Rebel Chocolate February 26, 2018 17:26

The month of Chocolate Eggs is upon us, but if you're anything like us, you will happily scoff down good quality chocolate at any time of year.  

As our regular followers know, we're always on the lookout for new and exciting brands and this month's blog introduces our latest find, Rebel Chocolate made in Glasgow.

Chocolate maker, Neil Robson, was born in Southampton but grew up in New Zealand and now lives in Glasgow. He holds a PhD in immunology from the University of Glasgow and in case you didn't know, “immunology” is the study of the immune system at the genetic, biochemical, cellular and organism level. Prior to his PhD he obtained a Masters degree in protein biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

He has studied and worked in biomedical research for 20 years and has published more than twenty peer reviewed scientific papers, a number of which are in journals of a world-standing such as “Blood” and “Cancer Research”. A serious back problem forced Neil to reassess his career and in 2016 he left academia to pursue an exciting new venture: “healthier” chocolate making.

We caught up with him to find out if a thing as marvellous as healthy chocolate could indeed be true!

Here comes the science - over to Neil!

Before I start, I am not claiming to be an “expert” in all things nutrition, health and wellbeing. However, there are a lot of supposed expert opinions out there that frankly just don’t hold up as being scientific or evidence based. Mine are based on my experience as a biomedical scientist and I will do my best to make these as evidenced based as possible.

However, I firmly believe that there are very few (if any) absolute “truths” in life, including in science, so I am not saying that all my opinions are 100% factually correct, they are just my opinions formed through a lot of reading and research.

Our chocolate contains less than half the sugar of most milk chocolate, and although it contains milk products, it is lactose free (we are not aware of any other lactose-free 'real' milk chocolate available on the market in the UK). We also use some of the best cocoa in the world, from locations such as Madagascar and Colombia and we nutritionally enrich the chocolate by adding whey protein from milk, so the final bar contains 25% protein and tastes great.

Importantly, our goal was not to make a protein bar; instead, we have made great chocolate that just happens to be a healthier choice because it contains protein (mostly from whey).

Although we are using modern nutritional knowledge and a little science for the formulation of our chocolate, we actually make it in an old fashioned way. Using stone on stone grinders, the ingredients blend together for 72 hours, in a process called refining and conching. The result is rich, smooth and delicious high protein healthier chocolate made with some of the world’s best cocoa. 

Yip, this is what Rebel Chocolate is about…

  • Less sugar
  • More cocoa
  • Lactose free
  • 25% protein

Rebel Chocolate: What’s in it?

  1. Roasted cocoa beans (“nibs”) or cocoa mass. We make our chocolate in a shipping container in the east end of Glasgow. Shipping containers are pretty small, so we are very limited in which machinery we can use. Therefore, we do not roast and winnow (that’s the process of removing the cocoa beans shell) raw cocoa beans. Instead, we purchase pre-roasted cocoa nibs or cocoa mass.

    Cocoa mass is 100% pure cocoa, it’s just that the beans have been ground into a smooth liquid and re-set into bars or pellets (callets). Cocoa is the first ingredient you will see in any of our chocolate bars because it is present in the highest proportion. Cocoa contains lots of interesting chemicals, especially the flavonoids; however, it needs to be noted that cocoa is also 53% cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is rich in saturated fats, and while it is reasonable to consume some saturated fats in the diet, cocoa butter consumption (in my opinion) would be best done in moderation. We believe we have made milk chocolate “healthier”, but we are not claiming we have made “healthy” chocolate.  (I knew it was too good to be true - Diane!)

  2. Cocoa butter. You will notice when eating our chocolate that the chocolate does not melt quickly in your mouth. This is due to cocoa butter only fully melting at temperatures close to body temperature - as our chocolate contains a higher percentage of cocoa and cocoa butter than most milk chocolates on the market, it melts slower! (And tastes delicious - D) 

  3. Whey protein. I will try not to let the biochemist in me take over here, so here goes. We wanted to make “healthier” chocolate and when you consider Cadbury and Galaxy milk chocolates contain around 56% sugar it was a no brainer that removing some of this sugar was a priority. However, we wanted to go further than “just” removing sugar.

    To take our chocolate in a really interesting (nutritionally speaking) direction, we decided to add in whey protein to replace all that sugar we removed. So, out with a big chunk of the sugar, and in with a high quality protein source. Excess sugar is not so good for you while proteins are essential for every cell in your body to form and function correctly. (Whey-hey! - D) 

  4. Sucrose. We add this in the form of cane sugar. Most importantly, cane sugar is sucrose, and sucrose is a disaccharide sugar. This means that if you eat 10 grams of sucrose it is basically the same as eating 5 grams of glucose with 5 grams of fructose. The bottom line is that sucrose produces a fructose load as well as a glucose load - I do not see sugar as the enemy, biologically it is hugely important to life, it is just the amount of sugar we consume that is the problem.  

  5. Lactose free milk powder. Lactose is a disaccharide sugar composed of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of galactose. By using lactose free milk powder (which contains the same amount of total sugar as lactose containing milk powder) we gain sweetness from the milk powder itself. In this way we can add less additional sugar to our chocolate, and importantly, all those poor people who cannot eat milk chocolate due to lactose intolerance can now eat amazing milk chocolate without worrying about sore stomachs. Win Win!

  6. Fructose. Controversial or what! Yes, we have deliberately added the devil of the sugar world to our chocolate! Why you ask? Well, 10 grams of fructose is perceived to be similar in sweetness to at least 15 grams of sucrose. This means you can achieve a level of sweetness with less overall sugar if you add some fructose.

    Consider this, our chocolate contains 16.3 grams of fructose per 100 grams of chocolate. Cadbury’s milk chocolate contains 28 grams of fructose per 100 grams. Green and Blacks milk chocolate contains 23 grams of fructose and 23 grams of glucose per 100 grams.  (If you'd like the really geeky breakdown of all of this, please email and we'll send you the full breakdown! - D)

  7. Soya lecithin. Another substance with a pretty bad name in the “healthy eating” world. Why do we add it? Firstly, the lecithin we use does not contain soya protein, I think some people may see the word “soya” and immediately think that soya protein is present and this discussion is not about soya protein, it is about soya lecithin.

    Lecithin’s are rich sources of phospholipids, one of the reasons why eating seeds can be an important component of a healthy diet. Phospholipids are incorporated into cell membranes, and are essential elements for normal (i.e. healthy) cell function. Don’t get me wrong, we are not adding lecithin and trying to say we are doing this to improve the nutritional profile of our chocolate, although in saying this, it could be argued that it does. We add lecithin purely because we want to utilise its function as an emulsifier. Whey protein is a powder, and because of this it is difficult to get the chocolate really smooth; lecithin helps overcome this problem.

As a summary:

We thought we should listen to Neil and so therefore, we can't say its healthy - but we can say its healthier than other typical chocolate bars you'll find on the shelves. And that has to be something! Portion size is suggested as 30 gram and they make larger 90 gram bars as well as 30 gram “snack” bars - you can buy both at Provender Brown now!