Less sugar, more fibre: How brands can leverage ‘two-in-one’ reformulation

23 Jan 2022

Combining natural sweeteners with fibres to replace the sweetness and bulk of sugar is a two-in-one reformulation approach that allows brands to make two appealing on-pack product claims: less sugar and more fibre.

In Europe, ‘no added sugar’ claims on food and drink products continue to grow as consumers try to reduce their sugar intake and look for healthier alternatives. The UK has the highest proportion of European food and drink launches carrying this claim in the past five years, followed by Germany and France while in Poland, ‘no added sugar’ claims doubled between 2016 and 2021, according to Mintel.

Less sugar, more fibre: How brands can leverage ‘two-in-one’ reformulation

Reducing sugar, however, can be tricky for formulators as it has many different functions in food and drink. In addition to providing sweetness, sugar has bulking properties, it improves texture and mouthfeel, helps retain moisture and, in baking, performs the Maillard reaction, which gives a golden-brown colour and, at higher temperatures, a caramel flavour.

Combining fibres with sweeteners can replace at least two of these functions – sweetness and bulk – and it improves the nutritional profile of the product in two ways. Firstly, by reducing the sugar content and secondly, by adding in fibre.

Good for gut health

Consumer interest in gut health is also on the rise as scientific research reveals the links between a well-balanced microbiome full of beneficial bacteria and many health outcomes, such as weight management and even cognitive health. This is reflected in the popularity of probiotics and prebiotic fibres, with a growing number of food and drink brands fortifying their products or making an on-pack fibre claim.

Mintel has noted a rise in the use of functional fibres in low- and reduced-sugar food and drink launches globally, increasing from 11% in 2015 to 19% in 2020. Inulin is the most commonly used functional fibre, with product launches containing inulin having tripled in the past five years, rising to 9% in 2020 from 3% in 2015.

“Consumers are aware of the importance of fibres in maintaining gut health,” said Neha Srivastava, food and drink patent analyst at Mintel. “Brands can leverage this awareness by repositioning them as a multifunctional health ingredient that helps reduce sugar content in food and drink whilst improving gut health.”

Soluble fibre and monk fruit

Israeli start-up B.T. Sweet, founded in 2019, recently developed an ingredient that can reduce sugar in applications such as chocolate spreads, confectionary, cereals, and ice cream. The ingredient is made from a blend of soluble fibres, monk fruit, and botanicals.

According to the company, which financed initial operations through seed venture funding and currently runs a production plant in Europe, the ingredient is a one-to-one equivalent to sugar in terms of both functionality and flavour.

The start-up created a chocolate hazelnut spread with 50% less sugar, upon the request of a client. B.T. Sweet said it was able to mimic the flavour, colour, and texture of the traditional category-leading sweet spread without changing the mass of the product and without the need for masking agents.

“Kids are the primary market for chocolate spreads, birthday cakes, cookies filled with cream and similar products," said Dagi Pekatch, founder and chairman of B.T Sweet. "We received excellent feedback from them. They loved the taste of our CAMBYA sweetened hazelnut and chocolate spreads, and we all know kids are hard to fool.”

Nevertheless, not all consumers are convinced by reduced sugar options. Over half of German and French consumers – 54% and 53% respectively – say they prefer eating fewer indulgent products instead of consuming more ‘light’ or diet alternatives, according to Mintel data, suggesting that brands still have room for improvement in better-for-your options.

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