What is lactose?
Lactose is a sugar. A disaccharide sugar to be more specific – “di” simply means two, and “saccharide” means sugar. So the linking of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of galactose creates the disaccharide lactose.
The main sugar found in milk and dairy products is lactose. When you drink milk an enzyme called lactase gets to work in your intestine. It breaks the bond holding the glucose and galactose molecules together. This results in the release of the individual glucose and galactose sugars which your cells use for energy.
If you are “lactose intolerant” unfortunately you do not have enough of the enzyme lactase to be able to break apart lactose into glucose and galactose. The naturally occurring bacteria in the digestive system then use lactose as a food source. These bacteria use the lactose by fermentation and fermentation leads to the release of gases such as hydrogen and methane. It is these gases which lead to the lactose intolerant person experiencing extremely uncomfortable bloating and cramps. Diarrhea is also a common symptom because the fermentation of lactose leads to an increased flow of water into the bowel. More information is available HERE.
Lactose intolerance rates vary in different populations around the world, with rates of 5 – 15% in the UK, but rates as high as 90 – 100% in some Asian populations.
Why did we make our milk chocolate lactose free?
There are two reasons why we did this. Firstly was the scientific reason.
We have tried very hard to reduce the total amount of sugar in our chocolate, but let’s be clear, we still want our chocolate to taste satisfyingly sweet. Lactose itself is not very sweet compared to say natural cane sugar (i.e. sucrose). What this means is that when you make “normal” milk chocolate the milk powder you add, which contains around 37% lactose, does not add much sweetness to the chocolate. As an example, Cadburys Dairy Milk contains 23% milk powder and milk powder contains around 37% lactose. This means that a 100-gram bar of Dairy Milk contains around 9 grams of lactose. However, all this lactose does not add that much sweetness to the chocolate. Basically eating a sugar like lactose in chocolate is a big waste of sweetness potential.
So what did we do? Well, we decided to harness the sweetness potential in milk by using lactose-free milk powder. Lactose-free milk powder has had lactase enzyme added to it so that the lactose is already broken into glucose and galactose. The beauty of this is that glucose and galactose are both significantly sweeter than lactose. This means that lactose-free milk powder tastes much sweeter than normal milk powder. Because of the inherent sweetness of the lactose-free milk powder we do not have to add so much other sugar. End result: less sugar needs to be added to make great milk chocolate – awesome!
Second, sharing the love. I personally go through periods where I experience symptoms along the lines of irritable bowel syndrome. The effects that lactose causes in people who are lactose intolerant are not so dissimilar to some of the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. From personal experience I know this sucks! I love milk (I often drink at least a litre of milk a day), and I also love milk chocolate, so for me not be able to enjoy milk or products with milk in them would be a major downer. So the second reason came down to a desire to make real milk chocolate that could also be enjoyed by people who normally can not enjoy the pleasures of milk chocolate due to being lactose intolerant.
Is there a down side? Just the one, lactose-free milk powder costs around 5 times more than standard milk powder. Bummer I know – but hopefully the upsides are worth the extra associated cost.
If you have read this far I must thank you, so thank you.