As detailed in their study, which was published in the Journal of Food Science, researchers from North Carolina State University sought to evaluate whether the use stevia or monk fruit extracts as a sole or partial sweetener in skim chocolate milk was acceptable to parents (aged 18 to 35) and children (five to 13).
Chocolate milk sweetened solely with the natural non-nutritive sweeteners were deemed "less acceptable" by parents than one sweetened only with 51.4g per litre of sugar.
Samples mixing 46mg per litre of monk fruit extract or 30mg per litre of stevia extract and 51.4g per litre of sugar were, however, preferred to the sugar-sweetened sample by both parents and children.
The presentation of information on the natural non-sensitive sweeteners, however, "had different effects on parental acceptance."
“Traditional parents preferred sucrose sweetened chocolate milk and label conscious parents preferred chocolate milk with higher sugar reduction that was partially sweetened with natural non-nutritive sweeteners," the study concluded.
"Important for manufacturers"
The offer of chocolate milk in schools is known to increase milk consumption among children.
"However," the study says, "the added sugar content of chocolate milk is a concern and has caused some schools to remove or reduce chocolate milk from their lunch programs, which unfortunately decreased milk consumption of children."
Some schools in Kansas City, Missouri, Omaha and Nebraska have instead opted to offer chocolate milk sweetened with a blend of sugar and monk fruit extract, it says.
In these circumstances, the North Carolina State University findings will likely be of interest to chocolate milk manufacturers.
"Understanding consumer acceptability of skim chocolate milks sweetened with natural non-nutritive sweeteners including stevia leaf and monk fruit extracts, especially for children and parents, is important for manufacturers to produce reduced-calorie chocolate milk with an appealing natural label," the study says.
Source: The Journal of Food Science DOI: 10.1111/1750-3841.12835
Title: Parents’ and Children’s Acceptance of Skim Chocolate Milks Sweetened by Monk Fruit and Stevia Leaf Extracts
Authors: XE Li, K Lopetcharat, MA Drake