iron, magnesium, and potassium. Barry Callebaut says its customers can easily combine Elix with other herb and fruit ingredients and added nutrients. Elix itself is described as having a “zesty fruity taste.”

Consumer research already indicates high consumer interest in the new nutraceutical fruit drink category, Barry Callebaut says. The research was conducted by independent global research agency MMR in the UK and the U.S.

Barry Callebaut has researched and developed products maximizing the health benefits of cacaofruit for more than 15 years. More than 100 human clinical studies have explored the health effects of cacaofruit flavanols, it says. Among other benefits, the firm says in a press release, “Cacaofruit flavanols help maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, which benefits the blood flow to, for example, organs such as the heart, muscles, brain, and skin.”

In an interview with Nutritional Outlook, Pablo Perversi, chief innovation, sustainability, and quality officer and global head of gourmet at Barry Callebaut, said Elix is just one of many milestones for Barry Callebaut in its efforts to bring the health benefits of cocoa flavanols to market. In years past, the company has introduced its high-flavanol cocoa and chocolate line Acticoa, proposed a “fourth” chocolate category with its introduction of Ruby chocolate from the ruby cocoa bean, and introduced WholeFruit Chocolate, a chocolate upcycled from cacaofruit pulp. These “different breakthroughs” are the result of the company’s work over the years in “understanding better the science of the cacaofruit as a whole,” Perversi said.

What makes Elix and other Barry Callebaut functional products stand out in the market is that they can leverage the official health claim for circulatory health.

“In terms of fruit juice nutraceuticals, we haven’t found any others that are actually deserving of a claim that has been already approved by [the European Food Safety Authority] or FDA, which has any equivalence to what we actually have,” said Perversi. “And the claim we actually have allows us to position it as a nutraceutical because it actually has a tested effect on human beings that has actually been corroborated for the claim…And not many claims, as you well know, are actually allowed into this type of market, so this is obviously something that has good scientific background.”

Perversi said the company expects to see Elix embraced as “food as medicine” especially in areas of the world where consumer health education and purchasing power is higher, such as in the U.S. and Europe. There is, he said, lots of opportunity for the functional beverage to grow globally, however, considering that the worldwide health and food market currently stands at approximately US$240 billion and is projected to grow another $80 billion. “We believe that is a big enough market for us to be able to strive in all over the world,” he said.

Barry Callebaut’s journey to further “squeeze the goodness coming out of the cacaofruit,” as Perversi calls it, continues. “It’s not today that we started doing these things, and it’s not yesterday; we are on a journey of 15 years to extract value out of the cacaofruit,” he said. “If there’s a breakthrough, suddenly a lot of things come together, and basically this is a breakthrough for us in being able to do it this way and bring it together.”

He continued, “The people we have at Barry Callebaut just make these great things happen over and over and over again, and being in the lead and being able to announce a new product almost every year in an industry that hasn’t really had these types of things happening for many, many years is actually something that we feel very proud of.”