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08/11/2022 – Science & Technology / Chocolate / AI / AI-Designed / Valeo / Kultasuklaa / Aiwo Digital / Finland

FUTURE-PROOFED CHOCOLATE: AI-designed, better-for-you confectionery

Meet ‘The Bar’ – AI-designed milk chocolate that will pass both taste test and sugar-taxes. In collaboration with artisan chocolatiers at Kultasuklaa and AI experts at Aiwo Digital, Finnish dairy company Valio has created a proof-of-concept chocolate bar to showcase what its innovative milk powder solution and know-how can achieve when it comes to enabling natural sugar reduction in any milk chocolate product. 

Health continues to rise up the list of priorities for consumers, but indulgence undoubtedly remains a key driver when it comes to milk chocolate purchases – formulating such treats so that they can be enjoyed with a good conscience has thus become the holy grail for manufacturers the world over. 

Leading dairy company Valio researched over a million milk chocolates lovers’ most delicious desires with the power of artificial intelligence, and designed a future-proofed milk chocolate together with chocolate artisans in Finland. ‘The Bar’ combines all the changing preferences of people’s cravings, while also having less sugar – an impressive feat made possible by the dairy company’s unique milk powder solution.

An extraordinary proof-of-concept

Milk being the core ingredient of chocolate, Finnish dairy and food firm Valio harnessed artificial intelligence to showcase the taste of the future. The resulting milk chocolate piece – entitled ‘The Bar’ – is designed by humans, and its recipe is based on AI analysis of milk chocolate lovers’ thoughts, cravings, and tastes around the world. Valio itself has not switched to chocolate manufacturing, however, but instead created the futuristic concept together with local chocolate artisans at Kultasuklaa company. ‘The Bar’ is an extraordinary proof-of-concept of what the dairy company's milk powder solution can do and how the future of milk chocolate could look like. 

“The needs and preferences of global milk chocolate fans are changing,” observed Valio’s Senior Vice President Timo Pajari. “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.”

Analysing the desires of chocolate fans

Pioneering in the dairy industry requires constant learning on how technology can be utilised in the product development of dairy ingredients. Last Spring, the company used AI to analyse 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 Finnish company Aiwo Digital in co-operation 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,” advised Mr Pajari. “Observing and curating conversations on social media enabled us to draw conclusions of authentic consumer preferences.”

Five different layers for different use cases

The results showed silent signals and emerging milk chocolate trends with two main conclusions. First, there is no single favorite 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 a good conscience. Taste and sweetness are very important – but at the same time, consumers want milk chocolate to be healthier and natural, with less sugar.

The recipe for a healthier ‘dream chocolate’ was based on the 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 – as designed by professional designers – allows the layers to be easily separated for enjoyment at the most suited 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,” Mr Pajari informed. “Each layer of milk chocolate is made for different situations in life. In addition to plain milk chocolate flavour, the other layers are enhanced with nuts and cookie crumbs.”

30% less sugar, no change in taste

To answer the growing need for healthier and natural milk chocolate, The Bar’s milk chocolate has an impressive 30 per cent less sugar than regular. It is also lactose-free. Crucially, this twin feat 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 innovative solution, chocolate manufacturers can fully dispense with artificial sweeteners. However, the 30-per-cent 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,” noted Mr Pajari in closing. “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 to the changing needs and desires of customers. Wherever the chocolate landscapes of the future will develop, with Valio Bettersweet™ it’s always made better.”

Read more about The Bar, its natural recipe, impressive taste, and functional futuristic design here

Latest issue – Vol 1/23
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