The Ketogenic diet has taken the health and lifestyle world by storm in recent years, being touted as the go-to food regimen of choice by many social media moguls and Hollywood celebrities the world over, with Halle Berry, Gwyneth Paltrow and at least two of the Kardashians reportedly being staunch advocates, just to name a few. And with easing Coronavirus restrictions for most, many are looking at ways that they can try to shift that extra lockdown mileage, indicating that the Keto diet’s popularity isn’t likely to wane any time soon.
But what exactly is the Keto diet and what could it mean for chocolate producers?
As a self-confessed carbivore, I’ll do my level best to try to explain. The aim of the Keto diet (like many low carb diets stemming from the ‘90s onwards), is to prompt the body to enter into a state of ‘ketosis’, or to burn fat as the main energy source.
This is achieved by eating a strictly low carb diet which is also high in fats - so because the body has a drastically reduced supply of carbohydrates, it won’t revert to glucose as our source of energy but, once it enters this state of ketosis; will burn body fat instead. So many people are ditching the bread, rice, potatoes and pasta in droves (not even legumes and the higher carb root vegetables are safe from this kitchen cupboard purge), opting instead for a diet centred around meat, high fat cheese and dairy products, eggs, oily fish, low carb vegetables and of course - who could possibly forget in 21st century Britain? - the ubiquitous avocado.
Chocolate, a confectionary lauded the world over for its sweet taste and (usually) added sugar content; would therefore seem an odd choice for the diehard Keto dieter. But chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher is widely deemed an acceptable, Keto-friendly snack - in moderation. This is because, by virtue of them being stuffed to the rafters with more cocoa, there’s less room for added sugar which whilst present in any bar that isn’t 100% cocoa, there’s an awful lot less of it than in your standard bar of milk chocolate. That, coupled with the fact that chocolate is naturally a high fat food actually means it’s a perfect go-to snack for Keto dieters.
This would seem to fit neatly into a few key trends that have pervaded the realm of chocolate for a few years now – principally of consumers being more health conscious, looking for higher quality chocolate products with greater cocoa content and the associated health benefits that the minerals in high cocoa content chocolate might bring (for many of us in moderation of course) to our heart health, immune system and our mental wellbeing.
Coupled with this is the trend that many consumers are more invested in where their food comes from and what impact its production, packaging, shipping and storage has on the planet. Unless specified by the manufacturer, almost exclusively dark chocolate is an entirely vegan product which is completely free of any dairy produce, so whilst consumers in the UK know the cocoa beans themselves are farmed in tropical and sub-tropical countries ranging from South America, the Caribbean, Africa and beyond, they can at least be certain that dark chocolate’s animal free, plant based credentials stay green.
The ethical questions associated with chocolate’s content and production is a concern that many in the chocolate industry are mirroring, particularly the bean to bar producers that, by virtue of them being smaller enterprises than the commercial giants of the chocolate world; have a keener eye on batch production and sourcing their cocoa beans from a single plantation or origin. This often means they’re free to develop better working relationships with the farmers themselves, and have a keener awareness of the effect of their business on the economy and ecology of the local community, prompting a more vested interest in the day to day lives of the neighbouring population, and of the longevity of the cocoa production process as a result. The quality of the finished product also tends to be higher on the agenda of most bean to bar producers, as a more intimate knowledge of the variety of cocoa, the environmental factors in which its grown and the manufacturing process results in greater scope to tailor the appearance, flavour and aroma of the finished bar. And of course, ultimately these chocolate producers are trying to give you just that – a chocolate bar which by definition; is high in the primary ingredient – cocao.
It seems natural then, that stead fast Keto dieters and those new to the regime nestle quite nicely into some of the biggest chocolate trends the market has seen for several years. With more burgeoning bean to bar chocolate producers operating along side the more established commercial confectioners, it seems likely that they will look to try to cash in on the growing Keto movement, which may well further the cause for chocolate that’s higher quality, more sustainable and more ethical.
And what’s more, Keto dieters need not necessarily just stick to the 70% and above bars without inclusions. Many bean to bar producers and large scale manufacturers alike have recognised that whilst there is still a robust market for the cocoa purists who just want to be able to enjoy the taste of the beans alone, there is still a strong focus on catering for the consumer looking for exciting new flavour profiles whilst still enjoying high cocoa content chocolate. Many UK bean to bar producers have been busy reviewing growing trends in the food industry, and carefully matching them to their brand of chocolate to bring to market something that’s less than conventional. For example, Love Cocoa’s 71% dark Avocado bar (you see? They really are everywhere), Montezuma’s Black Forest Cherry 70% bar, or Seed and Bean’s chilli and lime bar. That doesn’t mean of course that there won’t always be a place in our hearts for the old classics, albeit in chocolate form. Orange and mint remain flavour old faithfuls of the chocolate world, although many producers are still ensuring that they keep the cocoa content high, whilst still packing that tasty punch we’re looking for when picking our next chocolate fix.
Either way, with the growing popularity of the Keto movement seemingly converging seamlessly with a number of key chocolate trends for high content cocoa, I’ve no doubt that this will prove a mutually beneficial – and of course super delicious – association for Keto warriors and chocolate producers alike across the globe.