The food and beverage industry is under constant pressure to reduce the amount of added sugar and artificial sweeteners that are found in the huge variety of processed food products and beverages.
This is mainly due to the negative impact these ingredients are having on the health of our global population: Obesity and diabetes are skyrocketing not only in the Western world but also in underdeveloped countries. Obesity contributes to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, which are collectively known as “metabolic syndrome.” As a consequence, massive healthcare costs are incurred. Our society is getting sicker partly due to the increasing variety of sugary processed foods. These products are easily consumed due to their sweetness, convenience, and availability, with advertising playing an intensive role as well.
Food innovations are also driving the improvement of existing food products and beverages that can be targeted at health-conscious consumers. This drive implies that there could be a way for food manufacturers to avoid the sugar taxes that have already begun to be imposed in the United Kingdom, the Middle East, and Africa, which could follow across the globe. The debate is ongoing on this matter.
Certain industries are thus becoming more conscious and are collaborating with corporate bodies to lower the sugar content of their products, or avoid the incorporation of artificial sweeteners, without compromising the technological and sensory properties of these products. At the beginning of 2018, PreScouter covered some of the top sugar innovations in 2017. Here, we highlight companies with innovative solutions for sugar reduction that emerged in 2018.
In January 2018, an article published in FoodNavigator-Asia mentioned that 200 “sugar reduction” retail stores will be helping to decrease obesity and diabetes in China, which has led to the development of an industry park and a partnership agreement with the company Bayn. Bayn Europe, an independent formulation developer within the field of sugar reduction, has created a cloud-based platform to catalyse food producers’ R&D and accelerate the market entry for food products and beverages with lower sugar content. The launch of an initial prototype that is undergoing development is expected to happen in 2020. This innovative project is being funded by E.U. Horizon 2020 and the Swedish research agency Vinnova. In addition, Bayn has developed EUREBA C-01 and -02 sugar replacers, which are specially designed for chocolates that are already on sale in Swedish grocery stores and online. EURABA is based on ingredients such as sugar alcohols, dietary fibers, and natural sweeteners.
Nestlé launched their sugar reduction project in 2016. Nestlé CTO Stefan Catsicas has stated that their goal is to shrink the size of their sugar crystals. The reduction of the size of the sugar crystals increases the sweetness of the sugar by causing it to dissolve faster in the mouth when consumed. This sugar reduction method is based on material science, that is, restructuring the sugar crystals into an amorphous and porous sugar that is added to their products. To achieve a reduced sugar content of 40%, the sizes of the sugar crystals will be reduced accordingly.
Analysis under an electron microscope shows the porous nature of the newly developed sugar, made by spray-drying a mixture of sugar, milk powder, and water. Food labeling must be stricter because of the use of milk powder, which is an allergen. Therefore, it must be included in the ingredients list to prevent any allergy risk to our consumers.
Nestlé has filed a patent and has already begun to introduce their faster-dissolving sugar across a range of its new confectionery products. Stay tuned, as more information about this new technology will be out sometime in 2019.
In 2018, Nestlé added a new product containing structured sugar that has 30% less sugar called Milkybar Wowsomes, a new version of their 81-year-old white chocolate that is now on the shelves in Britain and Ireland. However, once the structured sugar is out on the market, the price might be much higher than table sugar, which would inevitably increase the cost of a food product. Will that still attract consumers? The marketing strategy used by the Nestlé marketing team is that the product contains fewer calories that will attract the attention of parents and children. Is the lower-sugar Milkybar Wowsomes a healthy snack for our kids or to consume on a regular basis? Let the health experts provide their verdict!
In November 2018, Givaudan announced a novel approach to sugar reduction. A global leader in flavours and fragrances, the company launched a new method to lower the sugar level without requiring added sweeteners. The aim is to achieve 50% sugar reduction. Givaudan drew inspiration from dishes developed by Michelin-starred chefs to deliver a less sweet but fully satisfying taste.
Without revealing detailed information about the novel solution, Givaudan describes a “new, proprietary, sensory-profiling methodology – the Holistic Language” that allows them to better understand the customer experience and deliver results. Using this profiling methodology, a 50% reduced-sugar orange drink and a new reduced-sugar peach yoghurt drink were developed and tasted at the Het Amsterdamse Proeflokaal culinary school in Amsterdam. Nely Vasblom, Product Manager Beverages, stated that, along with fiscal measures to encourage lower sugar intake, “we have also seen consumers becoming much more conscious about what they eat, seeking out healthy, low sugar products that don’t use sugar alternatives.”
Sensient Technologies, with the goal of reducing sugar content by 75% in their products, has launched SweetEase 3G natural flavors. These sweetness enhancers, which are locally manufactured in Australasia, are primarily developed to meet the needs of Australian and New Zealand consumers, following Food Standard Australia New Zealand legislation.
Regarding beverages, Simply Beverages has developed and introduced into production a product called Simply Light, which is a line of lemonades and orange juice drinks with less sugar and fewer calories. This is achieved by combining either 10% lemon juice or 42% orange juice with water and other natural ingredients. The company says they have been able to reduce sugar by 50% in the orange juice drinks and 75% in the lemonades, producing beverages with 50 and 25 calories, respectively, per 8-oz of serving. They use stevia for the sweetness, yielding a beverage with 11 grams of inherent sugar and no added sugar. While these are the marketing tools used to advertise their products, including labeling claims, regulators need to investigate these findings for verification, before they reach our children.
Health-conscious consumers have been demanding products with less added sugar so they don’t have to compromise their health while enjoying their favorite snacks and drinks. Indeed, the competition to reduce sugar content is fierce. Nestlé is aiming for 40% reduction, Givaudan, 50%, and Sensient Technologies, 75%. Some companies are using natural sweeteners such as stevia, while others are modifying the structure of the sugar molecules. The next step will be to determine which method is more cost-effective to include in the end product.
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