According to Mintel, low, no or reduced fat claims accounted for just 1% of total global chocolate launches in the last five years, while low, no or reduced calorie claims also made up 1% of total launches.
Reduced fat chocolate set for US growth
The category may still be a niche, but it is steadily growing.
Euromonitor data valued the global reduced fat chocolate market at $439.5m in 2012 and it is forecasting 13.4% growth this year, driven by the US, which accounts for over 80% of sales in the sector.
Major players such as Hershey through Simple Pleasures and Nestlé with Skinny Cow have already been cashing in.
But how can it be done?
‘Bound by the law’ – few possibilities
According to Barry Callebaut, a 40g chocolate tablet (dark, milk or white) has an average of 220kcal. Sugar accounts for about 30-40% of the calories, and fat about 40-50%.
Henri Kamphuis, quality and technology director of Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate, said. “The fat in chocolate is coming either from milk fat in milk chocolate or if you have dark chocolate where no milk is involved it’s only from the cocoa butter.”
Asked what the options were to reduce fat, he said that “Chocolate is bound within the law so you have only a few possibilities.”
For chocolate to be considered chocolate under CODEX standards, it must contain 35% total cocoa solids, of which no less than 18% must be cocoa butter.
If you don’t meet these standards, your product may carry a ‘chocolate flavor’ label. Nestlé Skinny Cow bars for example - which has 110 calories and 6g of fat - uses a wafer coated with milk chocolate and carries the term “milk chocolate flavour”.
Can achieve 10% fat reduction
Barry Callebaut innovation manager Marijke De Brouwer told ConfectioneryNews: “By reducing the fat content, to a level still in compliance with chocolate regulation, caloric content can be reduced by circa 10%.”
She said it was possible to go as low as 25% for milk chocolate and remain within the legal limits but it depended on the technology used.
Barry Callebaut filed a patent in 2007 that was published last year for a process to prepare reduced fat chocolate using a chocolate powder with 15% fat by weight. De Brouwer called the method “very promising”.
“By means of this special processing, the sugar crystals get a better coverage with less fat. This process guarantees a homogeneous taste sensation of the chocolate, no individual peaks of sweet, milk followed by cocoa.”
“When reducing the fat content it is key to maintain texture, mouth feel, good workability, functionality (e.g cooling time) and shelflife,” she said.
Water and fruit
UK start-up firm The Chocolatier gained national press coverage when it recently launched a Water Ganache chocolate bar containing just 20 calories.
Researchers at Warwick University also caught the attention of the British press, when it unveiled a study funded by a Mondelez-owned research firm that said chocolate fat content could be cut in half by using fruit juice to partially replace cocoa butter and milk fats.
ADM’s Heemskerk said “It’s everybody’s dream to be able to put as much water into chocolate as possible without negatively influencing the properties.” Although the pickering emulsions used by Warwick University are interesting, it will be some time before they are used on a large scale in the food industry, he said.
Health aspect of fat in chocolate
However, De Brouwer suggested that fat in chocolate may not be all that bad for health.
“The fat (SAFA and cholesterol included) in cocoa and chocolate contain unique saturated fat which, according to recent research has a neutral effect on the production of bad cholesterol and could possibly promote the creation of good cholesterol.
“Cocoa and dark chocolate are naturally cholesterol-free, and milk and white chocolate only contain a minimal amount of cholesterol, which comes from the milk used in these products.”
Using sugar alternatives
Calories in chocolate may also be reduced by partially replacing sugar.
ADM Cocoa’s innovation director Rinus Heemskerk said: “I think the immediate pressure is more on the sugar than the fat side – I think for the sugar the solutions are also closer by.”
Barry Callebaut’s De Brouwer said during a company visit that replacing sugar by up to 80-90% with stevia can create chocolate with around 30% fewer calories.
Barry Callebaut has also filed a patent describing a method using fibers to replace sugar.