Could low-sugar chocolate actually taste better?

Lowering the amount of sugar in chocolate results in a richer, more delicious flavour. That’s according to researchers at Penn State University who wanted to address the increasing concern consumers feel about their daily sugar intake. The research team wanted to find an alternative to sweeteners as they do not work as a sufficient bulking agent in the way that sugar does.

“The function of sugar in chocolate is both sweetness and bulking, so if we take that sugar out, we have to put something else in that will do the job just as well, or consumers will notice,” said Gregory Ziegler, professor of food science at Penn State University.

The solution? Replace sugar with a grain, which contains fine granular starches to stabilise the product and maintain the correct and expected texture.

“Starch is still a carbohydrate, so it’s not lower calories, but there is an overall reduction in the added sugar content, which has potential health benefits,” explains Ziegler.

The low-sugar chocolates, made using oat flour in four different volume variations, with reductions of 25% or 50% sugar, were a success and the blind taste test that followed garnered positive results from the 66 participants. 25% of the reduced-sugar chocolates, rated as equal, or preferable to, regular chocolate.

“We were able to show that there is a range in which you can manage a sizable reduction in added sugar and people won’t notice and don’t care, in terms of liking,” said John Hayes, professor of food science at Penn State University. He added, “we’re never going to make chocolate healthy, because it’s an indulgence, but we can successfully take out some of the sugar for consumers who are trying to reduce their intake of added sugars.”