Mars, Incorporated and Mars Botanical
Q: What is Mars Botanical?
A: Mars Botanical was established as a scientific division of Mars, Incorporated in 2007 to focus on research and product development of flavanols, found in cocoa, tea, wine and certain fruits and vegetables. Its mission is to improve human health by promoting and delivering the natural power of cocoa extract through passionate and caring entrepreneurship. Mars Botanical has been tasked to continue to build on the nearly 20-year heritage of Mars, Incorporated to continue its global scientific leadership aimed at investigating the health and biomedical potential of cocoa while establishing a sustainable, certified source of cocoa traceable from pod to product.
Q: How long has Mars, Incorporated been researching flavanols?
A: Scientists at Mars, Incorporated have researched plant compounds and the potential applications for more than 50 years. For the past 20 years, Mars has focused its efforts on flavanols, a distinct group of phytonutrients within the flavonoids family found in cocoa.
Cocoa, Cocoapro® and Cocoa Flavanols
Q: What are cocoa flavanols?
A: Cocoa flavanols are a type of phytonutrient that belong to a larger group of compounds called flavonoids. Flavanols found in cocoa have been linked to circulatory health benefits. Research suggests that flavanols may have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health by promoting a healthy blood flow and circulation. Other studies suggest that cocoa flavanols can maintain the health of blood vessels and decrease the risk of platelet aggregation (clotting).
Q: What are the benefits of cocoa flavanols?
A: A growing body of evidence indicates that flavanols found naturally in cocoa provide a range of circulatory health benefits. Specifically, research indicates that cocoa flavanols may help:
- Improve blood vessel function and increase blood flow
- Reduce tendency of blood clots to form
- Reduce blood pressure in people with mild hypertension
- Increase blood flow to the brain
Q: What is Mars, Incorporated Cocoapro®?
A: Mars has developed a patented and proprietary process called Cocoapro® that helps retain the flavanols normally destroyed during processing. The technology developed by Mars, Incorporated helps preserve the flavanols at consistently high levels. Cocoa made using the Cocoapro® process is the best understood and most studied cocoa in the world in terms of its potential health benefits.
Q: What research supports the health benefits of flavanols?
A: Twenty years ago, scientists first began to identify procyanidins in cocoa and chocolate and they discovered chocolate contains an additional class of flavonoids called flavanols, suspected to offer health benefits. Since then, through more than 100 studies and collaboration with researchers at leading universities, Mars, Incorporated has led the way in this search for knowledge relating to cocoa flavanols and cardiovascular health, and possible improvements in diabetes, stroke and other vascular diseases.
Q: Where can I go for more information on cocoa flavanol research?
A: Please visit www.healthycocoa.com.
Q: Are cocoa flavanols the same as flavonols?
A: No. Flavanols are often confused with another class of flavanoids spelled flavonols (with an o), which have a similar chemical structure but are not found in cocoa. Flavonol is contained in tea, onions, apples and some berries. Flavanols, like those found in cocoa, have been shown to help maintain healthy circulation.
Q: What is the difference between flavonoids and flavanols?
A: Flavonoids represent a diverse class of naturally occurring compounds that can be found in a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Scientists estimate that there are 6,000-20,000 individual polyphenol compounds in nature. Flavanols are a distinct group of compounds within the flavonoid family and the predominant flavonoids in tea, red wine and cocoa.
Q: Are flavanols antioxidants?
A: As the cardiovascular and circulatory benefits of cocoa flavanols do not come from their antioxidant properties, we do not refer to flavanols as antioxidants in this context. The most recent studies suggest that the health benefits they provide are the result of other mechanisms. While flavanols (like many plant-derived substances) may act as antioxidants in a test tube, their cardiovascular benefits have little to do with the antioxidant properties. For this reason, the actual flavanol content of a food may be a better indicator than the antioxidant content when evaluating the potential value for health and nutrition in this context.
Q: Do dark chocolate products have more flavanols?
A: Not necessarily. Contrary to some reports, the percent cacao or cocoa mass does not always reflect cocoa flavanol content. Many of the health benefits of chocolate come from cocoa flavanols – unique plant compounds found in cocoa that are shown to help maintain healthy circulation.
While traditional fermentation, drying and roasting of beans are all critical steps in the development of chocolate flavor, these processes can easily reduce flavanol content. A chocolate or cocoa product with a high percent of cacao/cocoa may not retain its cocoa flavanol content due to the losses during processing.
The Mars, Incorporated Cocoapro® process ensures that cocoa beans are carefully handled and processed to preserve their flavanol content. Cocoa and chocolate products using the Cocoapro logo contain guaranteed minimum amounts of cocoa flavanols.
Q: I’ve heard cocoa called a “bean” – where does cocoa come from?
A: Cocoa originates from the seed of the tropical plant Theobroma cacao. The cocoa “bean” is not actually a bean but is a seed from the fruit of the cocoa tree, the cocoa pod, and is among the richest sources of flavanols – a distinct group of compounds.
Q: What is Mars role in sourcing sustainable cocoa?
A: The Mars Botanical team is made up of experts in the field of cocoa research – from plant biologists to product developers – and as a family-owned business, Mars Botanical’s approach has always been hands-on and holistic. The company works closely with native cocoa farmers, pursuing the best ways to plant, cultivate and harvest their fruit – ultimately increasing the profitability and improving the quality of life for local communities.
Through our role in programs like the Cocoa Sustainability Partnership (CSP) in Southeast Asia, Mars is helping deliver a cocoa revitalization program that not only educates and supports cocoa farmers, but is also planting millions of cocoa trees over the next few years in cocoa growing regions… enabling these communities to thrive. This is all part of Mars, Incorporated’s global commitment to ensure our entire cocoa supply is certified as sustainably sourced by 2020.