With the launch this week of the 'first no carbohydrate, no sugar' chocolate, the Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate company is looking to target the high-end of the chocolate market.
"This new product is a continuation of our pioneering work started in the early 90's with the creation of the first ever varietal/vintage chocolate followed with our development of functional chocolate," said Jim Walsh, chairman of the company's board.
Everyday food products, bread, biscuits and ice-cream for example, have largely been privvy to a new low carb look as food manufacturers continue to tap into the growing consumer trend from the weigh-conscious consumer. One in five Americans - 300 million - currently following a low carbohydrate diet as the fad Atkins-style dietary regime continues to grip the nation.
The Hawaiian company is not only pushing the new chocolate range as low carb and low sugar, but is also pushing additional health benefits associated with chocolate.
'Taste and health benefits of chocolate come from the cocoa bean not sugar. The company's research has identified the healthiest cocoa beans and combined them with its own healthy replacement for sugar,' said the firm without disclosing further details of the 'healthy replacement'.
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, grown on Theobroma cacao trees, and has the same nutrients as other plant-based foods, such as natural flavonols. Flavonols are potent antioxidants which are thought to help prevent or delay damage to the cells and tissues caused by free radicals.
Low-carb diets focus on moving consumers from diets heavy in refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour to a more equal balance with proteins and fat. Many also recommend whole foods and vegetables although Atkins has come under strong criticism for apparently failing to encourage consumption of fruit and vegetables.
Despite the popularity of the regime, recent research from market analysts ACNielsen on 10,000 US households reveals that although 17 per cent of those surveyed have someone looking to cut the carbs and up the proteins, the figures showing the number of people who have tried a low-carb diet but jacked in the regime are just as compelling.
"The jury is still out as to whether the low-carb diet has staying power," said Todd Hale, senior vice president of ACNielsen.
Such is the presence of the new low-carb movement, consumer and trade groups have called on the Food and Drug Administration to define 'low-carb' and other carbohydrate claims, so that food companies responding to the current diet craze compete on equal ground.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) suggested earlier this year that a low-carb food should have no more than 6 grams of carbohydrates per serving and that the term 'reduced-carbohydrate' be permitted for foods that have at least a 25 per cent fewer carbohydrates.