Reduced-sugar chocolate: all about the ratios

Friday, 23 October, 2020

Reduced-sugar chocolate: all about the ratios

Sugar in chocolate is commonly reduced by using either polyols, also known as sugar alcohols, or by adding fibre.  Polyols can cause digestive discomfort if consumed in excess, and their use requires a warning label about laxative effects on product packaging.

Dairy and food company Valio has a mission to create wellbeing and taste sensations in a responsible way. Its researchers have now documented the optimal ash-protein ratio for reduced-sugar chocolate to achieve the melt-in-your-mouth feel that consumers demand.

The researchers discovered that ‘30% less sugar’ chocolate made with milk-based protein is equal to regular chocolate in taste and texture. The optimal ash-protein ratio in the reduced sugar chocolate was linked to pleasant taste and texture. This solution could allow manufacturers to make delicious 30% less sugar chocolate without artificial sweeteners.

According to the company, when the sugar reduction for chocolate is achieved with this solution — ie, with lactose-free milk powder — it is possible to use the claim ‘reduced sugar’ as well as ‘protein source’ without the laxative effect warning.

“As a result of the wellness trend and sugar taxes, food and confectionery manufacturers are constantly looking for solutions to create tasty food products with reduced sugar content,” said Terhi Aaltonen, Development Manager and researcher at Valio.

Consumer acceptance is key in creating desirable and successful reduced sugar products. Both the reformulation and sensory properties of the products need to be acceptable. Valio’s researchers were able to produce an acceptable 30% less sugar chocolate by replacing sugar with a milk-based protein.

“The control chocolate contained a standard sugar level and the trial chocolates had total sugar levels that were reduced by 30%. Consumers rated the chocolate samples according to their overall liking, liking of taste and texture and the attributes sweetness, saltiness and sandiness,” Aaltonen explained.

The ash-protein ratio, or the amount of salt and protein, proved critical in achieving the best possible consistency in 30% less sugar chocolate. The ash-protein ratio had the strongest positive correlation with the overall liking as well as the liking of texture and taste. The ash-protein ratio had the strongest negative correlation with sandiness.

Valio’s research findings were published in a peer-reviewed article in the International Dairy Journal on 7 February 2020.

Image credit: © Aksoy

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