In 2016 we announced that our scientists had managed to make less sugar taste just as good by changing the structure of sugar. Just over a year on from that announcement and Milkybar Wowsomes is on the shelves in the UK and Ireland.
Nestlé’s Milkybar Wowsomes is no ordinary chocolate product. In just 21 months we have created this brand new chocolate bar using our innovative technology that we are calling ‘structured sugar.’ This relatively short time frame is impressive but we knew the importance of this achievement and were keen, in double quick time, to create a confectionery product that would be loved by consumers and contain less sugar.
Nestlé has put every bit of resource possible behind this project, three Research and Development centres, over 2,000 hours a month and much more intensity we would normally do, it really has been a global effortChris Hughes – Senior Specialist
But why Milkybar?
This isn’t the first time the Milkybar has been ahead of its time…
Milkybar was born out of advances in confectionery innovation. Back in 1875 milk chocolate did not exist (all chocolate was either dark or plain), but Daniel Peter changed all that with his innovative new Gala Peter milk chocolate. Peter had experimented for several years without success, but then one day decided to use some milk from the factory of his neighbour, Henri Nestlé, and hey presto, it worked; Daniel Peter had discovered a way to mix milk and chocolate.
Fast forward to 1936 and both Nestlé and Daniel Peter’s business have now merged, and they applied their combined expertise to a new problem: childhood malnutrition. It can be difficult to get our heads around in the 21st century, but in 1936, society was more concerned with helping children to gain weight rather than to lose it, especially if they had been through a long illness or hospital stay that had caused their weight to drop dangerously.
In partnership with Hoffman La Roche, Nestlé created a sweetened condensed milk product that could help children get more vitamins and they called it Nestrovit. There was just one problem: some children didn’t want to drink milk. Nestlé experts came up with an idea: they decided to add cocoa butter to the powdered milk mixture to turn it into a solid tablet using the same technology they had employed to create milk chocolate.
The start of white chocolate
The brilliance of the idea behind the Nestrovit tablets was obvious to Nestlé, and almost immediately they began manufacturing a non-vitaminised variant to sell as a regular confectionery item. This new white chocolate was launched in the UK and on the continent simultaneously; in the UK it was manufactured at our Hayes factory and known as Milky Bar (two separate words in those days), and on the continent it was named after a Dutch dairy company that we had bought named Galak. This was the first white chocolate.
Present day: A new problem
Eighty years later, our consumers now want to be able to have the occasional treat but are more conscious of sugar.
We’ve listened, and we’ve reformulated our products, worked on portion sizes and made commitments to reduce sugar across our businesses and then, we wanted to boldly go where no confectioner had gone before and see if we could make less sugar taste just as good.
Just like that early innovation by Peter and Nestlé in 1875, our structured sugar innovation has been made possible by combining knowledge from different categories; techniques from our research centre in Konolfingen, our factory in Dalston, Cumbria and our global network of scientists and experts at Nestlé have made Wowsomes possible.
Without adding any artificial ingredients we have found a way to change the structure of sugar particles so that they melt on the tongue more efficiently, giving you the similar level of sweetness as a regular sugar particle but with less mass. That means that we can effectively use 30% less sugar in the filling of our new Milkybar Wowsomes chocolate treat. We’ve termed these clever sugar particles ‘Structured sugar’.
It’s important to reassure anyone that is worrying: there are no artificial sweeteners, colours, flavours or preservatives in Milkybar Wowsomes. We are not altering the structure of the sugar molecule itself, just the shape of the particle. It is a bit like baking bread in a different shaped baking tin: the product is the same, we’ve just helped it to fit into the shape that we wanted.
The sugar is just aerated sugar; it’s a bubble in a bubble… Like Aero bubbles!
From starting we’ve done 110 versions of this product, it’s a lot of recipes, a lot of trials – over 300 trials with over 6000 samples producedJess Anderson – R&D Specialist, Chocolate Development
The idea was inspired by candyfloss, with only a small amount of sugar needed to provide the desired sweetness and, like candyfloss, the sugar particles are very delicate, so when mixing with chocolate they dissolve which is why the filling of Wowsomes was the focus for this project. However, we are working to apply the technology in solid chocolate next to achieve further significant sugar reductions.
Milkybar has seen a great deal of change through its long history in the UK and Ireland and has been at the forefront of confectionery innovation all along the way. The new Milkybar Wowsomes creation is a stepping stone to even more innovation, and we’ll keep you posted on our progress.