Speaking at the industry event FiE, Mars' material science programme manager, Isabella Van Damme, said that EU regulation on how much fat content is required in order to call a product chocolate is a real challenge for manufacturers.
Van Damme said that manufacturers are trying to reduce fat content of chocolate but that the industry is caught between this driver and that of EU regulation which dictates that a product of less than 25% fat cannot be called chocolate, only a chocolate-type product. At the same time a product must cut fat by 23% in order to claim to be reduced fat.
This European regulation means that "there is a limit to how far we can go," she explained.
She said that Ukraine is "the worst" for this, where confectionery products with less than 34% fat content cannot be called chocolate. She said that in the US this level was much lower.
"From a consumer point of view we cannot say this is a bad thing," she said, since this ensures a high quality chocolate product. "This is why this law was put in place," she added.
Van Damme said that manufacturers are working towards ways of reducing fat content and calories but that we should not expect a solution tomorrow.
"The only way to do that [reduce fat and calories] at the moment is by portions," she told ConfectioneryNews.
"Mars is committed to 250 kilo calories per bar - globally," she explained, adding that in some cases this required very little adjustment.
She said that while the industry is looking to develop ways of reducing fat and calories this is currently "very, very challenging" because chocolate is still an indulgence food. She explained that R&D for options like sugar replacement is not currently at the point where it can offer this kind of product, without some other negative repercussions like laxative effects.