Scientists have managed to halve the fat content of chocolate by replacing cocoa butter and milk fats with fruit juice.
Although the process, which uses tiny droplets of orange, cranberry or apple juice, gives the bars a slightly fruity taste, it can be applied to milk, dark and white chocolate.
Tests are ongoing, but if the ‘mild’ fruit taste of the chocolate proves too strong and cannot be lessened, researchers believe the same result could theoretically be achieved with a mixture of water and vitamin C.
The potentially ground breaking technique was developed by scientists at the University of Warwick and unveiled by lead researcher Dr Stefan Bon at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans.
Dr Bon said: “We have established the chemistry that's a starting point for healthier chocolate confectionary… This approach maintains the things that make chocolate ‘chocolatey’, but with fruit juice instead of fat.”
He added: “Now we're hoping the food industry will take the next steps and use the technology to make tasty, lower-fat chocolate bars and other candy…”
The fat in chocolate usually comes in the guise of cocoa butter and milk fats, which give the bar its unique texture and ensures it snaps in the hand but melts in the mouth.
Although the new technique replaces half that fat content with fruit juice, scientists say adding the juice in the form of ‘micro bubbles’ ensures the chocolate retains its indulgent, velvety texture and melting qualities.
A 57g serving of dark chocolate contains around 13g of fat, making up almost 20 per cent of a person’s recommended fat allowance. And much of the fat in chocolate is actually saturated fat, making it even unhealthier.
Chocolate contains many healthy plant flavonoids and antioxidants however, and by reducing the fat content, the sugar content also decreases.
This means that, after the new process has taken place, chocolate would be a considerably healthier product than it is now, and may actually have some health benefits.
Cynics have voiced concerns that the ‘new’ chocolate’s fruity taste could put some people off, but the researchers were keen to stress how insignificant the altered taste would be.
Describing the fruity taste Dr Bon said: “Since the juice is spread out in the chocolate, it doesn't overpower the taste of the chocolate. We believe that the technology adds an interesting twist to the range of chocolate confectionary products available.”
He added: “The opportunity to replace part of the fat matrix with water-based juice droplets allows for greater flexibility and tailoring of both the overall fat and sugar content.”