By Martinne Geller
LONDON (Reuters) - Nestle, the world's largest packaged food group, said it had devised a new technology that has the potential to reduce sugar in some of its confectionery products by up to 40 percent without affecting the taste.
The maker of Kitkat and Aero bars said its researchers have found a way using only natural ingredients to change the structure of sugar particles. By hollowing out the crystals, Nestle said each particle dissolves more quickly on the tongue, so less sugar can be used in chocolate.
"Our scientists have discovered a completely new way to use a traditional, natural ingredient," the company's chief technology officer, Stefan Catsicas, said in a statement late on Wednesday.
The announcement comes as a global obesity epidemic ramps up pressure on processed food makers to make their products healthier. Nestle and its peers have all been working to reduce sugar, fat and salt, as consumers increasingly opt for fresher, healthier options.
Nestle said it was patenting its findings and would begin to use the faster-dissolving sugar across a range of its confectionery products from 2018.
Nestle is not the first company to experiment with designer molecules.
PepsiCo in 2010 piloted a designer salt molecule that it said would allow it to use less sodium without affecting the taste of its snacks, which include Walkers crisps and Cheetos.
(Additional reporting by Silke Koltrowitz in Zurich; Editing by Susan Fenton)