Cacao Fruit - What is all the hype about?

Chocolate is loved worldwide, with chocolate found everywhere from chocolate bars in pretty much every shop you go in, hot chocolate in every cafe and even chocolate theme parks worldwide. Although chocolate is such a standard product, its origin is less well known. When people think of chocolate production, they often think of cacao beans; although, they are less aware that those beans come from fruit that is grown on the Theobroma cacao tree (Theobroma literally translate to food of the gods!) This is partly because conventional cocoa bean processing harvests and discards the rest of the fruit as a waste product and only uses the beans in the chocolate-making process, meaning that the other parts never got their time to shine!

So why is it changing? More and more companies understand the potential of using the whole cacao fruit rather than leaving it to waste away. The fruit pulp contains many benefits and a delicious sweet and sour taste, and brands are cottoning on to its potential uses. Here are some of the reasons you are going to be hearing about cacao fruit a lot more.

Predominantly cacao fruit products have been born from the desire to utilise food and cut down on waste. A 2020 report from E.ON looked at consumer buying habits and growing trends. The report reveals that four out of five consumers are planning on buying goods and services from businesses that have made an effort to be environmentally friendly. Environmental and sustainable achievements are featuring on product packing as standard practice, and consumers are sourcing out new innovative products that tackle the more significant environmental issues.

The conventional cacao fruit production method is a great place to look at when tackling these issues. For those who have not heard about cacao fruit before, they are a long pod-shaped fruit with a rigid exterior and inside a row of fruit pods that cover the cacao beans. Each pod holds about 30-40 pods. During the cacao bean harvesting process, the rest of the fruit is often thrown back into the ground and left. However, companies are now taking the fruit and developing exciting new products to combat these issues.

This is not the only reason for a boom in the cacao fruit industry. After all, how successful would a product be if it addressed environmental issues but tasted horrible and had few benefits?

For those who haven’t tried cacao fruit, the taste is often described as a sweet tropical fruit with a slightly sour note. This unique taste is fantastic to eat on its own or added to other products to naturally sweeten and add fruity characteristics. The amount of pectin also makes it a perfect product for making jams, chutneys and thickened sauces. In fact, after seeing the possible applications of this under-utilised fruit pulp, it is rather shocking it has taken this long for it to become a product in its own right.

If these two aspects weren’t enough, the nutritional benefits of the fresh cacao fruit are also pretty impressive. Of course, as with any natural ingredient, the more you process it, the lower the dietary properties are; however, the good thing is that cacao is jammed packed full of nutritional goodness. The fruit is high in magnesium, iron, calcium and vitamin E, D and B. In addition, the antioxidant levels in the pulp are also very high and could therefore assist in reducing blood pressure, support the immune system as well as act as a natural energy booster due to theobromine, which is a natural stimulant.

So now you are all hyped up about it, where can you find it? Well, many companies are getting creative and bringing some fantastic products to the market. For example, renowned chocolatier brand Barry Callebaut has created a new brand called Cabosse Naturals, a range of products that utilise the whole cacao fruit, such as cacao pulp, cacao fruit concentrate, and cacao fruit cascara. These products are available to the culinary industry to get creative and add the ingredients to a wide range of products. They are also bringing out a new chocolate bar, whole fruit chocolate, created using only one ingredient — the cacao fruit.

However, suppose you want to try the fruit in a non-chocolate setting. In that case, other creative companies such a Kayu Fruit are disrupting the energy drink market with a cacao fruit and yerba mate tea energy drink. This natural energy drink is plant-based and has four ingredients to give the consumer a refreshing still natural energy boost.

In the US, they are also up with the trend; Ca Pao have created some snack smoothie balls using cacao fruit and a range of different flavour options, and Blue Stripes are offering cacao fruit in many different ways from cacao water to dried cacao fruit.

It is official. Cacao is no longer just about chocolate. So what will you try first? Whatever it is, take comfort in the fact you are reducing food waste, getting nutrients and exploring exciting new tastes. There is a whole new world of products to try from the ‘Food of the gods’ and quite frankly, I am very excited!