Valio researchers first to document importance of ash-protein ratio in reduced sugar chocolate

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

Valio researchers were able to produce an acceptable '30% less sugar' chocolate by replacing sugar with a milk-based protein. Pic: Getty Images/msheldrake
Valio researchers were able to produce an acceptable '30% less sugar' chocolate by replacing sugar with a milk-based protein. Pic: Getty Images/msheldrake

Related tags: Valio, Chocolate, Milk, sugar reduction, lactose-free

Researchers at Finnish dairy cooperative Valio said they have discovered '30% less sugar' chocolate made with milk-based protein is equal to regular chocolate in taste and texture.

The optimal ash-protein ratio in the reduced sugar chocolate was linked to pleasant taste and texture. This allows manufacturers to make ’30% less sugar’ chocolate without artificial sweeteners.

The current wellness trend means consumers are looking for foods that support an active and healthy lifestyle, however, they want to enjoy eating and are reluctant to compromise on the taste, texture, or naturality of food. To reduce sugar consumption and the ill-effects of sugar, many countries have implemented sugar taxes.

“As a result of the wellness trend and sugar taxes, food and confectionery manufacturers are constantly looking for solutions to create tasty food products with reduced sugar content,”​ Terhi Aaltonen, development manager and researcher at Valio, said.

The optimal ash-protein ratio gives '30% less sugar' chocolate the melt-in-your-mouth feel.

Valio said its researchers were able to produce an acceptable '30% less sugar' chocolate by replacing sugar with a milk-based protein.

“The control chocolate contained a standard sugar level and the trial chocolates had total sugar levels that were reduced by 30%. Consumers rated the chocolate samples according to their overall liking, liking of taste and texture and the attributes sweetness, saltiness and sandiness,” ​Aaltonen said.

The ash-protein ratio, or the amount of salt and protein, proved critical in achieving the best possible consistency in ‘30% less sugar’ chocolate. The ash-protein ratio had the strongest positive correlation with the overall liking as well as the liking of texture and taste. The ash-protein ratio had the strongest negative correlation with sandiness.

Valio’s research findings were published in a peer reviewed article in the International Dairy Journal.

Sugar in chocolate is commonly reduced by using either polyols, also known as sugar alcohols, or by adding fiber. Valio said polyols can cause digestive discomfort if consumed in excess, and their use requires a warning label about laxative effects on product packaging. 

“When the sugar reduction is achieved with Valio’s solution, that is lactose free milk powder, no such warning is necessary. It is possible to use the claim ‘reduced sugar’ as well as claim ‘protein source’ on these chocolates,”​ Aaltonen added.

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