The market for better-for-you chocolate is rising. According to Euromonitor International, the global reduced fat chocolate market has grown 15% since 2009 to $357m in retail value sales for 2014.
“But if you really want to make a claim about calories you have to make significant changes,” Barry Callebaut innovation manager Marijke De Brouwer told ConfectioneryNews.
“Apart from removing the sugar you also have to play with the fats and reduce them as low as possible within the legal framework”
Completely replace sugar
She said a 30% reduction in sugar content would only lead to a calorie reduction of 5-8%, while a complete sugar replacement could only achieve a 10-15% reduction in calories - below the 30% threshold to make a ‘light in calories’ claim in the EU.
Complete sugar replacement is achievable with alternative sweeteners. R&D specialists have previously identified steviol glycosides and maltitol as the most viable alternatives.
But manufacturers can expect to pay more for these sugar alternatives. Felix Verdegem, CEO of stevia chocolate firm Cavalier, previously said that stevia was cheaper than sugar but the fibers needed to give chocolate its structure and volume made overall costs three times higher.
Then turn to fat
Also replacing the sugar alone will not be enough for a ‘light in calories’ claim - fat also needs to be reduced.
Rinus Heemskerk, global innovation director at ADM Cocoa, said: “The most calorie dense ingredients in chocolate are the fats: cocoa butter and milk fat. The scope to reduce these is limited both from an application as well as from a sensorial point of view.”
A 40g chocolate tablet (dark, milk or white) has an average of 220 kcal. Sugar accounts for about 30-40% of the calories, and fat about 40-50%.
Low fat cocoa powder
“Cocoa fat free solids are very interesting as a calorie reducing ingredient,” said Heemskerk. “They contain roughly 1/3 total dietary fiber, which means low contribution to calories.”
ADM recently launched a virtually fat-free cocoa powder under its deZaan range called D-00-ZR to seize on demand among manufacturers to cut calories.
Heemskerk said that the current market was more interested in sugar reduction rather than complete removal. To achieve this, cocoa solids can be increased at the expense of sugar, but manufacturers need to carefully balance between the sweetness from sugar and bitterness from cocoa, he said.
De Brouwer said that regulations on what constitutes ‘chocolate’ limited how far manufacturers could cut calories with fat reduction.
“I think the biggest challenge for chocolate is that if you really want to go into fat reduction, you have to look what is legally the minimum and for chocolate it’s 25% [cocoa butter], but it’s also a technical minimum. For a chocolate to be smooth it needs to be refined and technically to refine it you need a certain fat percentage. And the minimum is also 25%.”
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.
Similarly in the EU, ‘chocolate’ must contain over 43 % total dry cocoa solids, including no less than 26% cocoa butter.
[Additional reporting by Oliver Nieburg]