Spotlight on sugar reduction trends

30 Sep 2019

Manufacturers are using a range of ingredients and processes to cut sugar in their products as consumers demand lower sugar products – and novel approaches continue to emerge.

The trend toward sugar reduction in foods and drinks continues to grow, with sugar-related claims up 17% since 2014, according to Innova Market Insights. In Europe, 9% of all newly launched foods and drinks carried a sugar-related claim in 2018, such as low sugar, reduced sugar or sugar free, up from 6% in 2014. The proportion is even higher in Australasia, where 12% of new product launches carried such a claim.

Spotlight on sugar reduction trends
Consumers are looking for naturally lower sugar foods

For food and drink makers, cutting sugar has been a focus for several reasons, including recently imposed sugar taxes in European countries such as the UK, Ireland, Portugal and France. Further afield, nations including Mexico, the UAE, Thailand, Chile and Saudi Arabia also have implemented sugar taxes in an effort cut sugar intakes.

These taxes have been introduced in the wake of increasing understanding of the negative health impacts of excessive sugar consumption, such as higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended that added sugar should account for less than 10% of a person’s total daily calories, and less than 5% to reduce disease risk still further. Only a handful countries have per capita sugar intakes below this level, but it seems that consumers are paying attention. The UK’s Food Standards Agency, for example, found in 2018 that consumer concern about sugar had increased more than any other food-related concern, with 55% saying they were worried about sugar, up from 39% in 2010.

Manufacturers now have a range of tools at their disposal to reduce sugar with minimal impact on taste, but some have proved more popular than others. The most common positioning for reduced sugar products is ‘no additives/preservatives’, according to Innova, suggesting an understanding that consumers are looking for healthier foods and drinks that they perceive as natural.
New technologies tap into this trend, such as Nestlé’s hollow sugar crystals, which dissolve on the tongue more quickly than ordinary sugar, allowing the same sweet taste perception with fewer calories. Its Milkybar Wowsomes chocolate brand uses the technology, and has 30% less sugar than comparable bars. Global BioLife is another company that has come up with a technological solution to sugar reduction with its Laetose low glycaemic sugar alternative made from fruit and vegetable compounds, which it has called ‘Sugar 2.0’. The ingredient is said to perform like sugar in foods and drinks while delivering a 30% calorie reduction.

Meanwhile, many manufacturers are turning to traditional sweeteners, and sucralose has seen a particularly strong uptick in interest, now used in 19% of new foods and drinks with a sugar-related claim. According to Innova, soft drinks are still the biggest category for such claims, but others are growing fast, in sports nutrition and dairy in particular. New sports nutrition products with a sugar-related claim were up 56% from 2014 to 2018, while those in the dairy category were up 32% in the same period. Other fast-growing categories include sauces and seasonings, snacks, and desserts & ice cream.

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