Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolate is a relatively new product from the iconic American chocolate brand. As the name suggests, these chocolates contain no sugar. Instead, they are sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners to provide the sweet taste of chocolate without the added sugars. This allows people seeking to limit their sugar intake, such as those with diabetes or following a keto or low-carb diet, to still enjoy chocolate. But what exactly is the sweetener used in Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates? Let’s take a closer look.
What are Non-Nutritive Sweeteners?
Non-nutritive sweeteners, also known as high-intensity sweeteners or artificial sweeteners, are substances used to sweeten food and beverages without adding calories or carbohydrates. They provide a sweet taste similar to sugar but with minimal effects on blood glucose and insulin levels. Some common non-nutritive sweeteners approved for use in foods and beverages in the United States include:
- Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K)
- Stevia leaf extract
These non-nutritive sweeteners are many times sweeter than regular table sugar (sucrose) so only tiny amounts are needed to achieve the desired sweetness. This results in far fewer calories and carbs than you would get from sugar. Non-nutritive sweeteners allow people to reduce sugar and calories in their diet while still enjoying sweet flavors.
Sweeteners Used in Hershey’s Zero Sugar Chocolates
So which non-nutritive sweeteners does Hershey’s use in their Zero Sugar chocolates? According to the ingredients list printed on the packaging, there are two:
- Erythritol – This is a sugar alcohol (polyol) that occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods. It provides about 70% of the sweetness of sugar but with only 5% of the calories. Erythritol has minimal effects on blood glucose and insulin levels. It is considered safe for people with diabetes. The body does not break down erythritol so it is excreted unchanged in urine, meaning it rarely contributes to tooth decay or gastrointestinal side effects like bloating. Hershey’s uses erythritol as the primary sweetener and bulk ingredient in their Zero Sugar chocolates.
- Stevia Leaf Extract – Stevia is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant. The sweet tasting compounds called steviol glycosides are 200-350 times sweeter than table sugar. Stevia has no effect on blood glucose levels and does not promote tooth decay. Hershey’s adds stevia leaf extract to their Zero Sugar chocolates to enhance sweetness.
So in summary, Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates are sweetened with a blend of the natural sweetener erythritol and stevia leaf extract. This combination provides an intensely sweet flavor similar to sugar, but without all the calories, carbohydrates, and blood glucose effects.
Benefits of Erythritol and Stevia as Sweeteners
Erythritol and stevia offer several advantages as non-nutritive sweeteners:
- Zero Calories – Neither erythritol or stevia contribute any calories or carbs, allowing the chocolate to be zero sugar.
- Does Not Raise Blood Glucose – Studies show erythritol and stevia do not affect blood glucose or insulin levels, even in people with diabetes.
- Tooth-Friendly – Unlike sugar, erythritol and stevia are non-cariogenic, meaning they do not cause dental cavities or erode tooth enamel.
- Natural Origin – Erythritol occurs naturally in some foods, and stevia comes from a plant. Some consumers prefer this over synthetic sweeteners.
- No Bitter Aftertaste – Stevia and erythritol generally do not leave a bitter or metallic aftertaste like some other sweeteners.
- Heat and Shelf Stable – Erythritol and stevia retain their sweetness when heated or exposed to acidic foods, making them ideal for baked goods and chocolate.
- Well Tolerated – Apart from rare allergic reactions, most people can consume erythritol and stevia without gastrointestinal side effects.
For people wanting sweet tasting treats without extra calories or carbs, erythritol and stevia are two of the best non-nutritive sweetener options.
How Erythritol and Stevia May Be Produced
Erythritol is typically commercially produced by fermenting the glucose from cornstarch with a yeast called Moniliella pollinis. The yeast naturally produces erythritol through a process called fermentation. After fermentation, the erythritol is separated and purified to produce the final sweetener product.
Stevia leaf extract is produced by steeping dried stevia leaves in hot water to extract the sweet glycosides. This crude extract then goes through a multi-step purification process to isolate the sweetest fractions and remove any bitter aftertastes. This involves using solvents, decolorizing agents, and ion exchange resins. The final purified stevia extract contains over 90% steviol glycosides.
Both erythritol and stevia used in foods go through rigorous safety and purity testing to ensure they meet FDA standards for sweeteners. Hershey’s sources these ingredients from reputable suppliers.
