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Forty-Five Percent Sugar Reduction: Healy Group Launches “Breakthrough” Cocoa Fiber

Ireland-based Healy Group has launched PrimaFi Cocoa, a micronized cocoa fiber specifically developed for use in chocolate manufacture. PrimaFi Cocoa is a natural, dietary fiber which, when used as a bulking agent, can replace sugar in chocolate by up to 45 percent with no negative sensory impact. The launch comes amid a flurry of sugar reduction and fiber-enrichment solutions, as industry is battling with ongoing concerns around obesity and diabetes.

“Sugar consumption levels continue to be of high concern for many within international health agencies and government bodies around the world, so in our view, there is no better time than now to launch our product,” Gareth Healy, Group Sales Director at Healy Group, tells FoodIngredientsFirst

“Our product can offer upwards of 45 percent reduction. We believe that manufacturers need to do more to contribute towards the future health of our planet by committing to further reducing sugar content of their products. PrimaFi Cocoa is an ideal, natural solution to allow chocolate manufacturers to reduce sugar beyond 30 percent,” he explains. 

Previously, for example, 30 percent sugar reduction in chocolate has been mastered. In March 2018, Nestlé unveiled a chocolate bar that contained 30 percent less sugar than usual and the sugar reduction technique was hailed as a scientific breakthrough because of the way it “restructures” sugar. 

In this space, Israeli manufacturer Strauss Group also unveiled a refined sweet milk chocolate bar made with 30 percent less sugar using extracts of unique raw material last  September. Sugar in the product is replaced by two main components: dietary fiber (17 percent) and ground tiger nut flour (5 percent). The recipe enables the retention of sweetness while preserving the chocolate’s creamy texture. 

Barry Callebaut also made moves in this space with the launch of Dirafrost, positioned as both a natural sweetener and a flavoring, the company’s cacao fruit puree is made from the white pulp surrounding cacao beans. 

While last October, Barry Callebaut also launched a whole fruit experience, with its WholeFruit chocolate, which is made from 100 percent cacao fruit. This creates a chocolate with a strong nutritional profile as it has at least 40 percent less sugar, 90 percent more fiber and 25 percent more protein than most dark and milk chocolates. 

For Healy, the reason most companies go with 30 percent sugar reduction is due to claims that are allowable – 30 percent is the threshold for making a “reduced sugar” claim, he comments. 

Ireland-based Healy Group has launched PrimaFi Cocoa, a micronized cocoa fiber specifically developed for use in chocolate manufacture. PrimaFi Cocoa was in development for nearly 24 months. “As taste, texture and aroma are so imperative to chocolate, we took our time to ensure that the product suited the unique needs of this category,” he further notes. “Within our trials, we have noted that sugar can be reduced by up to 45 percent. After this, the organoleptic properties would start to be affected.”

Typically, sugar reduction in confectionery, and in particular in chocolate, has come by way of using less consumer-friendly products like Dextrin’s or Polydextrose, states Healy. “There has not been a product like PrimaFi Cocoa up until now that offers sugar reduction in chocolate using a part of the cocoa plant itself,” he reveals. 

“This offers manufacturers an opportunity to create healthier products using this natural component of the cocoa bean, while also contributing to reducing waste that would otherwise be incinerated,” he says. 

“We also see that while lots of consumers still want decadence, many are looking at manufacturers to make their indulgences permissible in terms of health, particularly in January where this focus is more acute. PrimaFi Cocoa really allows us to tap into this effectively, by both reducing the sugar and enhancing the fiber in chocolate,’ he explains. 

The company’s range of micronized products is created using a mechanical milling method which ensures that the nutritional offering of the base ingredient is maintained during the process. 

“PrimaFi Cocoa, using proprietary milling techniques, naturally reduces the typical particle size of cocoa fiber at circa 100 micron into a class of its own, where the particle size is less than 20 micron,” explains Paul Sheldrake, Group Applications and Technical Director at Healy Group. “Micronizing the natural, insoluble cocoa shell fiber makes it behave in the same manner as a soluble fiber for a smooth end product.”

In addition to being high in bioactive compounds, PrimaFi Cocoa can simply be labeled as “cocoa shell powder” or “cocoa fiber,” enhancing its appeal by addressing the increasing demand for healthy indulgence. PrimaFi Cocoa is available in light and dark powders for milk and dark chocolate products, and cocoa shell powder is fully approved by both the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Increased demand for fiber
Healy notes that the company is seeing an increasing demand for fibers across a wide range of sectors within the food industry. “It is fairly well-known that consumers rarely eat their recommended daily intake of fiber,” he says. “Other fibers within our wider ingredient portfolio are growing in popularity as a result of this; they can be applied to many application areas and resulting nutritional claims can directly contribute to the growing gut-health trend seen in recent years.” PrimaFi Cocoa is classed as a dietary fiber, which will contribute toward creating a healthier digestive system. 

“There are two defining driving forces for us; the first being manufacturer led demand for natural sugar reduction solutions, the second being a growing consumer awareness surrounding digestive health and sugar intake,” Healy continues. 

Functional fibers are a great, clean-label way to improve both the sugar content and nutritional profile of a product, but until now have been difficult to apply in chocolate without impacting the organoleptic properties, he mentions. 

This is now the third launch within a year for the company’s Prima range, including micronized pea and rice proteins, and the recent textured pea protein, however, Healy also reveals that the company is “never standing still and we have a few innovations up our sleeve that we are continually working on.”



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