Cadbury owner Kraft Foods has filed an international patent for a process to make low-calorie chocolate that it claims can maintain texture and quality while extending shelf-life.
The method uses a structured liquid mix to replace sugar and fat. The invention came from Kraft Foods principal scientist Ulrich Loeser and his team in the R&D department.
The patent was filed under The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), an international patent law treaty that allows a uniform patent to be considered by signatory national or regional authorities.
Kraft: Low-cal chocs on the market lack quality
Fat content in chocolate and praline products varies from about 25-40% of the total weight of the product, depending on the variety (milk, chocolate or plain), according to patent application published last week.
However it is typically 30 to 34% by weight, making chocolate a high-calorie product, it said.
Previous attempts by the industry to lower the calorie content in chocolate have included use of special fats, special emulsifiers and sugar replacers such as polyoles and polydextroses.
The application said that while all previous attempts could provide a low-cal chocolate, the end product lacked a good mouthfeel and rich flavour.
“In particular, the prior art products lack in texture, melting behaviour, firmness and snapping characteristics,” it said.
Structured liquid to maintain quality
Kraft’s effort to find a process that could produce a high quality low-cal chocolate was based on a finding that a structured liquid could allow increased moisture in the product, which can lower calories.
“The structured liquid allows high moisture levels in the confectionery product without destroying the taste and texture,” said the application.
The structured liquid effectively allows high-calorie ingredients such as sugar and fat to be substituted with water.
The liquid is said to lower water activity in the product despite a high water content, which can also increase shelf-life.
What’s in the structured liquid?
The structured liquid contains thermodynamically stable water, surfactant, co-surfactant and a non-aqueous component.
Surfactants used are saturated or unsaturated fatty acids with precise carbon atoms, while co surfactants are naturally occurring acids such as citric. More details on the composition and method is available here .
Kraft’s patent application for the process covers a wide variety of confectionery applications, including chocolate and cocoa products, chocolate coatings (including on ice creams), pralines and inclusions.
National and regional authorities that are signatories to the PCT will now decide whether or not to grant the patent.
Other manufacturers have spotted a trend for reduced calorie chocolate products.
Hershey recently launched Simple Pleasures in the US, a chocolate share bag which Hershey claims contains 30% lower fat than other milk chocolates. A single serving of Simple Pleasures (six pieces) contains 180 calories.
Outsourcing chocolate producer Barry Callebaut also has a chocolate with a low calorie count, which it launched in 2009. It claims its Volcano chocolate has 90% fewer calories than the average product.