Answer: It depends.
We all need cocoa powder in our lives in one way or another. Having a steaming glass of hot chocolate on cold winter nights is essential for almost all of us. We use cocoa powder to make cakes, and we use it as a topping for our sweet dishes and a lot more.
Wherever there is chocolate involved in something, cocoa powder is used as well. And one of the top names in the cocoa industry is Hershey’s. They have been around for a long time now. They are dominating the cocoa and chocolate industry with their spectacular quality and sustainable prices.
One such product is cocoa powder. Almost all of us are familiar with this product – you may have been using it recently. But as a vegan, you might have thought to yourself, “Is Hershey’s cocoa powder vegan?”
There are no animal products used in Hershey’s cocoa powder. Both of their cocoa powders, dark and original, are vegan, according to PETA. But you have to keep in mind the slave laborers involved in the cocoa industry.
Cocoa powder has many health benefits besides being vegan. Read on to find out everything that you need to know about Hershey’s cocoa powder.
Cocoa is native to South America, according to some sources in central America. Cocoa had a tremendous cultural significance from the beginning. So much so that it was given to warriors as a reward after they fought in a war! It was also used as currency in some cultures and served at royal feasts throughout history.
The Aztecs of Central America believed that the cocoa had a divine origin. Naturally, they reserved it for their VIPs to indulge in, such as royals, warriors, and the elite class. Imagine being a civilian at that time; you couldn’t even have chocolate!
When the Spanish started exploring America, they brought back cocoa to Europe. Initially, only the elites had the privilege of eating it. Fortunately for us, it slowly started spreading and was eventually available for the masses.
Historical documents tell us about the belief of ancient people in cocoa powder’s ability to give them immortality. Now, having Hershey’s cocoa powder may not give you infinite life, but it has plenty of health benefits if it’s taken in an appropriate way and a reasonable amount.
The Processing And Quality Control
Cocoa powder in its raw form is the most healthy. The more ingredients that you add to it, the lower its health benefit becomes. This happens when milk and sugar are added to raw cocoa powder to make chocolate. Or when it is treated with alkali to reduce its acidity. But this also lowers its medicinal power!
Some processing methods can also cause the cocoa’s lead level to increase, which negatively affects your body. Luckily for us, Hershey’s cocoa powder is 100% pure cocoa without any sweeteners.
Different Varieties Of Cocoa
According to their website, Hershey’s has cocoa powder in 2 varieties. You have an option to select between the unsweetened natural cocoa powder or the dark special cocoa powder, which is the one treated with alkali so that it isn’t too bitter for us and to make it look dark. This process is known as dutching.
Alkali reduces the flavonols by 50%. This lowers the antioxidant levels of cocoa. But all of this has an upside; it increases its resistance to bacteria. Dark cocoa powder is the option for you if you’re vulnerable to bacterial infections.
Cocoa comes from the seed of a cacao plant (Theobroma cacao). Producers likewise utilize this seed in the production of chocolate and different types of cocoa butter.
A 2017 audit on Frontiers In Immunology depicts the numerous means needed to transform the natural product into cocoa powder. Cocoa can lose its health benefits during this elaborate process. To keep it 100% pure, Hershey’s has adopted a strategy to prepare its cocoa. This technique preserves all of the nutrients that are present.
Macro Nutrients In Cocoa Powder
Now that you have some basic knowledge about cocoa powder let’s talk about cocoa powder’s nutritional content. You must know about what you’re eating so that you can keep a check and eat according to the safe limits.
Having too much cocoa can cause an imbalance in your body. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, with every 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder you consume, you get 25 calories. This doesn’t seem too much. Imagine that you are making a pastry or a cake. How many tablespoons cocoa would you use? At least 8-10 tablespoons if you want to make it chocolatey enough. That would add 250 calories to the cake.
Additionally, you get 6 grams carbs and 3.5 grams fiber, along with 2.5 grams protein and only 1.5 grams fats. That’s pretty good as you’re getting 2.5 grams with every 6 grams of carbs. And that’s with 25 calories.
Micro Nutrients In Cocoa Powder
Cocoa has amazing micronutrient content. As a vegan, you must have been keeping an eye on your nutrient intake. Those of you who are conscious about micronutrients know how important it is to have the right kind of micronutrients in your diet.
Phytochemicals In Cocoa Powder
Phytochemicals are the chemicals that give food its superpowers. They are not essential, which means you’ll be fine even if you don’t eat them. But they can have a tremendous health benefit for you. They can help slow down your aging process. Who would’ve thought that drinking your favorite Hershey’s hot chocolate can actually make you look younger?
As we have previously discussed, these phytochemicals along with the nutrients are usually altered during processing. But Hershey’s uses a minimalist approach in their processing to avoid any such losses.
Cocoa contains polyphenols, for example, flavonols. In fact, cocoa has more flavonols than most other foods. This was a finding in a thesis from 2015 at the MET University. You can find out more about the presence of flavonols in cocoa here index.pdf (metu.edu.tr).
Should You Buy Only Fairtrade Products?
It is very important for you as a vegan to consider the potential slave laborers used in cocoa powder production.
Cocoa Powder And Slave Labor
The Hershey’s cocoa powder that you’re consuming may probably have some child laborers involved during the initial production. It is all dependent on where the cocoa beans which are used in the production come from.
Now, as a vegan, this is something that we can’t ignore, especially if you turned vegan for ethical reasons.
What Does Fairtrade Or Slave-Free Mean?
You might be wondering what makes fair trade even means and why is it important? Let me make it easier for you. To become 100% fairtrade certified, a business must meet specific criteria, which vary according to the area you’re in.
These guidelines include things like:
- Guaranteeing sustainable pay to farmers
- Making sure that there are is no child labor involved
- Prohibit any hazardous agrochemicals or GMOs
Hershey’s Status As A Fairtrade Company
Hershey’s does not have any programs which ensure that the cocoa that they’re buying is slave-free or not. Hershey’s hasn’t done much to ensure a sustainable and ethical cocoa purchase.
The Global Exchange Even launched a campaign in the September of 2010 to urge and pressure Hershey’s to take action against forced child labor. The whole food Market in 2012 ceased carrying the Mall of Hershey’s product which was previously available in their stores.
Despite being accused, Hershey’s haven’t spoken a word about any of these accusations. They haven’t even released any information about the source from which they buy all of their cocoa.
Cocoa powder is a very healthy product. It is filled with many beneficial compounds and bioactive chemicals that have a positive impact on your health.
If you are consuming cocoa powder daily, you are getting a certain amount of your daily micronutrient requirement met.
Your cardiovascular health improves due to the presence of bio-active chemicals. The fiber in cocoa powder makes it a good choice for diabetic people as well.
But the source from where you get your cocoa powder is very important. And Hershey’s doesn’t have a good reputation in the market due to its potential unethical practices.
So it all depends on you. If you feel that you must take action against such corporations as a vegan, you can opt for other available alternatives on the market, which are cruelty-free and vegan.