Sugar contributes sweetness and texture to chocolate, so reducing it poses challenges to chocolatiers and food manufacturers. Ingredient companies, however, now offer a range of sugar alternatives to enable formulators to create reduced-sugar chocolate with acceptable sensory characteristics.

Sweetener ingredients such as allulose, stevia, and polyols are turning up in reduced-sugar chocolate, and product developers need to carefully consider which sweeteners to use. While these ingredients are successful at reducing sugar in product formulations, they may have to be used in conjunction with other ingredients like fiber and milk proteins to deliver the functionalities that sugar provides. “The functionality that sugar has in finished products must be replaced with a blend of ingredients or with an ingredient that is very similar to sugar’s profile from a taste, texture, and functionality perspective,” says Fatemeh Khadem, senior technical services manager at Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate.

Product developers also need to consider water activity, bulk density, processability, and other technical factors when choosing and using alternative sweeteners in chocolate, adds Khadem. “Manufacturers must also take note of any claim and classification implications that these alternative ingredients may have on the final product. Some sugar alternative ingredients may shift the product outside of the Standard of Identity for chocolate, and as a result, [it] would be classified as a compound.”