Enjoy Some Alphabet Soup with Your Chocolate
A kiss is just a kiss — unless it's a Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Kiss. In which case, pucker up for a mouthful of PGPR.
PGPR, which began showing up on the ingredient list of drugstore chocolate several years ago, is short for polyglycerol polyricinoleate, a goopy yellowish liquid made from castor beans that reduces the viscosity of chocolate. Since 2006, big chocolate manufacturers such as Hershey's have been replacing the expensive raw ingredient cocoa butter with PGPR in their recipes.
In many ways, the story of PGPR in chocolate is but a small chapter in a larger narrative about how convoluted our industrial food system has become: an alphabet soup of fillers and cheap ingredients that challenge the original definition of the product they seek to emulate, questionably sourced raw materials, and a cast of large corporations attempting to appeal to the lowest common denominator acceptable for human consumption to keep costs low and profits high.
PGPR is manufactured by Danisco, which DuPont is negotiations to buy, and by Palsgaard, an international corporation specializing in emulsifiers and stabilizers for the food-processing industry. A statement regarding PGPR on that company's website reads, "Cocoa butter is an expensive raw material for chocolate manufacturers. By using Palsgaard4150 (PGPR) the chocolate recipe has lower costs in terms of less cocoa butter."
In other words, PGPR is a way for chocolate manufacturers to get around the hassle and expense of actually putting chocolate in their chocolate.
A quick survey of the candy aisle at a local CVS revealed PGPR in most chocolate products: Reese's, Mounds, Kit Kat, Cadbury Dairy Milk and Hershey's Special Dark, among many others.