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17/08/2022

The global trend toward natural sugars in chocolate

Covid 19 has shaken up virtually every market on the planet and chocolate is no exception. Disruption is leading to the emergence of new trends that will change the chocolate landscape for years to come. One impact is a shift in preferences for sugars and sweeteners, in particular, natural sugars.

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As consumers increasingly turn their focus to how their chocolate is made as well as how it tastes, we are seeing rising demand for higher quality, healthier, and more sustainable ingredients – leading to new demand for natural sugars.

Natural sugar benefits

One reason for the rise of natural sugar is that it aligns with chocolate’s unique appeal. Unlike other confectionary categories where demand is driven by children, chocolate is also an adult indulgence. In 2019, over 35% of the US$210 billion global confectionary market was claimed by chocolate and 58% of this was for adult consumption.

Chocolate’s ‘grown up’ appeal means that buying decisions are influenced by more ‘grown up’ issues, such as health – a trend accelerated by the pandemic. In the UK,  research suggests that people ate more healthily during lockdowns. Over a quarter more now cook from scratch (rising to over a third in the under 40s); 20% are more aware of their food’s nutritional value; and around one in five eat less junk food.

The market is reflecting this new reality, moving to deliver healthier options led by the growth of natural sugar chocolate, alongside non-dairy (such as oat milk), low-calorie (such as non-sugar sweeteners) and vegan/organic products.

natural sugars in chocolate confectionery trends

It’s important to be completely upfront with consumers about the health aspects of natural sugars. They are still sugar, so aren’t the low-calorie choice. What they do offer, however, are potential health benefits, as they are often easier for the body to digest, retain more of their intrinsic nutritional value and some have a lower glycemic index (GI) than heavily processed white sugars.

What are natural sugars?

Despite being one of the hottest trends in chocolate, natural sugars are not new. In Africa, sweet berries have long been used to modify the taste of sour fruits. When chocolate arrived in Spain from South America in the 16th Century, natural sugars were added to cater to European tastes.

Since the 19th century, sweeteners have been dominated by heavily processed white sugar, but the world is now rediscovering its love of natural sugar sweetened chocolate products. Today, there is a wide selection to choose from, including natural sugar examples:

 

  • Agave
  • Date
  • Honey
  • Maple
  • Coconut
  • Panela

 

The last two of these options offer distinct benefits to producers. Coconut has a lower GI than processed white sugar and keeps many of its natural vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants – which are lost during white sugar processing. Panela is unrefined cane sugar, where the absence of processing similarly means that it is rich in vitamins and minerals and delivers a lower GI.

Dark Chocolate with Coconut Sugar 70% Couverture

It’s also important to remember that sweetness is fundamental to the chocolate making process, so changing the sweetener will change the chocolate. Ultimately, the rediscovery of natural sugars offers opportunities for exciting new chocolate tastes, textures and experiences.

Our coconut sugar couverture

low glycemic chocolate couverture

 

The home baking sweet spot 

One pandemic-driven trend with far-reaching impacts on the chocolate market has been an explosion in home baking, driven by factors that include more time spent at home, ‘Bake-off’ TV cooking shows, and a desire for more natural foods.

As people started to make – rather than buy – sweet treats, demand for processed sugars, non-sugar sweeteners, and natural sugars surged by 20% to top US$5 billion. As the world returns to normal, however, market researcher Mintel believes that this growth is unsustainable

While the home baking bubble might burst, people’s focus on health and the quality of ingredients is here to stay. With processed sugars and non-sugar sweeteners often perceived as artificial, natural sugars are emerging as the clear winner in terms of consumer choice.

The future of natural sugars

Luker Chocolate has pioneered the use of natural sugars – not simply because of global trends, but because of the opportunities, they bring to create chocolate of the highest quality.

natural sugar alternatives future in chocolate

 

Our coconut sugar creations include our Dark Chocolate Couverture, which is gluten-free, non-GMO, non-dairy, OU Kosher and entirely plant-based. Panela is very special to us because it has been crafted across Central and South America for over 500 years. We use it to create four varieties of our finest Fino de Aroma Cocoa Couvertures – encompassing the unique floral accents of Colombian panela.

It is this combination of increasingly sophisticated and health-conscious consumers, natural and sustainable ingredients, and extraordinary flavours, textures and experiences that will ensure natural sugars will always be at the heart of Luker Chocolate.

To browse our collection of delicious products to satisfy the health-conscious consumer, discover our alternative chocolate portfolio here.

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