Reshaping sugar crystals to reduce quantities while staying sweet
The average piece of milk chocolate is 60 percent sugar by weight. While your stomach and pancreas will need to process all those calories, there’s a chance that the bundles of sugar-sensitive cells on your tongue won’t actually taste it all. This has presented a bit of an opportunity for food scientists looking for ways to reduce the amount of sugar used in sweet foods, as they realized that less sugar can be used if more of that sugar will actually be tasted when you eat. So rather than add sugar substitutes like aspartame, researchers at Nestlé and startup DouxMatok have been trying to reshape the sugar itself so that it’s essentially easier to enjoy, even in smaller doses.
Creating more contact with our taste buds
Nestlé’s approach has been to make what they’re calling “structured sugar.” Using a process that involves spraying sugar, milk and water in warm air, they’re creating porous sugar crystals that dissolve faster than more cubic crystals. This allows more of the key molecules in the sugar to quickly trigger your taste buds, giving you the equivalent experience of eating a sweeter food. By maximizing how much you experience each gram of sugar, Nestle says they’ll be able to cut just how much sugar goes into their recipes by as much as 30 percent, starting with their new Milkybar Wowsomes in the United Kingdom.
DouxMatok’s patented sugar operates on a similar principle. Instead of increasing your tongue’s contact with sugar crystals by making them hollow and porous, their process increases the available surface area of sugar crystals by attaching them to a carrier agent that will help them come in contact with the correct tongue cells. Again, this allows for your tongue to come in contact with more of each gram of sugar, allowing less to be used in a recipe overall.
Selling the public on smaller sizes
Even if both high-surface area sugars keep treats sweet, candy makers are concerned with the dimensions of their product on a larger scale as well. Going back to our original piece of milk chocolate, a 30 percent reduction in sugar will likely result in a noticeable decrease in the candy’s net weight. There’s concern that this may look bad to consumers, and that some new filler agent will be needed to make up the difference.
One option may be just to reshape the chocolate itself. When people were asked to let chocolate pieces melt in their mouths, manufacturers found that spheres were considered the tastiest shape. It’s suspected that a round shape allows air to circulate through the mouth, which makes it easier to smell the compounds that help give chocolate its flavor (aside from all that sugar, of course.)
Source: Designer sugar is here – but just what are we sacrificing for healthier sweets? by Jodi Helmer, The Guardian