Science behind the ‘reduced sugar’ chocolate

Valio research shows that replacing sugar with a milk-based protein enables the creation of a ‘30% less sugar’ chocolate similar in taste and texture as regular chocolate and that the ash-protein ratio is the key. In this article, we explain the science behind these results and why chocolate makers should be using milk-based ingredients in their reduced sugar products instead of polyols or fibres.

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.

Valio achieved the 30% sugar reduction by replacing sugar with protein. Valio's research findings were published in a peer reviewed article in The International Dairy Journal on February 7th 2020. Read the full research article here ›

The results of the research are encouraging for manufacturers who seek easy-to-apply solutions for creating reduced sugar chocolate with the taste and mouthfeel of regular chocolate.

1. Create reduced sugar chocolate just as smooth and tasty as regular chocolate

The charm of chocolate is in its rich texture and taste, which is why a large consumer study was conducted as part of the research. Valio’s researchers found that chocolate made using Valio Eila® lactose free milk powder was rated equal in taste and texture to regular chocolate.

When the sugar reduction is achieved by polyols or fibres, the chocolate can sometimes have a sandy or hard consistency. By using Valio ingredient, both were easily avoided.

Nutrition content of regular chocolate and chocolate made with less sugar and Eila® PRO SMP ingredient

Content of chocolate Control -30% sugar and Eila® PRO SMP
Fat (%) 36 36.3
Protein (%) 7.8 19.5
Carbohydrate (%) 53.7 39.1
Sugar (%) 48.6 34
Total energy (kcal/100g) 570 561
Energy prot / Total energy (kcal/100g) 5.4 13.9

Consumer test data of chocolate made with standard sugar level (SMP) and with 30 % less sugar (Eila® PRO SMP)

2. Achieve the processability of regular chocolate

For a smooth manufacturing process, the viscosity of the chocolate mass needs to be just right. Otherwise, problems may arise when the mass is poured into moulds, for example.

The chocolate produced during the research with Valio’s recipes had similar yield stress and viscosity to traditional chocolate. This means that transitioning to producing reduced sugar chocolate can be done easily with Valio’s ingredient.

3. Reduce sugar yet avoid the laxative effects of artificial sweeteners

Sugar in chocolate is commonly reduced by using either polyols, also known as sugar alcohols, or by adding fibre. While the ‘30% less sugar’ health claim can be achieved by both methods, there are also downsides to consider.

Polyols can cause digestive discomfort if consumed in excess and require a warning label about laxative effects to be placed on product packaging. With Valio’s solution, no such warning is necessary.

With Valio speciality milk powders, you can manufacture chocolate with reduced sugar, high protein, and digestive wellness.

4. Hit three trends with one solution

The health and wellbeing trends also apply to the indulgence category. Consumers want guilt free indulgence and are craving for better-for-you chocolate and confectionery products.

Sugar reduction is a hot topic for manufacturers, as well. For instance, EU regulations concerning unhealthy foods are expected to increase and tighten in the coming years. The changing operating environment drives confectionery manufacturers to seek new solutions for sugar reduction to stay competitive.

The most successful chocolate and confectionery products combine several big trends. With Valio milk powders, you can manufacture chocolate with reduced sugar, high protein, and digestive wellness. With this solution, you are not replacing the reduced sugar with anything that consumers would consider unnatural, such as artificial sweeteners.

BLOG: Tightening restrictions impact the indulgence sector ›

Recipe expertise in sugar reduction and varied fat content

Valio has several recipes ready to try for clients who wish to begin manufacturing chocolate with a lower sugar content. These recipes make it easy to have test-runs with our ingredient, and most of our clients have had excellent results with them. For those manufacturers who wish to create their own recipes, Valio can offer the help of its experts for finding the optimal blend.

Our R&D experts have looked into the fat content of reduced sugar chocolate. As a result, we can now offer recipes for ‘30% less sugar’ chocolate with either 30% or 37% fat content. This option further increases our clients’ opportunities to tailor their chocolate products for a variety of needs.

Important to notice when using lactose free powders in sugar reduction

Lactose free ingredients easily absorb moisture in the air. This moisture absorption may have a negative effect on the texture and taste of the final chocolate product. It is important to avoid high humidity rate when storing and handling the powders to achieve good quality reduced sugar chocolate.

*) Terhi Aaltonen, Elina Kytö, Sanna Ylisjunttila-Huusko, Marko Outinen

Reduce sugar in chocolate with milk-based protein

Implementation of sugar taxes and the ongoing health and wellness trends have created a hot market for new and innovative products. Watch the latest insights on the use of milk-based protein in sugar reduction from the free webinar video.

Watch the webinar

Get started with sugar reduction

We have several recipes ready to try for clients who wish to begin manufacturing chocolate with a lower sugar content. And if you wish to use own recipes, our experts can help in finding the optimal blend. Contact us to get started.

Katriina Leigh

Customer Development ManagerContact our specialist for additional information, technical support and co-creation projects.

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