Valio leverages AI and dairy proteins for 30% sugar reduction in milk chocolate: ‘The taste remains the same’

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Valio's reduced sugar bar leverages dairy proteins to cut sugar 30% / Pic: Valio
Valio's reduced sugar bar leverages dairy proteins to cut sugar 30% / Pic: Valio

Related tags: sugar reduction, Chocolate

Dairy company Valio is using the power of artificial intelligence to design a milk chocolate that it describes as ‘future proof’.

Finnish food group Valio has created a new chocolate recipe based on AI analysis of the taste preferences of milk chocolate eaters.

Leaning on data from over a million consumers, the company then worked with local chocolate artisans from Kultasuklaa.

“The needs and preferences of global milk chocolate fans are changing. Growing awareness of health challenges affect the confectionery industry with governments around the world already starting to regulate sugar use and consumption. With our Valio Bettersweet solution the taste remains the same even though the amount of sugar is reduced,”​ claimed Valio’s Senior Vice President Timo Pajari.

Diving into the data, Valio analysed over 1.5 million social media discussions and surveyed ‘hundreds’ of people about their chocolate preferences. To achieve this, the company worked alongside Finnish food tech group Aiwo Digital.

“We wanted to unravel the most delicious and hidden desires of milk chocolate fans. By connecting the capabilities of AI, human craftsmanship and design with our milk powder know-how we were able to create the chocolate of the future. Observing and curating conversations on social media enabled us to draw conclusions of authentic consumer preferences,”​ explained Pajari.

What people want: Five use cases

The results showed ‘silent signals’ and emerging milk chocolate trends with two main conclusions, Valio revealed. First, there is no one preferred chocolate taste, filling, or size – rather consumers want different milk chocolate products in different situations. Second, people want to indulge in milk chocolate ‘with good conscience’.

“The taste and sweetness are very important but at the same time consumers want milk chocolate to be healthier and natural with less sugar,”​ according to Valio.

Working alongside Kultasuklaa, Valio co-created recipes for ‘healthier’ chocolate with less sugar that also responded to five different need states identified by the AI. Each chocolate has a different taste and texture designed to fit a different use case: impulse, craving, delight, hunger and relaxation.

“The bar’s chocolate flavours form a new kind of alternative to the traditional chocolate box, where different chocolate flavours are combined together instead of separated. Each layer of milk chocolate is made for different situations in life. In addition to plain milk chocolate flavour the other layers are enhanced with nuts and cookie crumbs,"​ Pajari elaborated.

Same taste, 30% less sugar

Valio ‘has not switched to chocolate manufacturing’, however ‘The Bar’ – as the company calls it – stands as proof of concept for the sugar reduction that can be achieved using the company’s milk powder solutions.

The chocolate contains 30% less sugar than regular milk chocolate as well as being lactose free.

This, Valio said, is achieved without changing the taste or texture of milk chocolate.

“There were no significant difference in sensory testing between control chocolate and 30% less sugar chocolate made with Valio Eila PRO skimmed milk powder,”​ Food Navigator was told.

Valio reduced sugar chocolate
Consumer test data of chocolate made with standard levels of sugar (Valio SMP) and with 30% less sugar (Vamio Eila PROSMP) saw no ‘statistically significant differences’ / Pic: Valio

“Our skimmed milk powder uses Valio’s patented technology for an unchanged milk mineral composition and to achieve a natural taste of milk in chocolate. Valio’s researchers were the first to document the importance of the correct ash-protein ratio in reduced sugar chocolate. This phenomenon has not been discovered in previous research, as the sugar reduction in previous studies has been achieved by using polyols or fibres. The ash-protein ratio, or the amount of salt and protein, is critical in achieving the best possible consistency in 30% less sugar chocolate. Valio’s researchers replaced sugar in chocolate by adding lactose free milk powder and created a 30% less sugar chocolate that was rated equal in taste and texture to regular chocolate.”

Valio Bettersweet milk powder enables natural sugar reduction in any milk chocolate. Utilizing the solution chocolate manufacturers can fully dispense with artificial sweeteners, the company suggested.

Moreover, the 30% sugar reduction is ‘just the beginning’. Valio already has solutions under development that can eliminate the amount of added sugar completely.

“We see that future milk chocolate will have less sugar and only natural ingredients, without compromising the familiar taste. The Bar concept showcases how our Bettersweet milk powder solution does exactly that, but also how we can utilize AI to create even better products to cater the changing needs and desires of customers,”​ Pajari said.

“Sugar is reduced naturally by adding high quality milk ingredients. It’s natural sugar reduction without adding anything that isn’t already in chocolate,”​ we heard.

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