There’s little more comforting at this time of year than cosying up in front of a fire, under a blanket, with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
Supermarket shelves are packed with luxurious, indulgent options, low-calorie and low-sugar choices as well as a range of flavours.
But what’s in this indulgent treat?
You’d expect to see chocolate, cocoa powder and milk powder in the list of ingredients, but bestselling brand Cadbury’s Instant hot chocolate contains 15 ingredients.
Here’s a rundown of some you might not expect or understand on the label:
1. Glucose syrup
Sugar is the main ingredient in this hot chocolate, but there’s more added sweetness in the form of glucose syrup (the fourth listed ingredient).
Glucose syrup is a concentrated source of sugar that is used widely in confectionery as a sweetener. It also acts as a thickener.
These two sweet sources combined mean that one serving of this hot chocolate contains 17g of sugar – more than four teaspoons and more than half the amount of free sugar an adult should have in a day.
2. Whey powder
Whey is the watery part of milk that’s left when making cheese or yoghurt.
Whey proteins are separated from this watery liquid to create a powder.
This powder is also used in many protein and body-building shakes.
3. Ammonium phosphatides (E442) and mono- and di-glycerides (E471)
These are emulsifiers commonly used in chocolate. They prevent the separation of the fats from the cocoa powder and milk powder.
4. Silicon dioxide (E551)
An anti-caking agent that stops the powder clumping together.
5. Carboxymethyl cellulose (E466)
Also sometimes labelled as cellulose gum, this is a thickener which improves the ‘mouth feel’ and texture of the hot chocolate by increasing the viscosity (making it feel ‘thicker’ and therefore creamier).
Don’t fear all E-numbers. They’re food additives that have been approved as safe for use in the EU. Many everyday products contain them and they serve a variety of functions.
For example, preservatives keep food from spoiling and prevent bacteria growth. This hot chocolate contains sodium phosphate (E339).
Preservatives also extend shelf-life and therefore reduce food waste.
6. Coconut and palm oils
This hot chocolate also contains coconut and palm oils as added ingredients. These fats help the product feel more luxurious, creamy and also improve ‘mouth feel’.
It’s unlikely you’d expect to see salt as an ingredient in hot chocolate, but this contains 1.6g of salt per 100g of powder. That’s more than in Walkers Ready Salted crisps, which contain 1.4g of salt per 100g.
This works out as 0.45g of salt per serving of hot chocolate, 7.5% of the daily maximum recommended salt intake for an adult.
Other ingredients include unspecified flavourings and milk protein.