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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 a 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 percent of European consumers, it is important that they can identify whether a product contains less sugar by reading the relevant information on its packaging . So less sugar is important, but the type of reduction matters too. Health-conscious consumers want to avoid the much-discussed “chemical” ingredients – 31 percent of British consumers, 45 percent of Spanish and even 58 percent of Chinese consumers are concerned about artificial sweeteners. Instead, products of natural origin are the preferred choice.
Contemporary sweetening concepts
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 labelling. 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 appearance 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.
Healthy fibers instead of sugar
Prebiotic functional fibers such as oligofructose and inulin are perfect for healthy sugar reduction. Both have a mild sweetness and are ideal for sugar reduced foods such as baked goods and dairy products. Partial sugar reduction with BENEO’s fibers has several effects at once: not only can the caloric content be reduced, but so can the glycaemic effect. The natural dietary fibers obtained from the chicory root are not metabolized in the small intestine and their constituents do not enter the bloodstream – quite unlike sugar. In addition, a diet rich in fiber, such as is recommended by the WHO, contributes to healthy digestion.
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 almost 30 percent 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.
Functional from beet
With Palatinose™ (isomaltulose), BENEO has a product in its portfolio that turns traditional knowledge about disaccharides upside down. The functional carbohydrate is extracted from sugar beet and is the only fully metabolised and tooth-friendly carbohydrate with low glycaemic properties. It provides the full energy of sucrose in a more balanced way and over a longer period of time. The sweetness profile of Palatinose™ is comparable to sucrose, and its sweetening power is about 50 percent. Technologically, this functional sugar behaves similarly to table sugar, and possible fields of application range from sports drinks, bakery and dairy products to confectionery such as chocolate and chewing gum.
Replacing sugar completely
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. In terms of taste and technology, the only sugar substitute obtained entirely from sugar beet has comparable properties to sucrose. 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. As well as tasting as good as the sugar-containing product, the resulting biscuit was crunchier because ISOMALT does not draw moisture from the surrounding air, thanks to its low hygroscopicity.