The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

How Vegan Can Chocolate Be? By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

Posted on January 22, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


The Vegetarian Resource Group received a question about vegan-dedicated equipment (i.e., equipment that has never been in contact with animal or dairy ingredients) used to create chocolate. Our reader wondered if Divine Treasures located in Manchester, CT used this type of machinery since their chocolates are described as vegan on the website.

Divine Treasures
We spoke with Diane Wagemann the chocolatier founder and owner of Divine Treasures about her equipment. She told us that

“All of the equipment in my factory is vegan-dedicated. The equipment operated by my European suppliers to make the chocolate which I use to create my handmade divine treasures is not vegan-dedicated… My suppliers told me that they run cocoa butter by itself through their system after a milk chocolate run to ensure that any dairy residue is completely carried away.”

The chocolate Diane purchases from Europe is certified USDA Organic. The sugar is also certified USDA Organic. USDA Organic sugar has not been decolorized through cow bone char. Most non-USDA organic cane sugar is whitened through a cow bone char filter today in the United States.

Diane told us that the chocolate from her European suppliers is also “certified Fair Trade by the European community.” Diane’s chocolates do not carry this label nor the USDA Organic label because “…it is prohibitively expensive to pay the certifying agencies for use of their labels.” So Diane describes her handmade chocolates as “socially responsible.”

Divine Treasures chocolate is made from Peruvian cocoa beans shipped to and processed in Europe “the old-fashioned way…because they know chocolate.” There the chocolate is conched which means “the cocoa, sugar and other ingredients are thoroughly ground and blended producing a smooth and creamy texture…My high-quality chocolate is conched for a very long time up to three days rather than a few hours like inexpensive chocolate is.”

Here’s more information on conching:

From her European chocolate suppliers Diane receives “chocolate blocks containing cocoa, sugar, lecithin and vanilla…then I temper it on my machines to further enhance its mouthfeel to create my divine treasures.”

More information on chocolate tempering may be located here:

Here’s a How It’s Made segment that takes viewers inside a chocolate manufacturing plant:

Diane commented on this video by saying:
“The video is interesting but the conching is not included. This would be done at the beginning stage before the truck delivers the chocolate. We do a lot of the same things but most things are done by hand. I would love to be able to afford the equipment and people that are doing all the chocolates. Dreaming positive and maybe someday we will be there.”

Although Diane would like to use chocolate that has been made on vegan-dedicated equipment from start to finish, she told The VRG that “it costs over one million dollars to buy equipment…there’s not a big enough market for vegan chocolate so chocolate makers run more than just vegan chocolate.” Diane told us that “I wish that vegans who complain about vegan purity issues would understand this.” A vegan herself for 16 years, Diane told The VRG that “95% of my customers are not vegan…they are people looking for high-quality chocolate.” “… “In this world we’re all trying to do the best we can.”

Allison’s Gourmet
Another hand-crafted, organic and fair trade vegan chocolatier, Allison Rivers Samson of Allison’s Gourmet echoed Diane’s frustration about the lack of vegan-dedicated equipment in her own way. She commented in 2012 at The VegNews Guide to Vegan Chocolate that

“…there are currently no manufacturers of the raw materials for organic chocolate (chocolate liquor) that have 100% dairy-free facilities. So for us, a 100% vegan company, even though the manufacturer of the base of our organic chocolate flushes the machines with thousands of gallons of organic dairy-free chocolate, we still must say “may contain traces” on the label. While this may present some confusion, there are some people (especially children) who have life-threatening allergies to dairy. In those cases, we encourage people to err on the side of safety. Another reason to eliminate dairy in the world!”

“Hopefully someday soon, the demand will be high enough that there will be facilities that produce exclusively dairy-free organic chocolate in exclusively dairy-free factories.”

The VRG asked Allison in January 2016 if there are now any chocolate liquor manufacturers who operate vegan-dedicated equipment. She replied by email:

“Thank you for checking in on this. I wish there was progress. Unfortunately, there are still currently no dairy-free, organic chocolate liquor manufacturers.”

Vegan Chocolatier Cooperative
The VRG asked Diane of Divine Treasures if she thought it ever feasible that vegan chocolatiers would create a cooperative in which they collectively purchase and use the equipment keeping it 100% dairy-free. Diane replied

“I think if everyone used high-quality chocolate it could work… It’s coming… It may not be because of vegans but [as someone told me] because of the demand for dairy-free products by people who are allergic to dairy.”

Daren Hayes, founder of Stirs the Soul, is a chocolatier who makes his own organic and fair trade raw chocolate starting from stone-grounding raw cocoa beans all done on his own equipment. Daren agrees that a vegan chocolatier cooperative would be a great way to ensure the production of vegan chocolate on truly vegan-dedicated equipment and he would be interested in participating. (Note: All of Daren’s products are vegan except four flavors of one variety which contain honey.)

