What Did Sugar Do Wrong?According to the NHS, the UK Government recommends that free sugars (those sugars which are added to food or drinks, and sugars found naturally in honey, syrups, juices, etc.) should not make up more than 5% of our daily calorie intake. This looks like a maximum of approximately 30-35g of sugar for adults and 19-24g for children. A diet high in sugar can often lead to weight gain (due to the higher calories that are typically included in sugary foods), tooth decay, and high blood pressure among other issues. The ease of access to sugary and high-calorie foods is one of the reasons why the reduction of sugar has become an international cause for concern in recent years. Many public health initiatives launched in countries worldwide to promote the reduction of sugar in our diets.
The Business of SugarSugar has quickly transformed into an ingredient that everyone is trying to avoid. In 2018, Innova Market Insights found that 8% of all new US food and beverage launches had a sugar-reduction claim. And it is safe to say that the category has only grown since then. While this seems initially like bad news for the sugar industry, it is merely a new opportunity for brands to adapt their recipes. They can create new, healthier products to replace sugar. Or expand upon the existing full-sugar versions. This is where sugar reduction innovations come into play. If brands can be agile in their processes, there are various methods of seizing the opportunities available. Through these new consumer expectations and demands with regards to sugar intake and inclusion in our food and beverage products. For example, using sugar substitutes is a key strategy for reducing sugar intake while not compromising on taste. Natural sweeteners such as xylitol are becoming increasingly popular with food & beverage brands as a way of maintaining the sweet taste but reducing the negative effects that come with traditional sugar. Irish brands like Pure Treats are a good example of this having created a full range of low-sugar treats that do not compromise on taste.
Removing or Reducing SugarOne important note that brands have to consider when looking to remove or reduce sugar from their ingredients list are the consequences of such a decision. Removing sugar is not as simple as it sounds. As its removal can often drastically affect or change the sensory profile of the product. As we know, taste remains king when it comes to consumer buying behaviour. So even small changes can be costly with regards to repeat purchases. For example, Stevia, a well-known sugar substitute, can be known to be extremely bitter. So in many cases it is not just a case of replacing the sugar for the same amount or equivalent of Stevia. If only it were that easy!
Sugar Reduction Innovation TechnologiesBeyond the creation of sugar substitutes, there have also been some excellent advances in sugar reduction technology over the past few years. These aimed to improve the sugar reduction innovation processes, one of which is Electronic Sensory Technology released by Bayn. Their e-tech works to analyse the aroma of reduced-sugar foods. And compare them with full-sugar products in order to assess how the reduced-sugar food can best mimic the original. Descriptive sensory profiling is a tool that allows you to better understand your product and encompass the full end-to-end sensory experience. Traditionally, this technique has been and still is, carried out by consumer testers. However, as technology evolves, companies like Bayn are discovering new ways for machines to learn similar processes. And analyse the data on a much greater and faster scale.
Image adapted from SRL ResearchFirmenich and Novozymes joined forces in 2020 to launch TasteGEM® SWL with Saphera® lactase, a sugar reduction technology. It enables up to 50% sugar reduction in certain dairy products like yoghurt without the use of sweeteners. It is currently patent-pending and works by naturally unlocking the sweetness of milk. Which bridges the sensory gap that occurs when sugar is removed from the equation. Another company working on their sugar reduction innovation technology is DouxMatok in Israel. They have developed a cane sugar-based ingredient that has been proven to reduce sugar by up to 40% in some applications. It works based on the perception of the sweetness experienced by the consumer. With a technology that enhances the level of sweetness that is experienced by the consumer when sugar is delivered to the sweet taste receptors.