Today, Oded Brenner of Max Brenner fame launched Blue Stripes, a direct-to-consumer line of products utilizing every part of the cacao pod—shell, fruit and beans. The CPG line marks a shift from solely focusing on the cacao bean to the whole cacao fruit, and from sweet indulgences to wellness promoting products.
“People knew me as the Willy Wonka of chocolate for many years at Max Brenner,” Oded told me. “In recent years, however, I discovered the unknown side of chocolate—the whole cacao fruit—mostly on trips to cacao plantations and authentic markets. I was in the chocolate industry for over 25 years and was not aware of all the endless traditions and local creations that are made with the whole cacao fruit. I was excited to learn about all the functional benefits that are hiding in the ‘unknown parts’ of the plant and felt that as a true cacao storyteller, this would be the second chapter of my cacao book.”
The launch line, available at bluestripes.com and select retailers across NYC, includes a variety of products, from drinks to snacks to pantry ingredients. These include Cacao Water (an antioxidant-packed, plant-based water made from cacao fruit available in three varieties: Just Cacao, Cascara Coffee & Cinnamon, and Chili, Lime & Cardamom), Superfood Cacao Shell Flour Bread Mix (a gluten-free base for cacao bread made with cacao nibs, cacao chocolate and dried cacao fruit), 100% Cacao Hazelnut Butter (a healthier alternative to Nutella that’s sugar-free and full of cacao’s natural benefits) and Cacao Espresso (high energy, low caffeine, theobromine-rich 100% cacao espresso powder).
For Brenner, it’s tough to choose a favorite from the launch collection, “not only because each product is unique and tells a story by itself, but mostly because the main idea of this project is to tell the story of the whole cacao and how the products are connected.” He noted that he’s especially excited about the Cacao Water as it’s set to enter the competitive arena of functional beverages. “I feel that the Cacao Water is an innovative product that conveys my very personal experience in the cacao plantation of picking a pod from the tree, cracking it and eating this refreshing and healthy fruit. We’ve managed to mimic this experience through the shape of the bottle and the quality of the drink so that when you open the lid you’re filled with the perfume that is so unique to the cacao fruit.”
In addition to harnessing the unique flavor and wellness promoting properties of whole cacao, Blue Stripes claims to minimize waste and provide increased income to the farmers they work with. “If you weigh the wet cocoa beans they account for about 20% of the total weight of the pod,” Brenner said. “However, some of the pulp is used in the fermentation of the beans (a necessary process in chocolate making), so after factoring that in, it comes to more than 70% of the cacao being discarded.” Brenner added that while some of this waste is used for fertilizing the plantation or to feed animals, most of it is discarded and these methods of repurposing waste do not generate additional income for cacao farmers. “By using the whole cacao fruit we’re creating a sustainable financial structure where we can enjoy the superfood qualities of this fruit and the farmer makes way more money on every pod that he’s selling, all while not discarding the majority of the fruit,” Brenner said.