Healthy indulgence: Using fibre to cut sugar in chocolate

20 Jan 2020

Fibres have promise for creating reduced sugar products, and a new patented technology based on corn fibre is said to tackle some common technical problems, as well as digestive effects.

Mondelez International has patented a new sugar reduction ingredient specifically for chocolate, which it claims can cut sugar by up to 50%. Unlike many other attempts to reduce or replace sugar in confectionery with dietary fibre, it says the ingredient can be used in tempering, conching and moulding, and does not have the same propensity to cause bloating and flatulence as other fibres like inulin and FOS.

Healthy indulgence: Using fibre to cut sugar in chocolate
Fibre could help reach sugar reduction goals

The company owns several major global chocolate brands, including Milka, Cadbury and Toblerone, but the fibre could be used to reduce sugar in chocolate products and inclusions too, such as those used for biscuits, cakes and coatings, flakes and sprinkles, or in chocolate-nut spreads.

Mondelez may be tempted to use the fibre in its iconic chocolate brands, too, but there are lessons to learn from previous attempts to alter beloved chocolate recipes. Fans of Cadbury Dairy Milk, for instance, took to social media to complain when the company changed the bars’ chunky, angular format to a more rounded shape, with many claiming that the recipe must have changed. It hadn’t, but researchers have suggested the different shape may have affected sweetness perception, as more rounded shapes could be perceived as sweeter.

However, in taste tests, Mondelez found a high proportion of consumers said they would buy reduced sugar chocolate with its corn fibre ingredient.

For other chocolate categories, particularly inclusions in baked goods, consumer acceptance of flavour change may be more readily accepted, and even welcomed, as many consumers are seeking less sugar in their foods. According to Mintel, a growing number of European consumers regularly checks the sugar content of their grocery purchases.

However, it is a delicate balance to strike, as chocolate usually is considered an indulgence product. Mintel research has found that many consumers have a more negative perception of reduced sugar claims on such products, thinking they will be less enjoyable than their full sugar counterparts.

Still, sugar reduction is a major trend, and all new options are welcome additions to the manufacturers’ toolbox. The Mondelez patent itself draws attention to some of the drawbacks of other available sugar reduction options, such as digestive issues associated with polyols, and consumer bias against products labelled as containing ‘artificial sweeteners’.

The ingredient could also help companies draw attention to added fibre, as many consumers lack sufficient dietary fibre. Other companies have also used fibres to help with adding back the bulk that sugar provides, particularly in conjunction with zero calorie sweeteners, including Fibersol, Tate & Lyle and Roquette.

Research from Innova Market Insights has found high fibre claims often are associated with other health claims, including low sugar, providing manufacturers with several ways to position their products as healthier options.

In addition, such ingredients could be useful for food companies looking to hit category-specific sugar reduction targets, whether these are self-imposed or government-led.