One of the most prominent global phenomena in recent years is the growing conversations around sugar reductions in processed food products. Consumer attitude towards sugar and sweeteners has also drastically changed. This poses pressure on international ingredient suppliers to find alternative ways to make sweet products marketable, profitable, appealing and palatable, but with a much less sugar content. Artificial sweeteners have been substitutes to white sugar for years, but their side effects have called for the innovative creation of less calorie products.
Why the increasing demand for sugar reduction?
Consumers are becoming more health and nutrition conscious; demanding cleaner, healthier and more functional foods on the global market. Due to its health consequences and high glycemic index, sugar and ‘added sugar’ have contributed to the rising prevalence of obesity, which has nearly tripled between 1975 and 2016. Moreover, in 2014, the global economic burden was predicted to be 2 trillion USD. There is, therefore, an urgent need for food manufacturers and policy makers to tackle this alarming issue.
Many health experts see sugar reduction as critical to the improvement of health and quality of life. To achieve this goal, the industries’ engagement coupled with public health programs are essential to reverse the obesity problem.
Initiatives to sugar reduction:
With the inspiring work of Jamie Oliver, sugar taxes are successfully coming into effect in Ireland and the UK in April 2018; a game changer for the industry. Held at the Royal Society of London, the Sugar Reduction Summit 2017 launched an award to recognize innovation and portray the best practices in sugar reduction technologies. In addition, Nestlé is committed to lower sugars by 10% in 2018, whereby which, around 7500 tons of sugar will be removed across a wide range of renowned trademarks. Meanwhile, other companies are taking the initiative to develop sugar-free products, such as ice-cream. Interestingly, on July 26, 2017, Coca-Cola® launched its Coca-Cola Zero Sugar drink, representing the latest zero-sugar innovation.
Challenges to overcome when designing sugar-reduced products:
Sugar incorporation in food products and drinks becomes a challenge once the formulation is modified. For example, as explained by the team at Kerry, sugar reduction can drastically alter the sensory profile (e.g. sourness, bitterness) of the end products, as summarized in Figure 1.
Natural high intensity sweeteners (NHIS), such as Stevia (steviol glycosides) or Monk Fruit (Mogroside V), are sugar substitutes, commonly used in beverages and food applications. However, they tend to exert a high degree of bitterness, posing severe challenges, mainly, in solid and confectionery products rather than beverages. This is due to their high solubility rate in liquid products, providing a uniform distribution on the taste bud of consumers. Consequently, industries are trying to counteract the bitter aftertaste in non-liquid goods, to satisfy customers’ needs.
Hence, understanding the science of taste and olfaction is critical. Controlling water activity (Aw) is also important to prevent sogginess and fruit pieces turning hard as well as to avert moisture and color from leaching out in the rest of the food products. From a quality control perspective, having the correct Aw increases shelf-life and prevents microbial growth and spoilage of the related products. These principles are actually adopted by Kerry and Taura Natural Ingredients. Some other parameters that must be considered when developing low-sugar products include functionality, labeling, packaging, ingredient cost and processing ability.
The top 5 2017 innovative formulating tools for sugar reduction:
Innovation #1: Kerry Group
This new sweetener contains fruit and botanical extracts, with functional properties. Kerry highlights that it is easy and safe to use, with a clean label health claim and good taste profile.
Convenient for its application in all dairy products and beverages, it is a range of value-added soluble dietary fibres, with a fibre content of >90%. Health-wise, it provides a satiating and prebiotic effect to consumers. Technologically, the enriched fiber content acts as a suitable bulking agent, contributing to the creaminess of ice creams. An example of a nutritional profile of a 30% reduced sugar cookie is illustrated in Table 1.
|Sample||Sugars (g)||Fibre (g)||Protein (g)||Salt (g)|
|% Reduction||30 %|
Table 1: Nutritional information (per 100 g) (Source: Kerry)
Innovation #2: Ingredion, Inc.
Ingredion’s 5-step process DIAL-IN® Technology, as briefed in Figure 2, is a time and cost efficient technique developed by the ingredient supplier. It can be applied to novel product development, mainly targeted to dairy beverage products, with reduced sugar content, without changing texture and sweetness. The introduction to the innovative languages of SWEETABULARY™ and TEXICON™ is related to sweetness and texture, respectively. The principles are also explained audio-visually.
Innovation #3: Taura Natural Ingredients
The Ultra-Rapid Concentration (URC) technique creates real fruit and vegetable pieces, pastes and flakes offering potential solutions to lower ‘added’ sugar content in food applications, such as baked goods and cereals. Taura’s unique URC® technology uses physical and mechanical forces to remove water from fruit purees and blends, suitable for heat-sensitive fruits. It results in the concentrate retaining the flavor, color and nutritional characteristics of the raw materials. More importantly, this innovative technology can effectively control the Aw of the ingredients that assist in increasing shelf-life to at least up to 12 months.
Many companies have been using Taura’s URC technology to deliver ‘nutraceuticals naturally’. Recently, for example, Frutarom launched ‘Fruataceuticals’, which are manufactured from true and natural fruits to mimic the sensory profile and health benefits of the true-fruit chews, as reported on 21 September 2017.
Peter Dehasque, CEO of Taura, said:
“The fruit pieces, flakes, shapes, and pastes are produced using Taura’s URC process to quickly evaporate moisture from heat-sensitive fruits and maintain the raw material’s integrity.”
Innovation #4: Tosla
Tosla, a Slovenian food start-up and an innovator in the sweeteners industry, is reinventing, rather than replacing or reducing sugar. It has introduced a liquid sugar at the FIE 2017. The product offers:
- 30% less sugar
- 10% fewer calories
- Double the fibre content
- 20% less cooking time
The product is also 100% natural and clean, without compromising taste.
Innovation #5: DouxMatok
DouxMatok, an Israeli multi-million dollar leading food-tech company has patented the ‘Targeted Delivery Technology Platform’. Developed in 2014 and obtaining a funding approval in 2017, its commercialization breakthrough is expected to happen by the end of 2018. This technology is explained by the founder in the following video:
The principle is based on using less active ingredients of sugar crystals, which are loaded onto a mineral carrier. It sends a signal to the brain that the product is sweet as it stays longer on the taste receptors. This, therefore, results in less sugar consumption.
In conclusion, food companies are focusing on consumers’ needs. In the battle against childhood and adulthood obesity, industries are working towards innovative technologies to develop less sugary products, with similar texture and sweetness. A big question here is “What will be the cost of such innovations and their health impact on consumers?”
Interested in exploring some natural replacements for sugar in applicable in beverages? This freely available report highlights potential novel replacements for sugars that are from natural sources, safe, technologically viable and environmentally sustainable to be incorporated into beverages (e.g. soft drinks, juices).
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