Sweet alternatives: Better sugar understanding is needed for sugar-free chocolate success, say researchers

By Nathan Gray

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Better sugar understanding is needed for sugar-free chocolate success

Related tags Sugar Sugar substitute Flavor

A better understanding of the complex functions that sugar fulfils in a chocolate product is required by manufacturers before they can reliably develop a high-quality sugar-free chocolate that is acceptable to consumers, say researchers.

Writing in Trends in Food Science & Technology​, Roger Philip Aidoo from Ghent University, Belgium, and his colleagues noted that there is a growing concern that the high levels of sugar in chocolate may be playing a key role in the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Such concerns, the authors warned, have led to an increasing demand for 'light' and 'sugar-free' chocolate products. However the development of new sugar-free chocolate products can be a major challenge for manufacturers due to the many influences that sugar has on a food matrix.

"A food product can assume a 'light' or 'sugar-free' claim if it provides less than 40 calories per serving or provides less than 0.5 g of sugars per serving, respectively,"​ noted the authors. "The growing popularity of these products have led to an increased quest for the use of alternative sweeteners in the dairy, confectionery and beverage industries within the past decade."

Complex role

The development of a high-quality sugar-free chocolate requires manufacturers to think about the various roles that sugar plays in a product and ensure that all are adequately replaced by alternative ingredients, said Aidoo and his team.

"In chocolate, sugar is not only added to promote sweetness but, as well, it exerts many functional properties that make it useful as a bulking agent, texture modifier, mouthfeel modifier, flavour enhancer and preservative."

As a result, the team Belgium scientists noted that substitution of sugars such as sucrose by an high-intensity sweetener such as sucralose, aspartame or stevia will not provide the right textural and flavour properties.

Indeed they noted that a combination of high-intensity sweeteners, sugar alcohols, in addition to bulking agents such as polydextrose, maltodextrin and inulin "has great potential for the successful manufacture of sugar-free chocolate products with the desirable quality – appearance, texture, taste and flavour, very similar to that of their sugar counterparts."

"Understanding these factors would lead to the development of sugar-free chocolates that meets the pre-informed quality characteristics and healthy products expected by the global consuming populace,"​ they said.

Source: Trends in Food Science & Technology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2013.05.008
"Industrial manufacture of sugar-free chocolates – Applicability of alternative sweeteners and carbohydrate polymers as raw materials in product development"
Authors: Roger Philip Aidoo, Frédéric Depypere, Emmanuel Ohene Afoakwa, Koen Dewettinck

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