As consumer demand for vegan chocolate and other vegan products grows, it becomes more likely that one day there will be vegan businesses using their own exclusively dairy-free equipment. Mintel Group Ltd. market research suggests this in a late 2014 report:

Specifically with respect to vegan chocolate this report revealed:

“…there has also been considerable growth in the number of chocolate and sugar confectionery products launched carrying a ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ claim. Whilst just 4% of chocolate or sugar products launched in 2009 carried a vegetarian claim, this rose to 9% in 2013. The proportion of these products launched with a vegan claim similarly rose from 1% in 2009 to 2% in 2013.
Further to this, the number of chocolate and sugar confectionery products using a glazing agent boasted even larger growth with 32% of these products carrying a ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ claim in 2013, up from 13% in 2009.”

“Among chocolate and sugar confectionery products there is increasingly demand for vegetarian ingredients, reflected by the increasing use of both vegetarian and vegan claims on new product launches. Ingredients will continue to be scrutinized by consumers and manufacturers need to be responsive and proactive to quell any consumer concerns,” concluded Laura Jones Mintel Global Food Science Analyst.

More on Cocoa Butter as a Dairy Sanitizer
Intrigued by the use of cocoa butter as a dairy sanitizer for equipment The VRG sought out more information. We discovered a patent application for this use: suggesting that cocoa butter cleaning of chocolate-making equipment occurs in industry.

The VRG spoke with Claus Davids of Koco, Inc. a supplier of processing and packaging systems specifically for the food, cocoa, confectionery and baking industries. Claus discussed the use of cocoa butter to clean equipment by describing it as “the go-to” substance to flush machinery runs during changeovers and referring to it as a common practice. He said cocoa butter flushing would require “large amounts” of cocoa butter and be a very time- and labor-intensive process. He thought it would be difficult to thoroughly clean the equipment because of all the piping connections in the equipment’s lines. He further cautioned by email:

“I’d like to note, for clarification here, that cocoa butter is not a miraculous cleaner for dairy or anything of that sort. It does not guarantee elimination of dairy, at least not that I know. The only way to guarantee 100% dairy-free chocolate is to have a dedicated line of equipment where dairy is not used. We see this in kosher facilities, where they will not even consider making milk chocolate because it is so hard to eliminate dairy from the machinery and pipework. I would be hesitant to trust any company that claims to be dairy-free… In order to do this, they would have to tear down every piece of machinery and hardware and clean it completely.”

The reason cocoa butter is used as a cleaner is that you cannot bring water into a chocolate making operation – it breeds bacteria and puts the entire line at risk for contamination.

Interested readers may find information on kosher concerns in chocolate production:

Daren the chocolatier from Stirs the Soul was also doubtful of cocoa butter as a dairy residue remover from chocolate equipment saying its effectiveness “is subject to the equipment and the kitchen.”

When The VRG asked Allison of Allison’s Gourmet if her chocolate supplier uses cocoa butter to run through potential dairy residue on equipment she replied

“Our chocolate supplier processes their chocolate liquor where it’s grown, thus Peru and Ecuador. As stated on our website, thousands of pounds of dairy-free chocolate are flushed though the machines after processing milk chocolate. This is our allergen statement about dairy, which appears on each page that contains chocolate:

“Due to the limited demand for 100% dairy-free organic chocolate, the raw ingredients for organic, fair-trade chocolate are processed on equipment also used to process milk chocolate. The machines are cleaned meticulously between runs, and thousands of pounds of dairy-free chocolate are flushed through the machines.”

“For safety and legality, we must state that there could be a chance that chocolate items may contain traces of dairy, even though dairy is never an intended ingredient.”

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

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2 to “How Vegan Can Chocolate Be? By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS”

  1. TY Cherry says:

    Kudos to the great manufactures and their dedication to high quality chocolate. We at Innocent Chocolate are also fully committed to producing the highest quality, organic, vegan chocolate products. We are now building a brand new facility where we will produce our products on equally new equipment that has not, and will not, be used to process animal origin products.

    The facility will be free of all sugar, soy, dairy ( or any animal products), and gluten. All of our products follow this same guideline, as well as inhibiting the absorption of sugar, starch and fat.

    In addition, 100% of our profits go to support global environmental preservation through the EarthCorp Foundation.

    We hope to serve all of the vegans and allergy sensitive consumers looking for a very healthy chocolate source.

  2. MJ says:

    Great article. Chocolate is such a pleasure, but not so much when it involves cruelty…whether of animals or humans. I find that you really get what you pay for in terms of quality, too. And the higher price keeps me from eating too much.

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