A multipronged flavor comparison of Ecuadorian CCN51 and Nacional cocoa cultivars


Two cocoa types are predominantly being cultivated in Ecuador, the highly appreciated fine Nacional and the high-yielding and disease-resistant CCN51, classified as bulk. With the introduction of foreign germplasm in Ecuador and the international demand for high-quality Nacional cocoa, the present study aims to characterize and compare the flavor profile of Nacional hybrids (EET103, EET559, EET576 and EET577) and CCN51, and to assess the effect of the genotype. The fermented dried beans were processed into liquor and their sensory properties, volatile composition and odor fingerprint were analyzed by trained panelists, headspace–solid phase microextraction gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (HS–SPME–GC–MS), and GC electronic nose (e-nose), respectively, combined with multivariate statistics. Seventy volatiles were identified and semi-quantified, among them, 16 and 14 volatiles conferring fruity and floral aroma notes, respectively. CCN51 was mainly characterized by undesirable odor-active volatiles, whereas the EET cultivars contained the highest concentration of most fruity and floral volatiles, with differences in between EET cultivars. Sensory data highlighted organoleptic differences between the fine and bulk liquors, i.e. the fruity and acid EET flavor strongly differed from the bitter, astringent and off-flavor attributes of CCN51. Principal component analysis (PCA) discriminated firstly between fine and bulk, and secondly between EET identity. Partial least squares analysis identified possible correlations between sensory attributes and volatile compounds. Besides, e-nose proved its usefulness for rapid assessment of the liquors’ sensory profile. The results provide a foundation for understanding the genotype’s contribution to and the compositional basis of Ecuadorian fine and bulk cocoa flavor.

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Arriba Superior Summer (Plantación) Selecto


Centro de Cacao Aroma Tenguel


Electronic nose


Estación Experimental Tropical Pichilingue


Fermentation index


Flame ionization detector


Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry




Servicio Ecuatoriano de Normalización


International Organization for Standardization


Kovat indices


Norma Técnica Ecuatoriana


Odor activity value


Odor threshold value


Principal component analysis


Partial least squares


Solid phase microextraction


Titratable acidity


Unweighted pair group method with arithmetic mean


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The authors would like to thank CECAO (Compañía exportadora de cacao aromático y orgánico), KAOKA, Vitaliano Sarabia and SALPA Ecuador for providing the fermented dried cocoa bean samples. All sensory panelists are gratefully acknowledged for their motivation and participation in this study. Anrieke Pattyn and Mattijs Bulte are acknowledged for their technical assistance.


This study was funded by a doctoral scholarship of the Ghent University Special Research Fund (BOF, Grant number BOF15/DOC/028). BOF is further recognized for its financial support in the acquisition of the Heracles II GC E-nose (Grant number BOF 01B05915). Further financial support for this research was obtained from Global minds funds (UGent). The Fund for Scientific Research (Flanders) (Grant number S004617N) is recognized for its financial support in the training of the expert panel in the framework of the REVICO project (Revisiting Cocoa: Exploiting the full potential of cocoa raw materials through novel processing).

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Correspondence to Hayley Rottiers.

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Rottiers, H., Tzompa Sosa, D.A., Lemarcq, V. et al. A multipronged flavor comparison of Ecuadorian CCN51 and Nacional cocoa cultivars. Eur Food Res Technol 245, 2459–2478 (2019) doi:10.1007/s00217-019-03364-3

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  • Cocoa liquor
  • Fine and bulk
  • Aroma profile
  • Sensory evaluation
  • GC e-nose