Chocolate Man – a Different Type of Action Hero

It’s hard to miss the enthusiasm in Jørgen Holdgaard’s voice when he starts talking about chocolate production. The Palsgaard application specialist has dedicated an entire career to supporting both artisanal producers and many of the world’s most well-known chocolate brands.

Helicopter view

Over the years, Jørgen has developed and refined his own philosophy – and a comprehensive box of tricks – for dealing with the issues that typically disturb manufacturers’ ability to achieve consistent output quality.

“I usually meet people who say that they are facing a problem with their chocolate,” says Jørgen. “More often than not, it’s related to their practical application. ‘We can’t get rid of the air bubbles,’ or ‘Sometimes, our product just won’t fit the mold properly’. And, while it can be tempting to jump in and start adjusting machinery and recipes, I always find it helps to lift up to a helicopter view, thinking about the problem from a rheological standpoint first.”

“Often, the real underlying issue is that the manufacturer doesn’t have a measuring system that allows them to see, in a controllable, consistent way, whether the chocolate is within specification or outside it – and therefore it’s often quite beyond their control.”

I’m often met with ‘Do you have some new emulsifiers to show us?’ – to which I answer that, in this business, no one is really interested in brand-new raw materials. Producers, as well as consumers, seem to be content with the existing raw materials that have been used for decades.

Regaining control

Jørgen’s first port of call, therefore, is usually to discuss the use of measurement instruments, such as viscometers, with his customers. Some are invited back to Palsgaard’s well-equipped chocolate labs to undergo training in how to measure rheology with these instruments. The session may be followed up by assistance with setting up a proper chocolate evaluation system at the customer’s production plant, including expert advice on the choice of instruments and their operational usage.

“More manufacturers than you might think are, in reality, flying blind,” says Jørgen. “They don’t really have control of their chocolate because they lack the instruments and processes it takes to keep the product within the right specification. And that can be both costly and time-consuming.”

After 30 years on the job, Jørgen enjoys the chance to share his know-how in this area, helping customers to create a suitable chocolate specification that links closely to their needs – whether it’s for molded applications, enrobing or spraying, for example – and taking a bird’s eye view of every aspect from process design to training factory staff in the use of a viscometer.

New approaches

Jørgen is keen to get manufacturers to try new approaches for their recipes and production practices.

“When people are explaining their problems, I can often hear that there’s a basic mismatch within the company – one which they can’t see clearly because there is no proper system to expose, for example, that they may be taking an inappropriate chocolate out of the conche and trying to make it do something it really can’t do. And there’s plenty I can do to remedy such issues by adjusting their chocolate rheology.”

Jørgen’s basic philosophy calls for the customer’s lab, production and forming functions to work closely together. For example, once the production department has finished producing a conche of chocolate, it should be reviewed by the lab or quality department to determine whether it is suited for the next process in line.

Palsgaard’s contribution to the chocolate manufacturing industry revolves around its vegetable-based emulsifiers, so Jørgen’s own approach to meeting producer challenges relies heavily on getting flow properties right, for example. A good emulsifier can reduce interaction among particles by coating sugars so they are unable to absorb as much moisture and thus lead to a thickening in viscosity. Such emulsifiers are a powerful addition to the chocolate maker’s capabilities, allowing more accurate control over the various parameters in chocolate production, and making it possible, for example, to reduce cocoa butter without affecting viscosity.

An alternative tool belt

“Over the past three to four years, we’ve developed our chocolate emulsifiers to become more efficient in delivering their functionality. For example, we’ve worked on the basic AMP (ammonium phosphatide, also known as emulsifier YN), patented in the early sixties by Cadbury as a way to remove the off-flavour in light chocolates, turning it into Palsgaard AMP4455, which can be added to a normal chocolate to make it more liquid. So, for example, instead of taking a normal molded chocolate then adding 2 to 3 percent cocoa butter to use the same chocolate for enrobing, you can just add AMP 4455 along with some of our PGPR 4150 and you’ll get the same effect. Over time, that’s quite a cost-saving.”

This is exactly the sort of know-how that can make application specialists like Jørgen Holdgaard worth their weight in gold for chocolate manufacturers of all applications and sizes, and in many different parts of the world. And Jørgen finds most are typically eager to discuss their challenges – and opportunities – with anyone who really knows their stuff.

“I’m often met with ‘Do you have some new emulsifiers to show us?’ – to which I answer that, in this business, no one is really interested in brand-new raw materials. Producers, as well as consumers, seem to be content with the existing raw materials that have been used for decades.”

Of course, while Jørgen is justifiably cautious in offering completely new solutions, his company is constantly pushing the bounds of how newer generations of emulsifiers such as AMP or PGPR can be blended and applied for better production and in-store results.

“We can take out lecithin, for example, exchanging it with emulsifiers that offer more powerful functionally and cost-efficiencies. Doing so can also help manufacturers to avoid GMO and allergenic label declarations, too.”

“Working with Palsgaard is perfect for me,” says Jørgen. “Not many people know that we actually invented the industrial food emulsifier. And 100 years later, we’re still finding new ways to refine and apply our founder’s invention to food, food packaging, and other uses. It’s a wonderful journey.”