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Healthy indulgence: What’s possible in chocolate reformulation?

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 29-Nov-2012

Can chocolate be healthy and indulgent?
Can chocolate be healthy and indulgent?

Consumers have high expectations of chocolate in terms of taste and mouthfeel – so how easy is it to tinker with chocolate formulations to create an indulgent product that also appeals to the health conscious consumer?

Marijke de Brouwer, innovation manager for chocolate and cocoa manufacturer Barry Callebaut, heads the company’s ‘Rebalanced Programme’, which aims to do just that, reducing sugar, fat or calories, and increasing fibre, without lessening chocolate’s indulgence factor.

“There are people who are health conscious, or who want to replace sugar or fats,” she said during a presentation at HIE in Frankfurt earlier this month.  “Reformulation has to be without compromising on taste, because we know that a consumer who looks for an alternative will only buy again if it meets their expectations.”

Chocolate challenges

However, chocolate presents particular challenges for formulating with less sugar or fat, because it has a very strict definition. If a product contains less than 25% fat, for example, it cannot meet the definition of milk chocolate – and of course fat plays an important role in texture and mouthfeel.

In addition, high intensity sweeteners can only be used in chocolate in the EU if the chocolate contains no added sugar, and sugar is important for bulk.

“It is essential for the product to make it possible to process,” de Brouwer said.

Barry Callebaut has developed a proprietary processing technology in order to help reduce fat down to the minimum 25% level, and there are several other pillars to its ‘rebalancing’ strategy, including a zero-sugar chocolate, in which polyols are used in conjunction with dietary fibres to provide the bulk that would normally be provided by sugar.

“When you replace sugar by different polyols and go for fat reduction, it is possible to get reduced calories,” she said.

Fruit-sweetened chocolate

De Brouwer also highlighted the company’s Sweet By Fruits chocolate, which she says allows a sugar reduction of up to 30% compared to regular chocolate, and includes only sugars from fruit.

This allows replacement of humectants and glucose-fructose syrup in cereal bars and can shorten ingredient lists, she said, while allowing companies to tap into consumer trends for naturally derived, less refined ingredients.

“Refined sugar is often seen as a ‘bad’ ingredient,” said de Brouwer.

The company claims that its Sweet By Fruits chocolate differs from fructose-sweetened chocolate, because instead of isolating and purifying the fructose, it uses the entire sugar profile of selected fruits. 

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