How Much Erythritol and Stevia Are Used in Hershey’s Zero Sugar Chocolates?
Looking at the ingredients lists on Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolate packaging reveals the approximate amounts of each sweetener:
|Hershey’s Product||Primary Sweetener||Secondary Sweetener|
|Zero Sugar Milk Chocolate||Erythritol||Stevia Leaf Extract|
|Zero Sugar Dark Chocolate||Erythritol||Stevia Leaf Extract|
|Zero Sugar Almond Bar||Erythritol||Stevia Leaf Extract|
For all varieties, erythritol is listed first indicating it is the primary bulk sweetener. Stevia leaf extract is second meaning it is included in smaller amounts to provide extra sweetness and flavor.
Exact amounts of each sweetener are proprietary information held by Hershey’s. However, we can deduce that erythritol likely makes up the vast majority (at least 50% or more) of the sweetener content to provide texture and volume. Stevia enhances the sweetness but is used sparingly due to its intense potency.
How Hershey’s Zero Sugar Compares to Other Sugar-Free Chocolates
Hershey’s is not the only brand to offer sugar-free chocolate options. Here is how Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates compare to some other popular sugar-free and low carb chocolate brands:
|Hershey’s Zero Sugar||Erythritol, Stevia|
|Lily’s Sweets||Erythritol, Stevia|
|Endangered Species||Erythritol, Natural Flavors|
|Russell Stover||Maltitol, Acesulfame K|
Most sugar-free and keto-friendly chocolate brands choose erythritol as the primary sweetener due to its taste and baking properties. Many combine it with stevia or other non-nutritive sweeteners for extra sweetness. Hershey’s Zero Sugar has a very similar sweetener profile to popular brands like Lily’s and Chocoperfection.
Some sugar-free chocolates rely on maltitol, a sugar alcohol that provides sweetness but has more calories and carbs than erythritol. Maltitol also causes gastrointestinal side effects in some people when eaten in excess. The use of erythritol instead of maltitol gives Hershey’s Zero Sugar an advantage for people wanting to strictly limit sugar alcohols.
Is There a Sugar Alcohol Warning on Hershey’s Zero Sugar Packaging?
Foods containing sugar alcohols are required to display a nutritional statement warning that excessive consumption may cause laxative effects. This is because if consumed in large amounts, sugar alcohols can draw water into the intestines and cause diarrhea or digestive upset in some people.
Since Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates are sweetened with the sugar alcohol erythritol, there is an FDA-mandated label that states:
“Sensitive to Sugar Alcohols? If so, eat this chocolate in moderation – erythritol, a sugar alcohol used to sweeten this chocolate, may have a laxative effect.”
This is not meant to discourage consumption of the chocolate but simply to inform that overindulging could lead to gastrointestinal discomfort. For most people, consuming erythritol in the amounts found in a typical serving of Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolate is well tolerated without issues. Those with a known sensitivity can adjust intake accordingly.
Is Hershey’s Zero Sugar Keto-Friendly?
The ketogenic or “keto” diet involves restricting carb intake to achieve nutritional ketosis, a metabolic state where the body burns fat for fuel. Keto dieters must limit carbs to 20-50 grams per day.
With no actual sugar and the low-carb sugar alcohol erythritol as its sweetener, Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolate can fit into a keto eating plan. A 1.45oz Hershey’s Zero Sugar Almond Bar contains:
- 140 calories
- 3g net carbs
- 12g fat
- 3g protein
This nets out at just 3g of carb “cost” per serving. When consumed in moderation, Hershey’s Zero Sugar provides a sweet, chocolatey treat for keto dieters while staying within daily carb limits. The high fat content from the cocoa butter also makes it a good energy source for ketosis.
Can People with Diabetes Eat Hershey’s Zero Sugar?
With no actual sugar and the minimal effects of erythritol and stevia on blood glucose levels, Hershey’s Zero Sugar can be suitable for people with diabetes.
However, as with any food, it is best to first consult your doctor or dietitian to discuss incorporating Hershey’s Zero Sugar as part of your individualized diabetic diet plan. Portion size and overall carb counts for the day still matter for diabetes management.
