The new milk chocolate bar was developed through the SureChoc project, which has been working to produce a clean label, reduced sugar chocolate that contains additional fibre.
The project is a partnership between researchers at the University of Reading and industrial partners including Givaudan, Strauss and Israeli start-up DouxMatok.
The initiative aimed to ‘substantially modify' DouxMatok technology, alongside functional fibres and Givaudan flavour solutions, for use in chocolate where sugar provides sweetness, texture, mouthfeel, bulking and is a flavour precursor.
It produced a chocolate bar with 44% less sugar than a standard milk chocolate formulation, with increased fibre and a ‘special type of sugar’ that enhances sweetness.
SureChoc utilised a new sugar solution developed by DouxMatok that combines normal sugar alongside a mineral carrier to more efficiently deliver sugar to the taste receptors on the tongue, the researchers revealed. DouxMatok’s technology means that rather than 20% of a traditional sugar molecule reaching taste receptors and 80% heading straight for the digestive system, a much larger percentage will be enjoyed on the tongue.
Consumer validation: A ‘close’ liking score
Project lead Professor Lisa Methven, the head of the Sensory Science Centre at the University of Reading, explained that the project did not attempt to produce an ‘exact match’ for the favour or texture profile of milk chocolate.
“The aim of the project was not to achieve an exact match in all physical and sensory characteristics, rather to understand the changes and optimise formulations until we have products that are desirable to the final consumer,” she explained.
Throughout 2019, researchers at the University of Reading ran consumer tests on 160 ‘regular consumers’. According to Professor Methven, the consumer panels ‘bear out’ the approach taken by the project.
“Throughout the project we have tested the materials used and the resulting products (chocolate and chocolate chip cookies) at the University of Reading… The tests bear this out, with a similar consumer liking score for a bar with nearly half the amount of sugar as a normal chocolate treat.”
The consumer liking score for the reduced sugar chocolate was ‘close’ to the regular product, at was close to the regular product at 5.1 versus 5.7 on a 7 point scale.
Consumers like different levels of sweetness, the researchers noted. According to their findings, 28% of consumers found the full sugar product too sweet whereas 33% of consumers found the reduced sugar product not sweet enough.
On the different taste profiles, Professor Methven noted: “The reduced sugar chocolate bar remains slightly less sweet and slightly less sticky than the regular sugar bar; however, the products are much closer in profile than products formulated without the DouxMatok sugar and before optimisation of the high fibre materials used.”
She also stressed that consumers were ‘very engaged’ with the idea of buying products that were lower in sugar and enriched with fibre. “When asked if they would choose a high fibre product, 74% said yes for chocolate and 64% for cookies; which increased to 83% and 77% respectively if they knew the high-fibre chocolate was also lower in sugar.”
SureChoc will be marketed by DouxMatok and will be hitting the shelves in Israel before coming to the UK.