Sniffing out cocoa bean traits that persist in chocolates by PTR-MS, ICP-MS and IR-MS

Valentina Acierno, Leon de Jonge, Saskia van Ruth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The cocoa botanical and geographical origin and the primary processing steps applied by cocoa farmers at the beginning of the supply chain influence the chemical compositional traits of the cocoa beans. These features are carried along the supply chain as intrinsic markers up to the final products. These intrinsic markers could be used for tracking and tracing purposes. In this study, we examined the retention and loss of compositional signatures from cocoa beans to chocolates. Volatile, elemental and stable isotope signatures of cocoa beans of 10 different origins and 11 corresponding chocolates were determined by high sensitivity-proton transfer reaction-mass spectrometry (HS-PTR-MS), inductively coupled plasma-MS (ICP-MS) and isotope ratio-MS (IR-MS), respectively. The volatile fingerprints provided mostly information on the origin and primary processing traits of the raw cocoa beans in the chocolates. Volatile compounds that are relevant markers include: acetic acid (m/z 61), benzene (m/z 79), pyridine (m/z 80), 2-phenylethanol (m/z 123), and maltol (m/z 127). On the other hand, the elemental and stable isotope characteristics are more indicative of the cocoa content and added ingredients. Possible elemental markers for cocoa origin include Fe, Cr, and Cd. VOCs appear to be the most robust markers carried from cocoa beans to chocolates of the groups examined. This provides the potential for track and trace of cocoa beans from farm to chocolates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109212
JournalFood Research International
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa beans
  • Fingerprint
  • High sensitivity-proton transfer reaction-mass spectrometry
  • Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry
  • Isotope ratio-mass spectrometry

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  • Projects

    PIMMS: Proton Ionization Molecular Mass Spectrometry


    Project: EU research project

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