Yogurt with a side of decadence
Adding chocolate to yogurt gives consumers permission to indulge. The yogurt base delivers protein, calcium and other essential nutrients, while the chocolate makes it a special treat. But adding chocolate ingredients to what tends to be a tart, acidic base can be challenging.
“The main issue you face when developing a chocolate yogurt is meeting consumers’ expectations,” Mr. Boza said. “They envision all the decadence that chocolate delivers by itself or as a main ingredient of a dessert but the reality is that when making a chocolate yogurt you have to deal with the intrinsic tartness and sourness of yogurt.
“We have addressed this challenge by increasing the level of sweetness to balance out tartness and also are working with dark cocoa flavor profiles because dark cocoa has bitter notes that blend better with tartness.”
Formulators also must consider the post-acidification process that naturally occurs in yogurt during shelf life.
“Yogurt is a live product, and the cultures continue to produce lactic acid over time,” Mr. Boza said. “This increases tartness and impacts flavor. It’s helpful to use yogurt cultures with low post-acidification behavior. There are also flavor companies introducing new technologies to modulate flavors, by either enhancing or suppressing them according to the product’s needs.”
In addition to managing acidification, there are challenges with how chocolate melts in the mouth. Often with refrigerated yogurt, it does not always get that chance.
“Yogurt is a cold food, and solid chocolate is better enjoyed at room temperature, as most of the flavor is released when the fat melts in the mouth,” said Thierry Saint-Denis, senior research and development director, Danone Dairy North America, White Plains, N.Y. “That is why when small particles of chocolate, such as shavings of chocolate known as stracciatella, are used alone in yogurt, it is a somewhat muted experience for the consumer. This is because we swallow yogurt rather quickly and there is not enough time for the pieces of chocolate to melt.
“A solution is to provide the opportunity to chew and keep the product longer in the mouth, for example when mixed with granola or graham crackers or other solids. This blend is best stored in a different compartment to keep the components crunchy as well as to offer visual cues to the consumer, which impact the overall tasting experience.”
For example, new Dannon Oikos Greek yogurt now comes with a dome of premium inclusions, including some with chocolate. Banana Peanut Butter Crunch is banana cream-flavored yogurt with graham crackers, dark chocolate and peanut butter chips. The Coconut Chocolate Crunch is toasted coconut vanilla-flavored yogurt with graham crackers, dark chocolate and almonds.
Chocolate syrups or variegates are another option. These may be blended into the yogurt, or delivered as a layer, either in the bottom of the cup or on top. The latter is what Dannon does with its Dannon Light & Fit Greek Chocolate on Top. These 5-oz cups contain nonfat Greek yogurt topped with a dollop of smooth, creamy chocolate sauce.