Stefan Bon
Stefan Bon has developed 'healthy' chocolate by replacing fat with fruit juice (Warwick University)

"Healthy" chocolate has been created by researchers in Warwick, who have replaced the fat with fruit juice or diet coke.

The team, from the University of Warwick, said they had produced a chocolate that maintains its firm, snappy yet melt-in-the-mouth texture, and tastes almost the same as traditional full-fat confectionery.

Lead researcher Stefan Bon, who presented the findings at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, said the technology could allow manufacturers to create lower-fat chocolate and other sweets.

Bon said fruit juice, vitamin C water or diet cola could be used to replace half the fat in chocolate.

The team also says by infusing chocolate with juice, they were able to prevent "sugar bloom" - the white film that forms on chocolate when it gets old.

Normally, cocoa butter gives chocolate its texture. To reduce fat content, researchers have been working to introduce tiny air bubbles into the chocolate.

However, by using water-based drinks instead of air bubbles to infuse the chocolate, the sweet treat is dense, so the consumer does not feel conned, they said.

"Everyone loves chocolate - but unfortunately we all know that many chocolate bars are high in fat," Bon said.

The team replaced the fat with fruit juice, diet cola and vitamin C water (Warwick University)

"However it's the fat that gives chocolate all the indulgent sensations that people crave - the silky smooth texture and the way it melts in the mouth but still has a 'snap' to it when you break it with your hand.

"We've found a way to maintain all of those things that make chocolate 'chocolaty' but with fruit juice instead of fat."

A 2oz serving of dark chocolate can contain up to 13g of fat - a fifth of the average person's daily allowance. The type of fat in chocolate is often saturated, meaning it is even more unhealthy.

Bon said that even though the fat is being replaced with sugary drinks, the overall sugar content is reduced with their technology.

"Fruit-juice-infused candy tastes like an exciting hybrid between traditional chocolate and a chocolate-juice confectionary.

"Since the juice is spread out in the chocolate, it doesn't overpower the taste of the chocolate. We believe that the technology adds an interesting twist to the range of chocolate confectionary products available.

"The opportunity to replace part of the fat matrix with water-based juice droplets allows for greater flexibility and tailoring of both the overall fat and sugar content.

"Our study is just the starting point to healthier chocolate - we've established the chemistry behind this new technique but now we're hoping the food industry will take our method to make tasty, lower-fat chocolate bars."