Swiss firm newropetec partnered with Swiss B2B chocolate firm Felchlin to introduce lactose free and sugar free chocolate Chocozero at ISM in Cologne earlier this month.
‘Basically no taste’ in lactose free chocolate
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) says that milk chocolate may still be acceptable in small quantities for those with lactose intolerance, but Jacques Tschudin, founding partner of newropetec, told ConfectioneryNews there was strong market demand for lactose free chocolate, yet few options out there.
“The ones we found were basically using soya or rice – I even heard that someone was using camel milk, but camel milk is going to have lactose because it’s not vegetable milk. Whatever we found up until now basically has no taste,” he said.
Lactose intolerance in Asia
Around 70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, according to a 2010 scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) with a very high prevalence among Southeast Asians.
“If you look at the map, you can see that China, India, all of Africa and South America is basically lactose intolerant and it’s increasing,” said Tschudin.
“A lot of my friends in Asia enjoy eating Swiss chocolate, but were always having gastro problems afterwards because of the lactose. So we started looking at that together with the Swiss manufacturer [Felchlin] and now it’s taken us about three and half years to develop a chocolate, which is lactose free.”
The Chocozero range comprises a dark, milk and white couveture chocolate suitable for pralines, cakes, cookies and chocolate bars.
In 2010, Barry Callebaut introduced a lactose-free milk chocolate that used what the company called a “special” skimmed milk powder.
Lactose-free labeling rules
Chocozero too contains a ‘special’ milk powder. “It’s cow milk, but we’ve managed to find a technique to bring the lactose out and bring it down to 0.1%....it has to be powder form,” said Tschudin.
EU Member states currently have varying definitions of lactose-free, but the EU is working on a uniform standard under Food Information for Consumers (FIC) regulation. Tschudin said Chocozero met minimum requirements in Switzerland (under 0.1%)
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no formal definition for lactose free, but says manufacturers must be “truthful and not misleading” in labeling. “This means a lactose-free product should not contain any lactose, and a lactose-reduced product should be one with a meaningful reduction,” it says on its website.
“The FDA regulations are not so clear,” said Tschudin, adding that manufacturers in the US should say their products containing Chocozero are reduced lactose or may contain traces of lactose.
Sugar-free and Togolese cocoa
The dark variety of Chocozaro is sugar-free and the milk and white versions contain no added sugar. All products are sweetened with maltitol. Tschudin said the company preferred maltitol over stevia.
“It’s neutral. The problem that we have in using a sweetener as a coverture manufacturer is that I need the volume. If I would have stevia, stevia has a strong taste and I would probably only have 1% volume, which is OK for a drink, but I need to dilute my cocoa butter with a certain volume to get the right percentage of mass….if you buy a milk chocolate you normally have 40-50% sugar.”
Cocoa beans for Chocozero are sourced from the Kpalimé region of Togo by 1,570 local farmers, who are part of a program run by fair trade company Gebana. The cocoa beans are Fairtrade (FLO) and Bio certified.
Chocozero also contains no vegetable oils. “We leave it to the confiserie to do what he wants to it….we want to supply a raw material that he can work with. He can even add to a certain extent sugar, because it will still be a reduced sugar content compared to another product,” said Tschudin.