Formulators at Nestle have found a way to cut the amount of sugar in chocolate without sacrificing taste. By doing some reconstruction of normal sugar, the Swiss company will reduce the amount of sugar in its candy products by 40 percent.
As Nestle is still applying for patents, the company is being quiet on the exact process to produce the new sugar.
"It is sugar, but it is assembled differently so it can disassemble easily in your mouth with less going into your gastrointestinal tract," said Dr. Stefan Catsicas, the company's chief technology officer, in a New York Times report.
Dr. Catsicas compared the new Nestle sugar to regular sugar. He described a normal sugar crystal as a solid shoebox made of sugar, while the new sugar crystal is more like a hollow globe. The new sugar easily dissolves and stimulates the taste buds the same as normal sugar. Also, since there is less sugar overall, less is consumed and absorbed by the digestive system.
When a sugar crystal dissolves on the tongue, it produces a sweet taste. However, a solid crystal is typically never fully dissolved before it is swallowed. Since Nestle's new sugar has hollow crystals, they will melt rapidly and completely on the tongue, allowing the taste buds to fully absorb the sweetness.
As consumers demand food choices with higher nutritional values and governments levy increased taxes on sugary foods, confectionery companies have been searching for ways to produce healthier alternatives for their products. Should the new formula be a hit with chocolate lovers, Nestle's new sugar will give the company a much-needed edge over competitors like Hersey Co. and Mondelez International Inc.
With global obesity rates climbing to record levels, many food companies have been under pressure to make healthier products. In the past, aspartame was a popular sugar substitute used to sweeten food. However, studies of the sweetener's effect did not reveal any significant health advantage and does essentially nothing to help with weight loss.
"People do not really understand why these artificial sweeteners don't work. There has been some evidence that they actually can make you more hungry and may be associated with increased calorie consumption," said Dr. Richard Hodin, an expert on the effects of sugar replacements on health, in a report from Tech Times.
While the new sugar produced by Nestle may be good for making candy, it does not necessarily work in other food products. According to Dr. Catsicas, the restructured sugar cannot be used to sweeten coffee or soda.
Other companies besides Nestle have tried creating healthier products without affecting taste by changing the basics of an ingredient. In 2010, Pepsi had achieved some success altering the molecular structure of salt in an effort to reduce sodium in their snacking products. Pepsi also pledged to reduce the sugar content in the majority of its drink products by 2025.
Scientists at Leatherhead Food Research in the U.K. have been working on their own version of new sugar. Instead of creating a hollow crystal, they have been working on a process to shrink the size of the crystal. They are using the same method to make salt crystals smaller as well.
While the new Nestle sugar may be a healthier alternative to traditional sugar, the question of cost still remains. If the price of the new sugar is significantly more than regular sugar, then the price of products is likely to increase as well, leaving many to question if consumers will accept a higher-priced chocolate bar in exchange for lower calories.
In accordance to their 2007 policy to cut sugar consumption worldwide and fight obesity, Nestle plans to introduce the new sugar into their candy products sometime in 2018. The international food juggernaut also intends to sell the new sugar to other companies. Nestle makes several famous candy products, including Kit Kat, Butterfinger, and Wonka brand candies.
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