Valio explores AI potential for creating new chocolate ranges

Finnish dairy business Valio has claimed a significant breakthrough in using artificial intelligence (AI) to aid the design of a new reduced-sugar chocolate claiming comparable taste profiles to conventional ranges, reports Neill Barston.

The advanced new series, known as “The Bar” is human designed, yet features AI analysis of consumers’ preferences for flavours around the world.

Valio created the futuristic concept together with local chocolate artists of Kultasuklaa company, meaning that the Finnish firm itself has not switched to chocolate manufacturing, but hailed the venture as a strong indicator of how production methods could be taken forward in the future.

“The needs and preferences of global milk chocolate fans are changing. Growing awareness of health challenges affect the confectionery industry with governments around the world already starting to regulate sugar use and consumption. With our Valio Bettersweet solution the taste remains the same even though the amount of sugar is reduced,” says Valio’s Senior Vice President Timo Pajari.

Pioneering in the dairy industry requires constant learning on how technology can be utilised in product development of dairy ingredients. Last spring the company analysed with artificial intelligence over 1.5 million public milk chocolate related social media discussions around the world and surveyed hundreds of people about their preferences regarding chocolate. The AI analysis was produced by the Finnish company Aiwo Digital in cooperation with Valio’s consumer insight team.“We wanted to unravel the most delicious and hidden desires of milk chocolate fans. By connecting the capabilities of AI, human craftsmanship and design with our milk powder know-how we were able to create the chocolate of the future. Observing and curating conversations on social media enabled us to draw conclusions of authentic consumer preferences,” says Pajari.

As the business noted, the results showed silent signals and emerging milk chocolate trends with two main conclusions. First, there is no single favourite chocolate taste, filling, or size as consumers want to enjoy different kinds of milk chocolate in different situations. Second, people want to indulge in milk chocolate with good conscience. The taste and sweetness are very important but at the same time consumers want milk chocolate to be healthier and natural with less sugar.

In addition, the recipe for a healthier dream chocolate was based on AI’s findings: five different chocolates with less sugar. Each chocolate has a different taste and texture designed to fit a different use case: impulse, craving, delight, hunger and relaxation. From bite to bite new sensations get discovered and gradually build upon each other. The topographic design of the bar designed by professional designers allows the layers to be easily separated for enjoyment at the suitable time.

“The Bar’s chocolate flavours form a new kind of alternative to the traditional chocolate box, where different chocolate flavours are combined together instead of separated. Each layer of milk chocolate is made for different situations in life. In addition to plain milk chocolate flavor the other layers are enhanced with nuts and cookie crumbs,” Pajari says.

Future milk chocolate has 30% less sugar with no change in taste

To answer the growing need for healthier and natural milk chocolate, The Bar’s milk chocolate has 30% less sugar than regular. It is also lactose-free. This is achieved without changing the sweet taste or texture of the milk chocolate by using Valio Bettersweet solution in the recipe.

Valio Bettersweet is a milk powder solution that enables natural sugar reduction in any milk chocolate product by using the proteins in milk reducing the need for added sugar. Utilising the solution chocolate manufacturers can fully dispense with artificial sweeteners. The 30% sugar reduction is just the beginning, as Valio already has solutions under development that can eliminate the amount of added sugar completely.

“We see that future milk chocolate will have less sugar and only natural ingredients, without compromising the familiar taste. The Bar concept showcases how our Bettersweet milk powder solution does exactly that, but also how we can utilise AI to create even better products to cater the changing needs and desires of customers. Wherever the chocolate landscapes of the future will develop, with Valio Bettersweet it’s always made better,” Pajari says.



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