Synergistic and antagonistic ingredient interactions as a sugar reduction strategy in chocolate milk

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Here we report synergistic and antagonistic mixture interactions between sucrose, vanillin, and cocoa powder as a potential added sugar reduction strategy in chocolate milk. Objectives of this project were to (i) model consumer perception of relevant sensory attributes as a function of sucrose, vanillin, and cocoa powder in chocolate milk, (ii) test for the presence of synergistic, additive, and antagonistic interactions via the isobole method, and (iii) determine consumer acceptance of these samples with both adults and children. In Study 1, adult chocolate milk consumers (n = 136) rated perceived intensities of sweetness, bitterness, chocolate flavor, and color for 22 chocolate milk formulations created according to an experimental design to systematically cover the multidimensional design space. Dose–response contour plots and regression modeling highlighted the large contributions of sucrose-vanillin and sucrose-cocoa interactions to ratings of sweetness, bitterness, and chocolate flavor. Indeed, three of the five tested mixture samples showed sweetness synergy and bitterness antagonism. In Study 2, overall acceptability of these five samples was evaluated by adults (n = 142) and children (n = 61) consumers of chocolate milk. Among the three chocolate milks that showed sweetness enhancement and bitterness suppression, one with moderate levels of sucrose (4.67% [w/w]) also received liking scores above neutral (>5 on a 9-point hedonic scale), suggesting this formulation provides the greatest potential to decrease added sugar content while preserving consumer acceptability. Practical Applications: Sucrose, vanillin, and cocoa powder act synergistically and antagonistically on perceived sweetness and bitterness in chocolate milk. Ingredient combinations could be optimized for lowering added sugar content while maintaining acceptability by adult and children consumers of chocolate milk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12770
JournalJournal of Sensory Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Sensory Systems


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