How Product Developers are Reducing Added Sugars

With added sugars highlighted on the updated Nutrition Facts label panels, product developers face increased pressure to reduce them in foods and beverages. Sugar substitutes and other tricks can maintain a sweet taste and functional performance.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

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Consumer versions of Splenda now pair it with stevia, as well as with brown sugar and regular sugar. The British/Hoffman Estates, Ill., firm helped bring monk fruit (luo han guo) to this country and established the Purefruit brand. The company dabbles in stevia with its own Tasteva brand. And it created some fanfare in 2015 when it introduced Dolcia Prima, a form of allulose, a novel sugar found in small quantities in wheat and other commodities. Matsutani also launched an allulose sweetener in 2015 called Astraea.

Luis Fernandez, senior vice president, global applications at Tate & Lyle (www.tateandlyle.com), Hoffman Estates, Ill., knows, replacing sugar isn't simple. "High-potency sweeteners, such as stevia and monk fruit extract, enable manufacturers to drastically reduce the sugar content of products without compromising taste. But because these sweetening ingredients are used in such small quantities in formulations, they don't provide functional attributes, like bulk and mouthfeel. Combining sweetening ingredients enables manufacturers to reduce calories and sugars and deliver the taste and texture experience consumers expect." Fernandez suggests beverage formulators combine sweetening ingredients to balance them out and achieve a sugar equivalent.

"Replacing sugar in dairy products can mean a loss of solids or bulk. High-potency sweeteners can be formulated with bulking agents to make up for this loss," he adds.  Food scientists at Nestle (www.nestle.com), Vevey, Switzerland, which markets Crunch, Kit Kat, and Butterfinger candies, last year altered the molecular structure of sugar in such a way that it dissolves faster on the tongue than regular sugar. According to the company, this increases the perception of sweetness and can reduce the amount of sweetener used in candy bars by 40 percent. "It's truly groundbreaking research inspired by nature, and has the potential to reduce total sugar by up to 40 percent in our confectionery," adds Stefan Catsicas, Nestlé chief technology officer.

Stevia"We're working on reducing sugar across our food and beverage portfolio, which includes baking, confections, snacks, beverages, ice cream, pizza and prepared foods," adds Emily Dimiero, Nestle corporate affairs spokesperson. "The biggest challenge is maintaining the same taste. It can also be a challenge to maintain texture and functionality. In ice cream, sugar functions to balance flavors, such as counter-balancing acidity from added fruit and create a creamy texture." Nestle has been able to reduce sugar by an average of 11 percent in its Outshine frozen fruit bars, with more flavors to come, she says.

Chicory root fiber, fruit ingredients, honey and sweet potato ingredients are all replacements for both artificial sweeteners, sugar and non-nutritive sweeteners, depending on the application. Global agricultural company S&W Seed Co. (swseedco.com), Fresno, Calif., has trademarked a stevia brand Kandi Leaf, using research and seed breeding techniques. The company has applied for patent protection on two unique, proprietary fresh and dry-leaf Kandi Leaf varieties, says CEO Mark Grewal.

"We intend to build a portfolio of proprietary stevia varieties that can add value at the front end of the supply chain to address the rapidly growing stevia market." The varieties not only have a sweet taste with very little bitterness and aftertaste, but exhibited more Reb-A, less stevioside, more total steviol glycosides, a higher Reb-A to stevioside ratio, and a higher percentage of Reb-A to total steviol glycosides than comparison samples from common varieties, he added.

Editor's Note: Images used for the Nutrition Facts Panel are used with consent from the FDA

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