Under the process, a manufacturer runs stevia chocolate in liquid form through a portable device (a charging unit) that alters hydrogen bonds, thereby reducing the bitterness perception.
The non-chemical process is safe and permanent, according to Timothy Winey, founder and director of Basic Research, which holds the intellectual property of the new technology.
"The device itself is just a rectangular box about 1 foot long and 2 inches square," he said. "The stevia itself is not chemically altered; rather, it is the hydrogen bond angles of the water or other liquids whose hydrogen bonding dynamics affect how the stevia is perceived on the palate."
Requires replacing every three weeks
According to Winey, the portable device is inexpensive but does need to be swapped every three weeks as it runs down like batteries.
The process takes 10 seconds for small volumes and around a few minutes for larger volumes (thousands of gallons).
With more consumers demanding healthier products, especially with less sugar, chocolate manufacturers are looking for alternative sweeteners, said Winey.
However, as previously reported by ConfectioneryNews, stevia can’t completely replace sugar in chocolate because it lacks bulk and critics say it can leave a bitter licorice-like aftertaste.
“Stevia itself, while sweet, suffers from a peculiar mixture of bitter and astringent aftertastes that can persist for extended periods of time,” Winey said.
He said astringency and bitterness in other compounds – including red wine and coffee - had responded favorably to the process.
Winey is currently in discussion with a leading chocolate maker in the UK to bring forward a high polyphenol stevia-sweetened chocolate that could potentially be marketed as a health food.