BBC Tomorrow’s Food: Reducing Sugar in Chocolate by Using Mushrooms

BBC Tomorroow’s Foods, Dr. Shini Somora

It may be hard to believe, but mushrooms can dramatically reduce the amount of sugar needed in chocolate. Denver based food technology company, MycoTechnology is able to reduce sugar requirements in chocolate by over 50% using their organic process.

Recently, they debuted their technology on BBC Tomorrow’s Food, which Alan Hahn CEO of MycoTechnology explained that the secret is in the root system of mushrooms:

“In nature mushrooms act as the clean up crew for the forest, breaking down toxins and providing nutrients for other plants to grow. By harnessing the root system of mushrooms, they consume the bitter compounds found in chocolate, ultimately reducing the need for masking agents such as sugar.”

Hahn goes onto explain that, “The reason chocolate has upwards of 70% sugar is due to bitterness. Food manufacturers will add sugar to mask the undesirable bitter flavors found in chocolate to the point where it can be detrimental to health.”

Sugar has gone under heavy scrutiny over the past few years, with research indicating its direct role in diabetes and obesity. This is of particular concern with the recent findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which found that toddlers between the ages of 0-2 consume the same amount of sugar as adults. With sugar running rampant in everything from bread to sweets we need innovations from companies like MycoTechnology to help solve the sugar epidemic.

How does it taste?

BBC Tomorroow’s Foods, Dr. Shini Somora

In episode three of Tomorrow’s Food, BBC host, Dr. Shini Somora, did a blind taste test of both the treated and the non-treated cocoa nibs (ground chocolate beans without sugar). First she tasted the unprocessed 100% cacao and found the taste to be almost unpalatable saying, “that is really bitter, it seems like I have just eaten some car tire.” Next, she tried the cacao treated with MycoTechnology’s mushrooms, finding the chocolate to be much more pleasant, “its bitter but its nice, its smooth. This is definitely your chocolate.”

Tomorrow’s Food, Chris Bavin Hits the Streets

Later in the episode, they took to the streets to have passerby’s taste test between the processed chocolate and the every day sugar-laden bar.

BBC Tomorrow’s Foods Mushroom chocolate

BBC Tomorrow’s Foods Mushroom chocolate taste test

Reaction to mushroom chocolate sugar reduction

People were amazed to find out that even with 50% less sugar they were not able to taste a difference between the two bars.

Subscribe and get early access

The chocolate is not available for commercial purchase but MycoTechnology will give subscribers early access to purchase the mushroom chocolate bars before its made available to the general public.

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How Do You Solve the Sugar Epidemic? Solve Flavor Defects

 sugar epidemic and flavor defects
With the average American consuming three times the daily recommend amount of sugar and obesity reaching epidemic proportions, the food industry is frantically trying to develop healthier products. However, taking sugar out of foods is not as simple as it sounds as it provides a critical role in product development due to flavor defects.

Product formulators are tasked with creating great tasting products that can be enjoyed by the masses. The challenge is that many natural ingredients have flavor defects such as bitterness, astringency and sourness which are off-putting to consumers. Their efforts become particularly challenging when developing products that are also, non-GMO, chemical-free and organic. To combat flavor defects, food manufacturers have adopted a practice known as masking, which is capable of hiding the unwanted tastes. Flavor masking works by over satiating taste receptors to the point of not being able to detect flavor. Vanillin and aroma chemicals are common masking agents but the most popular is sugar. Sugar is highly effective, inexpensive and provides structure to foods that few ingredients can; however, its health implications and the changing consumer landscape poses a challenge for its use in future product formulations.

But the challenges continue:

Although more than 51% say they want less sugar in their foods, taste is the most important factor in product acceptance and consumers are unwilling to compromise. Over the past several years, food manufacturers have been looking for solutions that are capable of providing full flavor without the added calories; however, finding effective sugar replacements that align with consumer trends has posed challenging.

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Artificial sweeteners

One of the first solutions to solve flavor defects without the use of sugar was artificial sweeteners. These substances were created to have zero calories while mimicking the taste of sugar. It was promoted as the perfect solution for the obesity epidemic. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that researchers found a link between the use of artificial sweeteners and bladder cancer. Soon after, researchers also implicated aspartame (a popular artificial sweeter) in causing a variety of tumors. In 2008 research showed that consumption of artificially sweetened beverages is associated with increased risk of diabetes.

Natural Sweeteners

Because of the controversies surrounding artificial sweeteners, scientists today are in constant search for healthier alternatives, especially from natural sources. Stevia is one of the most popular natural sweetener alternatives available on the market. Derived from a plant, this natural sweetener is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar with zero calories. The challenge with Stevia is its bitter metallic aftertaste. Several companies are looking for a solution to the aftertaste issues of stevia.

What is Reb A Stevia
Stevia Leaves – Image courtesy pixabay.com

Monk Fruit is another popular natural sweetener alternative. Monk fruit was GRAS approved in early 2010 and has seen traction in several different categories. However, monk fruit’s high price point and unique aftertaste has limited its potential. Typically, monk fruit has been used in conjunction with stevia to increase overall sweetness with less flavor defects.

monk-fruit
Monk Fruit – Image Courtesy wikimedia.org

Artificial Bitter Blockers

Flavoring companies have also tried to address bitterness by developing synthetic bitter blocking compounds. They work by blocking a bitter taste from binding with a taste receptor site; without the binding, the bitter taste is not perceived. Historically, chemical blockers have had varying degrees of success at mitigating bitter tastes, usually with limited applications and parameters. Artificial bitter blockers have also had challenges with the evolving consumer landscape who are looking for more natural ingredients.

Organic Bitter Blockers

Till recently there have been no known organic bitter blockers available on the market. It wasn’t until mid 2014 that MycoTechnology discovered the first of its kind. The certified USDA organic blocker is derived from a mushroom extract and used as a processing aid to effectively modulate a wide variety of substrates. MycoTechnology recently struck a deal with several major sweetener manufacturers to improve the flavor defects of stevia and monk fruit, however, it can be used in a broad range of applications.