Correcting “Fables on the Labels”

Correcting “Fables on the Labels”

Cross a nutritionist with a chocolate nerd and you get a person (me) who actually reads the labels on every packaged food he buys – the calorie and nutrient info, and ingredient list. Sometimes they don’t jibe and then I take out my calculator.

This happened recently on a couple of bars I really love.

First Up: Sirene Ch’Abil Bar

It’s a “dark milk” bar and the cardamom is grown in the same Guatemalan region as the beans. I noticed the label didn’t mention the percent cocoa, something usually noted, (and that choco-nerds like me want to know). Also, the label gave some odd nutrient information, per 30-gram portion:

· “net carbs” – 18 grams

· protein: 4 grams

· fat: 12 grams

This adds up to 34 grams, so something is awry. Then the label goes on to list:

· carbohydrates: 12 grams,

· fiber 3 grams,

· sugars 7 grams”.

The 12 grams of carbs make more sense than the 18 grams listed previously. The sugars and fiber are undoubtedly included in the 12 grams.

I decided to email the company. They replied almost immediately. The contact person admitted not being thrilled with the lab they’d previously worked with and wanted to know if I had suggestions for more reliable labs. I forwarded information on a reputable lab, from a respected food technologist colleague, including two contacts there.

The Sirene contact was very appreciative and noted that the Ch’Abil bar had 65% cocoa, less than I usually like but this bar was excellent.

“No Added Sugar” Isn’t Lower in Calories

Zotter produces a few bars that really put me away. I love their “no sugar added” bars that are sweetened only with whole milk powder and vanilla powder. I’m not anti-sugar, but most “no sugar added” bars are sweetened with one or more sugar alcohols and I don’t care for the taste. These Zotter bars have no sugar alcohols and the milk powder gives it a creamy mouth feel.

I like their Labooko 70/30 and the 80/20 bars. Thanks to all that milk powder, the label (pictured) indicated that a 33-gram bar has a very reasonable 5 grams of protein, plus some calcium.

All good there, but the text inside concerned me, claiming that, with less added sugar, it had, “of course, fewer calories than other chocolates.”

It may not have as many calories from added sugar, but the grams of sugar not added would be replaced by more cocoa and the milk powder. Example: a 50-gram bar that’s 70% cocoa solids, has 35 grams of cocoa, including the cocoa butter, and probably about 15 grams of added sugar. Remove that 15 grams of sugar and replace it with 15 grams of milk powder, and you have fewer sugar calories but the milk powder supplies its own calories, just not from sugar.

I emailed ZotterUSA and received a quick reply from Barbara, the general manager. I suggested a slight modification of the text to read, “fewer calories from added sugars…” As with Sirene, she was very kind and appreciative of the correction and said she’d email the team in Austria so future labels could be modified.

I’ll buy these bars regardless, but to artisans, make sure everything checks out and there are no fables on your labels and nothing to distract from the taste.

Archived Comments

7/1/2020 follow-up to the Sirene Ch’Abil bar (65% Dark milk with Cardamom). The label changed, but it’s off on another level now. The fiber content for a 30-gm portion is 1 gm. The label indicates that this provides “36% of the Daily Value” for fiber. Really?

That would mean about 3 grams of fiber (the amount in 3 ounces of this Ch’Abil chocolate) would give you 100% of the daily value. Nope. I’m a chocolate nerd but nutrition is my field and where I’ve spent my career, and this label doesn’t fly.

In Canada, the daily value for fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, so 1 gram of fiber gives you only about 4% of the daily value. (It’s 25 grams in the US.)

This is a terrific bar. I just bought another one, which is how I found the goof. But it’s time to get it right. They really need to find a better lab, not just to be accurate in their labeling, but to get nerds like me off their case. (I also just bought their Limited Edition, 73% bar made from cacao from Soconusco, Mexico. Another winner — but since it’s a limited edition, they didn’t get it analyzed.)

Well, that was so kind of you to provide those chocolate makers with free consultations on aspects of their label to adjust!
I stopped being so generous with free advice, as I know the breed pretty well…
Even if they replied kindly at a first impression, I strongly doubt they will enforce any of the corrections proposed.

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