By now, everyone is aware of the dangers of sugarand trying to eat less of it. But substitutes like aspartame, stevia, saccharine and sucralose often don't measure up in taste.
Now, a U.S. food technology company is approaching the problem from another direction. MycoTechnology Inc. has engineered mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, which could cut the amount of sugar in a typical chocolate bar by as much as half.
The unique fermentation process is already being used to reduce bitterness in coffee beans.
"We use mushrooms that we train specifically to remove unwanted aspects of food and infuse it with the natural health benefits of the mushroom," said Alan Hahn, chief executive of MycoTechnology, which was formed in 2013 in Denver.
About half of the average milk chocolate bar is made of sugar, according to industry experts. Hahn said the company began processing cocoa beans with its MycoSmooth technology this week. The technology could cut the amount of sugar needed in the average chocolate bar by half, from 31 grams to about 15 grams.
The process is chemical-free, and adds mere "pennies per pound" to the cost of cocoa, Hahn said.
However, cutting the sugar content may pose new hurdles for confectionery makers if the replacement ingredients are more cocoa or milk. Both are more expensive than sugar; Hershey's and Mars both raised their prices this month (here's why). Nutritionally as well, producers might be trading one undesirable ingredient for another.
"If you wind up taking sugar out and raising the (cocoa) liquor content, you will raise the fat content of the bar, which will be higher calories," said Ed Seguine, president of Seguine Cacao Cocoa & Chocolate Advisors in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with over 30 years' experience in chocolate product research.
"It doesn't make economic sense because you've got to put something in its place," Seguine said.