Scientists have discovered a gene involved in determining the melting point of cocoa butter, a critical attribute of the substance widely used in foods and pharmaceuticals.
The finding could lead to new and improved products, say researchers.
The finding by plant geneticists could also lead to new varieties of the cocoa plant that could extend the climate and soil-nutrient range for growing the crop and increase the value of its yield, they say, providing a boost to farmers’ incomes in the cocoa-growing regions of the world.
Cocoa butter with altered melting points may find new uses in specialty chocolates, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals, says lead researcher Mark Guiltinan, professor of plant molecular biology at Penn State.
“The ‘snap’ and ‘melt’ of chocolate are two very important textural features that determine the appeal of chocolate to consumers, and having new varieties of the cocoa plant that produce butter with different melting points would be a valuable resource to control those characteristics,” Guiltinan explains.
“Medical applications could include production of drug-delivery products with slower release of drugs than is possible with current cocoa-butter-based systems.”
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