Did you know that in America, like in many places, “Chocolate” is actually a tightly regulated term? It goes a lot beyond flavor of a food, and rather deals with the details of its composition. According to FDA rules – and many rules – a food must meet strict criteria to be called chocolate, although this varies depending on the type of chocolate in question.
According Registrar Corp, according to FDA rules, milk chocolate “must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor, at least 3.39% milk fat and at least 12% milk solids”. White chocolate “must contain at least 20% cocoa butter, at least 14% milk solids, at least 3.5% milk fat [and] it cannot contain more than 55% nutritious carbohydrate sweetener.” Finally, to qualify as dark chocolate, its sole source of chocolate flavor must be “an ingredient that meets one of the cocoa products”.
To get around the rules, many chocolate brands will use terms like “chocolate” or “chocolate flavored” so they can use cheaper, substitute ingredients. Here’s the thing: even within technical and legal limits, companies can still make chocolate cheaply. The secret? Usually it just uses a lot of sugar, oil and HFCS alongside the real chocolate ingredients. Here are 8 chocolate brands that use lesser quality ingredients. And then don’t miss 10 Ice Cream Brands That Use The Lowest Quality Ingredients.
Long marketed as “Crispety Crunchety Peanut-Buttery!” but never marketed as chocolate, these popular treats may taste chocolatey, but there’s technically no chocolate here. Butterfinger Chocolate Adjacent Coating is made with ingredients like corn syrup, vegetable oil, milk, and cocoa, but it doesn’t meet the bar for being real chocolate.
This candy bar may try to present itself as a rich, fancy treat from a brand called “Maître Chocolatier,” but take a closer look at the ingredient list than you do at the “50% dark cocoa” claim on on the packaging. . The first ingredient here is… sugar. And yes, chocolate comes second, but when sugar (or corn syrup) comes first, you better sink your teeth into something else.
Here again is a candy that advertises itself as “chocolate” because it can’t be called chocolate. These foil-wrapped Valentine’s Day staples are made with just one chocolate-like ingredient, and that’s “cocoa (processed with alkali).” They also contain many ingredients that you would probably prefer not to include in your diet, such as artificial flavoring agent vanillin and hydrogenated vegetable oil.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a Cadbury Dairy milk chocolate bar, but there are deceptions here. If you like the decidedly rich and refined Cadbury chocolate you get in Europe, then this will be a disappointment, as they are made in Pennsylvania Hershey under a license agreement from Cadbury. And although they are made with real chocolate ingredients, cocoa butter and all, note that there is trickery on the labelalso, which lists the first ingredient as “milk chocolate”, but in parentheses shows that the first ingredient in “milk chocolate” is simply sugar.
As delicious as they are, it’s probably no surprise that these classic candy cups are so cheap because they’re made with cheap ingredients. Yes, there’s technically real chocolate here, but it’s milk chocolate, the first ingredient of which is sugar. And there’s also hydrogenated vegetable oil here, the go-to for companies looking to reduce quantities of more expensive cocoa butter.
What these chocolate cookies leave in sugar, they make up for it with a number of ingredients you’re better off avoiding. These are things like maltitol, an artificially produced sugar alcohol, fractionated palm kernel oil and hydrogenated palm oil, sorbitol, and more. In short, when you take out the sugar, you add the chemicals, which isn’t always a good deal.
Yes, it’s a classic that you remember among countless glasses of chocolate milk from childhood. No, it is not a chocolate product. That’s why it says “Real chocolate flavoron the label of Hershey syrup instead of saying “chocolate syrup”. The first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, the second ingredient is corn syrup, the third is water, and the fourth is cocoa. And the fifth? Sugar.
Sure, this chocolate taffy candy has been around for over a hundred years, but that’s a testament to American sweet tooth, not candy quality. The best a food adjacent to chocolate, Tootsie Rolls consists of sugar, corn syrup, palm oil, condensed skim milk, cocoa, whey, soy lecithin and artificial and natural flavors. They barely touch the bar to be real chocolate and certainly don’t cross it.
A previous version of this article was originally published on June 24, 2022.