Sector News

Sugar reduction: A diversified sweetener toolbox unlocks clean formulation

September 9, 2020
Food & Drink

The growing need for sugar reduction sees renewed interest from formulators seeking new approaches to averting sugar taxes, making products taste good while keeping sweetness profiles low.

Key suppliers highlight how the segment is branching out beyond stevia, with new launches of “label-friendly” wheat starch- and barley malt-based solutions. Meanwhile, expansion of newcomer allulose’s starring potential as a natural sweetener is showing no signs of slowing down.

In Europe, agri-food supplier Cargill recently inaugurated a customized sweetener innovation platform, called Infuse by Cargill. The new service model consolidates the company’s ingredient acumen to rapidly create tailor-made ingredient blends addressing complexities in consumer demands, such as sugar and calorie reduction, label-friendly, plant-based and other “free-from” formulation needs.

“Given today’s complex formulation challenges, the days of solving problems with a single ingredient are gone. However, with Infuse by Cargill, we can offer customers the ease of a single solution – to help speed up their development and launch innovative products faster to market. With more than 300 ingredients in our toolbox, we can quickly develop, deliver and optimize prototypes, dramatically shortening bench development time,” Denise McCarthy, Segment Director, Sweetness at Cargill tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

For Europe, Cargill has recently launched several new sweetness solutions including SweetPure, a “label-friendly” unrefined sweetener, obtained from the treatment of wheat starch with barley malt. “As it is only mildly processed, it meets International Organization for Standardization (ISO) natural definition and answers consumers’ demand for recognizable ingredients and less processed foods. Thanks to its mild sweetening properties and grainy taste and color, it is a perfect fit for bakery and cereal applications,” explains McCarthy.

In other new launches, C☆TruSweet 01795 by Cargill is a 95 percent pure fructose syrup that is characterized by a naturally higher relative sweetness than sucrose. As a fruit sugar, it delivers the same sweet taste of sugar at lower usage levels. This enables a 30 percent sugar and calorie reduction and an even further reduction when combined with stevia-based sweeteners in fruity foods and beverages.

Taxing sugar and sweeteners
Sugar reduction ties into Innova Market Insights’ sixth Top Trend for 2020, “Macronutrient Makeover,” which shows no signs of abating. “Over time, the sugar reduction toolkit has also expanded, making it possible to achieve greater levels of sugar reduction than before. We all want effective, workable solutions capable of reversing the obesity trend,” Papao Saisnith, Marketing Leader, Sweeteners, at Tate & Lyle, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

“A number of governments globally are introducing or have introduced taxes on individual nutrients or categories. Their experiences, monitored and robustly evaluated, will add to our collective understanding of the efficacy of this approach,” she remarks.

McCarthy notes that price remains one of many factors that influence consumers’ food choices. While imposing additional taxes on select foods or beverages can lower demand for targeted products, she argues that there is inconclusive evidence that such tactics lead to improvements in public health.

In recent years, there has been debate on whether or not sugar taxes should be extended to sweeteners as well. “Because low and non-caloric sweeteners can be effective tools for adding sweetness to foods with fewer calories, taxing products containing low or non-caloric sweeteners may weaken any effects of food and beverage taxes intended to improve consumer health,” says McCarthy.

Implementation of front of pack labeling schemes – such as Nutri-score, which is seeing increased adoption in various European markets, or the traffic light system in the UK – is enabling consumers to better understand the composition of products in terms of the amounts of energy and nutrients the product provides. This further strengthens the demand for natural sugar alternatives.

Allulose on the rise
Tate & Lyle anticipates a sustained trend in non-artificial sugar alternatives, which will push up demand for more launches for natural sweeteners, such as monk fruit. Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a communication exempting allulose from sugars and added sugars labeling. Saisnith expects new product launches in the US containing allulose to accelerate and outpace the growth of all other sweeteners.

“It is a rare sugar that has all the taste, texture and bulking properties of sucrose, but only a tenth of the calories,” Saisnith remarks. “Originally identified in wheat, it has since been found in certain fruits including figs and raisins. It has already been approved in the US, Mexico and parts of Asia-Pacific. New product launches in these markets are growing at a four-year compound annual growth rate of 50.4 percent. Our Dolcia Prima Allulose is also available as Non-GMO Project Verified.”

Other recent stevia innovations from Tate & Lyle include bio-converted Stevia sweetener Rebaudiosides (Reb) M. “Our new Tasteva M Stevia Sweetener has a remarkably sugar-like taste profile. It maintains its sweet taste even at the highest levels of sugar replacement and has no bitter aftertaste. Starting from stevia leaf extract, we apply a bio-conversion process and aqueous-only finishing step that gets more from each leaf, making it a high-quality but still cost-effective solution,” details Saisnith.

Expanding distribution channels in China
Stevia producer SweeGen recently announced its joint venture with the China Commercial Foreign Trade Group (CCFT) as the strategic partner to distribute Bestevia next-generation non-GMO zero-calorie stevia sweeteners through distribution channels in China. It flags growth opportunities in this market linked to shifting public health policies.

“CCFT’s affiliate company China Commerce Sugar Industry Co. is one of the largest sugar distributors and trading partners internationally. The joint venture will transform the sugar market by providing food and beverage manufacturers in China with the highly sought-after sugar reduction solutions from Sweegen,” says a company spokesperson.

China consumes approximately 15 million tons of sugar annually, reports SweeGen. Growing health problems linked to obesity and diabetes are a prominent concern to government health officials. Sugar intake is expected to decrease because of China’s “Healthy China 2030” initiative to reduce sugar consumption by at least 17 percent, the company notes.

“Next-generation” stevia sweeteners have a much better taste profile than earlier stevia versions and can be used without any maskers, details Katharina Pueller, Director, Natural Sweetener Business at SweeGen.

“Our stevia sweeteners are produced using bioconversion, thereby mimicking a process that happens naturally in the leaf. Stevia leaf extract is combined with enzymes that bio-convert molecules into better tasting molecules – such as Reb M, Reb D and Reb E,” she explains.

Next-generation stevia sweeteners such as Reb M and Reb D can be used in formulations as “natural flavors to enhance the sweetness of sugar, while reducing sugar levels at 30 to 40 percent. Stevia itself can be used to mask off notes from active ingredients, as well as cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), she continues.

Asia Pacific brands now have access to an expanded portfolio of sugar reduction solutions with the regulatory approval of SweeGen’s Bestevia Reb D and E in Singapore, adding to the company’s previous approval of Bestevia Reb M by the Singapore Food Agency in 2019.

By: Benjamin Ferrer

Source: Food Ingredients First

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