In general, the American Diabetes Association states that non-nutritive sweeteners like erythritol and stevia can be safely used in moderation by people with diabetes. For those seeking chocolate with less impact on blood sugar, Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates present a nice option to satisfy sweet cravings. Always account for their carb content when calculating total daily carbohydrate intake.
Is There Caffeine in Hershey’s Zero Sugar Chocolate?
Caffeine occurs naturally in cocoa beans. But Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates contain no additional caffeine added beyond minuscule trace amounts found in the cocoa ingredients.
According to testing provided to the FDA, a 1.45oz Hershey’s Zero Sugar Almond Bar contains approximately 1mg of caffeine from the chocolate itself. This is negligible compared to the 95mg in an average cup of coffee.
So those avoiding caffeine for health reasons can generally consume Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolate without concern of stimulant effects from caffeine. As with any food, check with your healthcare provider about your specific dietary needs.
Does Hershey’s Zero Sugar Contain Gluten?
According to Hershey’s, their Zero Sugar chocolates do not contain any gluten-based ingredients. However, they do note that the chocolates are manufactured in facilities that also process other products containing gluten.
For those with celiac disease or extreme gluten sensitivity, potential cross-contamination should be considered. Always check packaging for latest allergen information and consult your doctor when incorporating any new foods into a gluten-free diet.
But for most people avoiding gluten, Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates can be considered gluten-free treats based on their ingredients and manufacturing practices. Those without medical necessity can feel comfortable enjoying these chocolates on a gluten-free diet.
Can Children or Pregnant Women Consume Hershey’s Zero Sugar?
Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates are considered safe for children and pregnant women in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet.
The two sweeteners used, erythritol and stevia leaf extract, are approved by the FDA for use in foods for the general population. There is no evidence they cause harm to children or pregnant women when consumed in amounts typical for low-calorie chocolate.
As with any sweet treat, portion size matters. Children and pregnant women should not overindulge in chocolate to avoid excess calories and to maintain a nutritious diet. But when consumed in moderation, Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates can be enjoyed by most special populations wanting to limit sugar for health reasons. Check with a pediatrician or OB/GYN about specific recommendations.
Does Hershey’s Zero Sugar Contain Dairy or Soy?
Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates contain milk or milk products and are not vegan or dairy-free. They also contain soy lecithin according to the ingredients labels.
Those with dairy allergies or avoiding animal products should not consume Hershey’s Zero Sugar. The milk ingredients and potential of cross-contamination in manufacturing facilities pose risks for people with dairy restrictions.
Similarly, the soy lecithin makes Hershey’s Zero Sugar unsuitable for those with soy allergies or strictly avoiding soy for dietary reasons. Check labels for latest allergen information.
For consumers without allergies who eat dairy and soy, these ingredients are safe to consume. But vegans or those avoiding animal-derived foods should choose plant-based chocolate alternatives that align with their diets.
Does Hershey’s Zero Sugar Contain High Fructose Corn Syrup?
Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates do not contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The sweeteners erythritol and stevia are used in place of HFCS to provide sweetness without calories or blood sugar impact.
High fructose corn syrup will not be listed as an ingredient on any Hershey’s Zero Sugar packaging. The zero sugar claim means no HFCS or any type of nutritive sweetener is added.
Those wishing to avoid HFCS due to health concerns or dietary restrictions can enjoy Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolate without worry. The non-nutritive blend of erythritol and stevia replaces HFCS and sugar entirely.
Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates provide a delicious sweet chocolate treat without sugar or calories by using the natural, non-nutritive sweeteners erythritol and stevia leaf extract. The blend of these two sweeteners gives Hershey’s Zero Sugar a taste profile close to the original while keeping carb and calorie content minimal. This allows people watching their sugar intake for health or dietary reasons to still satisfy their chocolate cravings. When consumed in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet, Hershey’s Zero Sugar chocolates can be enjoyed by most people looking for smarter sugar-free snacking. Those with food sensitivities or certain medical conditions should consult their healthcare provider before incorporating any new product into their diet. But for most chocolate lovers seeking a little less guilt in their sweet treat, Hershey’s Zero Sugar offers a delicious option low in sugar, carbs, and calories thanks to its signature blend of natural, non-nutritive sweeteners erythritol and stevia.