Low sugar trend boosts bulk sweetener innovation

3 Feb 2020

Use of bulk sweeteners in new products is on the rise, largely driven by consumer interest in sugar-free and lower sugar products.

Lower calorie sweeteners are divided into two main categories: bulk and high intensity. While high intensity sweeteners are used in tiny quantities to replace the sweetness of sugar, bulk sweeteners tend to be slightly less sweet than sugar but are similar in mass, meaning they can be useful as sugar replacers without the need for additional bulking ingredients. And as consumers increasingly look for natural sweetening options, manufacturers have turned to sugar alcohols – also known as polyols – such as xylitol, maltitol, erythritol, sorbitol and isomalt.

Low sugar trend boosts bulk sweetener innovation
Sugar-free products may come with additional benefits

Such ingredients come from plant products and fruits but whether they really qualify as ‘natural’ depends on the production process, as well as individual interpretation of the word. However, the rise of low-carb and keto diet trends has also boosted their use in recent years, and in 2019, their use was up 8% compared to the previous year, according to data from Innova Market Insights. The most popular positionings for foods with bulk sweeteners were ‘sugar-free’, ‘gluten-free’ and ‘no added sugar’, the market researcher found.

Sorbitol leads the pack, used in 57% of new products that contained bulk sweeteners last year, followed by maltitol (25%), erythritol (12%), xylitol (11%) and isomalt (7%). Bulk sweeteners are most commonly used to help reduce calories from sugars in baked goods, chocolates, frozen desserts, hard candies, sugar-free chewing gum and snack bars. Each sweetener has attributes that make it best suited for particular applications, and differences in sweetness onset and intensity mean they are often blended together.

However, their benefits go beyond sugar reduction alone. Sorbitol, like xylitol and erythritol, has been shown to reduce dental caries, making it a popular choice for chewing gum and other confectionery. It also helps keep blood glucose levels lower than sugar, meaning it is useful for products intended for diabetic consumers – another growing market segment. Sorbitol supplier Roquette, for instance, promotes its sorbitol powder for its tooth-friendly properties, but also for its ability to extend the shelf life of seafood products.

Sugar reduction has become an increasingly important target for food manufacturers globally, and the trend shows no sign of slowing. But reducing sugar is rarely as easy as switching it for another sweetener, as sugar provides much more than sweetness. Replacing the bulk of sugar is often a major challenge, which gives bulk sweeteners an edge over many other available options.

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