Soy lecithin is one of the core additives in most commercially manufactured confectionaries, including chocolates. Its addition gives the final product a smooth texture and glazed appearance. But that’s just one of soy lecithin’s side benefits. Its actual purpose is to assist in the easy emulsion of all ingredients.
However, it is a controversial ingredient with a biased opinion because of its source—soybeans. And, its inclusion in something as popular and demanded as chocolate has become a concern of many. So, being in the business of lecithin, LECITEIN considers it our duty to share our two-pence worth on the subject for those seeking clarity.
To make a valid argument, it’s necessary to first understand the reason soy lecithin is used in manufacturing chocolates.
When cocoa beans are added to sugar and powdered milk, the resulting mixture is quite thick to be further processed through machinery. While originally, cocoa butter was used as an emulsifier, soy lecithin is much cheaper for commercial use and is needed in a considerably lesser quantity to be just as effective comparatively.
Besides, soy lecithin binds the chocolate’s ingredients together much better than cocoa butter. Once added, soy lecithin increases the flowability of the chocolate mixture making it easier to pump melted chocolate from the refining machines to the tempering machines. You must know, however, artisan chocolate makers do not use it at all as their processes are mostly manual.
The simple and straight answer to this question is, yes.
While the inclusion or exclusion of soy lecithin doesn’t make too much of a difference in the taste of a chocolate bar, its mouthfeel is an entirely different story. The chocolate that contains lecithin starts melting immediately as it touches the tongue transforming into a sodden liquid. Whereas, the texture of the chocolate without lecithin remains richer, kind of like a sauce.
To sum this up, in gustatory terms, soy lecithin doesn’t play a major role. but it does alter the viscosity and mouthfeel of the chocolate.
In terms of texture, chocolate containing lecithin has an uneven texture compared to the ones with cocoa butter or cocoa fat.
Lecithin interferes with the tempering technique that helps the chocolate texture bloom. For those who don’t know, the process by which chocolate's cocoa fat crystallises into a stable fat crystal matrix is called tempering. The main purpose of lecithin is not to just help with the emulsion but also to stabilise the emulsion process, adding more shelf life to the final product.
It also gives the chocolate its waxy coat. Although, the smoothness and roundness are not as accurate as with cocoa butter. Soy lecithin also kills the rich aroma of the cacao and flattens the tasting notes in the homogeneity of the chocolate. Though, it’s unnoticeable.
The source of soy lecithin is counted among the top 8 food allergens including eggs, peanuts, and milk. The allergic reaction caused by soy is due to its protein content. Since it’s extracted from soybean oil complete its traces of protein cannot be completely eliminated. And, while there have been very few cases, soy lecithin has been found to react on people with severe sensitivities.
Considering the high demand for soy lecithin the world over, it’s no wonder that soybean is the most common GMO product in the market. Approximately 94% of the Soy grown in the US is genetically modified. And, modern consumers are more interested in consuming organic products rather than genetically modified edibles. It’s also nearly impossible to differentiate between GMO and non-GMO soy lecithin without reading the label.
Soy lecithin is obtained after extensive processing and chemical treatments. The soybeans are first treated with hexane. Followed by the degumming of oil until lecithin separates from it. The extracted lecithin is then dried and often bleached with hydrogen peroxide.
To begin with, hexane is quite alarming. It’s utilised as a solvent in glues, varnishes, and even roofing. Its residuals often linger in soy products. One thing to be noted here is that hexane has already been replaced with other solvents in the leather and textile industry due to its harmful effects. Consuming an ingredient with such solvents is ethically and healthwise unacceptable among some consumers.
Commercial confectionaries use soy lecithin as a cheaper alternative to cocoa butter. Although it does not have a significant impact on taste it does alter the rich texture of chocolate making it more waxy and plastic.
Soy lecithin is found in almost every processed product but its processing, allergic nature, and GMO origin make it a controversial ingredient among some consumers.
Those who may be worried about soy acting up their allergies should know that the content of soy lecithin is limited to only 0.4-0.6% in a KG of chocolate. Besides, many of the known chocolate manufacturers have also started alternating with sunflower lecithin instead of soy lecithin. This alteration, however, is highly dependent on the market. For example, a majority of manufacturers in the United States prefer sunflower lecithin, whereas, the same brand manufacturers in Europe prefer soy lecithin.
Regardless, LECITEIN is a global lecithin supplier and carries an ample inventory of
all plant-based lecithin in various forms
. If you have been having trouble procuring lecithin, it’s time you reach out to us with your needs and queries.