Low sugar, higher calcium: Demand for tasty, healthier treats inspire chocolate innovation at Tatgu

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Singapore chocolate firm Tatgu used the pandemic to press ahead with innovation across its low-sugar and -GI, and high-calcium product ranges, as it seeks to meet soaring demand for better-for-you treats. ©Getty Images
Singapore chocolate firm Tatgu used the pandemic to press ahead with innovation across its low-sugar and -GI, and high-calcium product ranges, as it seeks to meet soaring demand for better-for-you treats. ©Getty Images

Related tags Chocolate Healthy snacks Confectionery Cocoa

Singapore chocolate firm Tatgu used the pandemic to press ahead with innovation across its low-sugar and -GI, and high-calcium product ranges, as it seeks to meet soaring demand for better-for-you treats.

Dark chocolate with cocoa content of 70% and above is known to contain antioxidants and nutrients. However, many dark chocolate products found in stores are generally considered less palatable due to the bitter taste, especially for children.

As a result, some manufacturers add sugar to enhance the flavour of their products.

Due to greater health awareness, an increasing number of people are looking for less-sugar or sugar-free alternatives that retain the richness in flavour.

“The snacking trend is growing rapidly. Most supermarkets stock more shelves of snacks nowadays. Snacks are also being sold practically everywhere, as consumers’ eating habits are changing — when people have no time for full meals or need a bite in between meals, they turn to snacks like energy bars and chocolate bars. Consumers still want to enjoy their treats, but they want healthier options,” ​said Tina Tan, Director and founder of Tatgu.

Tatgu’s dark chocolates contain 85% cocoa and 14% sugarcane derivative, which allow the products to remain tasty and yet low in sugar. Its white chocolates are made with less than 10% sugar by using 100% sugarcane derivative, compared to an average of 45% sugar in majority of similar products in the market.

“We reduced the sugar content of our white chocolates and included ingredients that are high in calcium. Instead of calcium pills, some of our customers give their kids our chocolates.Our formulation enables consumers to experience the health benefits of cocoa without the negative effects of excessive sugar. This could pave the way for harnessing the benefits of chocolate,” ​added Tan.

Rethinking applications

As chocolate remains a top flavour in the confectionery industry, manufacturers are looking into innovating new formats and applications of cocoa to satisfy the sensory needs — texture, visual appeal and taste — of both brands and consumers.

Besides direct consumption, Tatgu’s chocolates can be used in a wide range of products, including praline, bars, cakes and pastries. As a confectionery ingredient, they are also apt for moulding, enrobing and coating.

The company works closely with a food scientist, who has been in the field for a long time, to research and develop new products according to market demands.

One of these is the soaring demand for low-glycaemic index (GI) chocolates, as a result of the growing prevalence of diabetes worldwide. The GI ranks carbohydrates based on how quickly and how much they raise the blood sugar level after consumption.

Tatgu’s dark and white chocolates have been tested to have a low GI value of 27 and 24 respectively. They are also certified halal and Kosher, while also suitable for people with lacto-ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian and pescatarian diets.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic had halted Tatgu’s overseas expansion plans, the company introduced several new applications of its chocolates during this time.

“Our products are available in retail pharmacies at hospitals and online shopping platform Lazada, but we operate mainly on a B2B model. We also do white-labelling for clients. Some of our recent innovations include a hot chocolate drink and new flavours that are created from our base products. ​ 

“Our B2B clients are mostly cafes who want to offer healthier options, as well as corporate offices. Existing customers who know about these new products also purchase them directly from us,”​ Tan revealed. 

In addition, trend reports have noted a rising demand among consumers for foods with functionality, such as those that can help bolster the immune system.

This is something that Tatgu has also embarked on. Tan shared that the company has started incorporating functional properties into its chocolate formulations. For instance, Tatgu worked with a supplements firm to include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) into its chocolates.

“DHA is an important omega-3 fatty acid that has many health benefits, especially brain development in children. Chocolates are definitely more appealing to kids than pills, so that’s how we came up with this idea.

“We have received inquiries from various countries, such as Thailand, that are keen in our chocolates. We put in a lot of efforts in China previously, but unfortunately plans fell through because of the pandemic, so we’d have to relook at understanding other markets and finding the right partners to work with. It takes time but we are definitely open to opportunities,​” said Tan.

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