Sugar reduction is now affecting the food industry more than any other issue. Regulatory requirements and demanding consumers are forcing food manufacturers in one clear direction: The sugar content of food and drink must be reduced but without any impact on taste or sensory properties. Even better, the end product should also have an additional health benefit. An almost impossible task? No, because the leading manufacturer of functional ingredients BENEO, with its innovative product portfolio, demonstrates how sugar reduction can be implemented in high quality, nutritionally advantageous way.
“Sugar-free”, “no added sugar”, ”sugar-reduced” - more and more packaging is now adorned with information like this. The products inside contain less sugar and fewer calories, and the number of these new product launches is rising. The reasons for this trend include increasingly stringent regulatory requirements around the world, but sugar reduction is something that has been on the minds of consumers for a while now, and their demand for alternatives is huge. On the one hand, this is being prompted by consumer concern about weight gain, and on the other, the health consequences of increased sugar consumption in western societies has become more and more evident. Thus, it is hardly surprising that consumers perceive sugar-reduced products as healthier options. Current figures confirm this: Research shows that for 43 per cent of European consumers, it is important that they can identify whether a product contains less sugar by reading the relevant information on its packaging1. So less sugar is important, but the type of reduction matters too. Health-conscious consumers want to avoid the much-discussed “chemical” ingredients – 31 per cent of British consumers, 45 per cent of Spanish and even 58 per cent of Chinese consumers are concerned about artificial sweeteners2.Instead, products of natural origin are the preferred choice.
FIG 1: Cereal bar, Source: BENEO/©baibaz;123RF
Food manufacturers are working hard to meet both consumer needs and regulatory requirements. As a matter of course, they are dispensing with unpopular ingredients, setting value on meaningful nutritional profiles and improving on-pack labeling. In particular, suppliers with in-depth knowledge of ingredients are in high demand as they are able to actively support their customers in areas such as the development of suitable recipes, which is one of the biggest challenges in the production of healthier foods. Sugar not only provides pleasant sweetness – it also performs important functions within the food matrix in terms of appearance, stability, and texture – so simply reducing or eliminating sugar only works in the rarest of cases. Therefore, it is essential for manufacturers to select alternative ingredients that improve the nutritional profile of foods and maintain a high level of taste and texture at the same time. Good taste is and remains the number one shopping criterion – even for health-conscious consumers. Contemporary concepts for sweetening are the solution and, as one of the leading manufacturers of functional ingredients, BENEO offers the right choice for many product concepts. These innovative ingredients provide not only technological functionalities but health benefits too.
It’s not just their nutritional physiologies that make these soluble dietary fibers stand out from the crowd, as is illustrated by the following example. The think tank at BENEO’s Technology Center recently developed sugar-reduced chocolate chip cookie. In this product sample, Orafti® Inulin allowed for a 30 per cent reduction in sugar, with no significant differences in sweetness, taste or texture compared to the reference product. A second product sample further demonstrates how the dietary fiber can be used to reduce sugar: in a cereal bar, the sugar content was cut by 30 per cent by Orafti® Oligofructose. In addition to its positive effect on intestinal health, the fiber scores particularly highly in this application because of its technological advantages. Compared to the reference bar, there are no significant differences in chewability and taste, but there is an improvement in the haptic properties and the shelf life: the bar shows more stringingness when it breaks and is less hard compared to the reference product during storage. In addition, the soluble fiber is a suitable alternative to artificial humectants.
If sugar is not simply reduced, but is completely replaced, ISOMALT is the ingredient of choice since it can replace sugar totally in a ratio of 1: 1 in many applications. In most cases, there is no need to change either the recipe or the production parameters. The polyol is only partially metabolised and therefore only provides about half as many calories as sugar. Additionally, it is tooth-friendly and low glycaemic, with its most popular applications currently being sugar-free hard boiled candies and tooth-friendly chewing gums. As a bulking and texturizing ingredient, it can be used in baked goods, as demonstrated during a test run at the BENEO-Technology Center: ISOMALT was used to replace all of the sugar in a shortbread biscuit, thus reducing the calorie content. The resulting biscuit was very crunchy because ISOMALT does not draw moisture from the surrounding air, thanks to its low hygroscopicity.
Table 1: Cookie recipe with chocolate pieces with and without Orafti® Inulin
Table 2: Recipe for cereal bar with and without Orafti® Oligofructose
1 BENEO’s European research on blood sugar management, 2015, Global Shopper Views on Sweeteners, HFI, 2016
2 Global Shopper Views on Sweeteners, HFI, 2016
Leading image: Chocolate chip cookie, Source: ©BENEO