The high antioxidant claims helping to drive sales of dark chocolate stand to get an extra boost by the inclusion of maca, an ancient Peruvian root still used today to promote immunity, energy and hormone balance.
“People would put it in cakes and cookies,” said Dr. B.J. Adrezin, president and chief executive of Potent Foods, a Portland, Ore., manufacturer of organic maca bars combining chocolate and maca.
Maca is actually a member of the radish family and grown in the higher elevations of Peru, and was first cultivated by the Incas more than 2,000 years ago. Native Peruvians who lived in the mountains took it for general health and to aid in pregnancy, Adrezin said.
“At 14,000 to 15,000 feet, it is almost impossible to get pregnant. Maca was really helping to support their whole hormonal system and they were able to adapt to the environment,” he said.
Since that time, some Internet sellers are touting maca as a “natural Viagra” because it promotes sexual stamina. While it may help some people who have a low sex drive, Adrezin said, maca is mainly used as an adaptogen that helps the body adjust to its environment.
“We look at it as a way to pay homage to the Aztec origins of chocolate,” says Melissa Schweisguth, a spokeswoman for Dagoba Chocolate in Ashland, Ore., which sells an organic dark chocolate bar, called “Xocolatl,” that is infused with maca, chilis, vanilla and nutmeg.
Even without maca, dark chocolate is demonstrating a lot of moxie. Hershey's announced in late October it was acquiring Dagoba and its portfolio of products as a way to penetrate the fast-growing organic chocolate category.