The pulp of the cocoa plant will be used to sweeten the new product. Nutritionists say it’s still sugar.

Share on Pinterest
Nestle’s “single source” dark chocolate bar will initially be available in Japan. Getty Images

Can a chocolate bar with less sugar taste good?

A large Swiss food company is betting that it can.

Nestlé is launching a “single source” dark chocolate that has no added refined sugars.

The chocolate’s ingredients are exclusively cocoa fruit derived with all sugars coming from the cocoa’s pulp.

The food giant’s “breakthrough idea” will provide Japan’s KitKat Chocolatory a dark chocolate that has 40 percent less total sugar when compared to a competitor’s 70 percent cocoa chocolate.

“It’s the first time that we have been able to use more of the cocoa fruit to make chocolate, unlocking the pulp potential. Cocoa pulp has not been used in this way before on an industrial scale,” a Nestlé representative told Healthline.

Although you can never be sure until you try some, Nestlé officials say their new cocoa product imparts a “delightful sweetness.”

However, Andy De Santis, a registered dietitian and weight loss specialist, told Healthline that due to the sugar sourcing, the chocolate will likely taste less sweet.

“The type of sugar found primarily in cocoa fruit is glucose, which does not have the same relative sweetness as sucrose, sugar extracted from sugar cane, and what we usually call sucrose or just ‘sugar’ on a nutrition label,” De Santis said.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, nutritionist and author of “Skinny Liver: A Proven Program to Prevent and Reverse the New Silent Epidemic-Fatty Liver Disease,” told Healthline that the processing of the product is the main difference.

“Refined sugar is finer, and thus it can dissolve better, so the texture could be slightly off depending on which unrefined sugars are used,” she said. “Other than that, the products will still likely be sweet and thus will most likely have the same impact on taste buds as the refined options.”

“Whole fruit chocolate” sounds like a health trend in the making, but one has to wonder if it’s actually any healthier than the leading 70 percent dark chocolate.

“While using lower amounts of refined sugar will alter the nutrition profile, consumers are wise to remember that cacao is still a high saturated fat food with more than 50 percent of the calories from fat coming from saturated — the type we should be aiming to eat less of,” Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian and assistant clinical professor at the University of San Diego, told Healthline.

Nestlé officials say their new product “has a high percentage of cocoa butter but has less sugar than a standard chocolate bar, due to the sole inclusion of the dried fruit sugar.”

While it’s innovative thinking, the company hasn’t created a health food, experts say.

“Consumers should be reminded that chocolate is a ‘sometimes food’ and lowering the amount of refined or added sugar does not make this a health food,” said Ferraro. “A lower-sugar chocolate is not a license to over-indulge.”

Nestlé agrees. They have made no claims to be inventing a product we can eat with abandon.

“As with all chocolate, it is a treat and should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet,” company officials said.

“Sugar is sugar,” explained Kirkpatrick. “Although people may feel better about their choice when choosing a raw version over a refined version, your insulin and blood sugar levels are not as easily persuaded.”

In other words, once the unrefined sugar enters our digestive system, it has nearly the same effect as refined sugar.

Kirkpatrick said that some refined sugar, specifically Manuka honey, offers antibiotic and antimicrobial properties. However, she said excess sugar in any form is detrimental to health.

“This is important because one of the components of sugar that leads to adverse health outcomes is the extreme rise and fall of both insulin and blood sugar,” Kirkpatrick said.

It may not be a healthier alternative, but this chocolate is a landmark creation in the world of chocolate making.

It’s probably only a matter of time before we see such speciality products on store shelves near us.

“I can’t honestly say this swap represents a truly significant nutrition improvement,“ De Santis said. “As far as the type/amount of sugar used, it’s something that is smart from a business perspective as I’m sure it will resonate with a certain type of consumer.”

For Nestlé, this is only the beginning of what could be a promising future.

“We have only just started to explore the possibilities,” company officials said.

They’re not the only ones experimenting with cocoa fruit, either.

“Chocolatiers are beginning to understand more about how to bring out the flavors of this magical fruit, while farmers and manufacturers are becoming aware that 31 percent of the pod can be used versus 22 percent now,” Nestlé officials said.