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Reducing Sugar and Calories Without Sacrificing the Consumer Experience

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People the world over are trying to consume less sugar and calories, but most still make purchase decisions based on taste. That means there's major value in products that don't feel like a compromise.

Food and beverage (F&B) manufacturers are responding to consumer desires by removing sugars and reducing calories in their products. Selecting an alternative sweetening solution that appeals to consumers is just one piece of the puzzle, however. Replacing sugars is rarely a one-to-one exchange, and it can have unintended consequences on the experience (taste, appearance and texture/mouthfeel) of a product.

Sucrose (commonly known as table sugar) provides many functional benefits aside from adding sweetness, including adding bulk and enhancing mouthfeel. Thankfully, there are ingredients that can help F&B manufacturers reduce the amount of sugar and calories in their products while still delivering the same great taste and sensory experience.

Allulose is a low-calorie sweetening ingredient that provides the full taste of sugar but without all the calories. It's an ideal sweetening solution because it delivers many of the benefits that sucrose offers beyond just sweetness, and is one of the more flexible ingredients to reduce calories in virtually any F&B category.

If caloric sweeteners are being removed from baked goods, for instance, allulose can add back the bulk and sweetness. It yields the same structure and texture of sucrose, as well as the shelf life and humectancy over time. Plus, it produces desirable browning when baking.

In frozen desserts, allulose adds creamy mouthfeel, smooth texture, balanced sweetness, excellent melting properties and similar levels of bulk to that of sucrose. It's ideal for reducing calories in this category because its freezing point is very similar to that of caloric sugars.

High-potency sweeteners such as stevia can be used in combination with allulose to reduce calories and sugar without compromising taste. Stevia, a plant-extracted sweetener, contributes zero calories, does not raise blood sugar levels and is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. That means stevia sweeteners can achieve the same sweetness level as sugar by using only a tiny amount, and can prove a great solution for F&B manufacturers looking to offer products with "clean label" claims.¹

Sixty-one percent of U.S. sugar and/or sugar substitute users wish there were more natural sugar substitutes.² The new stevia options help manufacturers meet growing global demand for healthier food and beverages with natural ingredients, fewer calories and less sugar.

However, stevia alone cannot completely replace sucrose in many formulations because it doesn't have the same attributes in regard to texture and mouthfeel. These sweeteners can be formulated with bulking agents or combined with allulose to make up for this loss.

Soluble Fiber Sources
Bulking agents can be used to depress the freezing point and enhance texture when reducing sugar in ice cream, but so can soluble fiber sources, which aid in the rebalance of bulk and mouthfeel in many reduced-sugar products. What's more, consumers perceive added fiber as a benefit to certain foods and beverages, and it can help meet demand for many health and wellness claims.

The top reasons American consumers cite for being attracted to foods and beverages with more fiber include "digestive health," "heart health," "full for longer" and "regularity."³ Although 60 percent of American consumers want to consume more fiber, 33 percent of them claim they're not eating more because they can't find enough products with fiber available on the market.⁴

Adding fiber is one way F&B manufacturers can meet this need while reducing the amount of sugar and calories. Fibers with exceptional solubility, a clean taste, superior digestive tolerance, and neutral color and texture without grittiness can help increase overall consumer acceptance of finished products.

The Sweet Spot
One of the greatest obstacles when reducing sugar and calories in formulations is delivering the same satisfying sensory experience that consumers know and love. While striking that balance can be a complicated process, the economic opportunity to do so is enticing to food and beverage manufacturers.

It's important to partner with a supplier that understands not only the ingredients themselves but also how they work together, in order to customize an approach for each individual food and beverage product. A good supplier has the expertise and a full range of solutions to make that process – and the end result – even more satisfying.

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1. Innova Research classifies "clean label" as claims related to natural, organic, non-GM or no additives/preservatives.
2. Lightspeed GMI/Mintel from Mintel's Sugar and Alternative Sweeteners, U.S., May 2015.
3. Internal research for Tate & Lyle conducted by Qualtrics; 8,800 global respondents (800 per country), 2015 (Turkey and Saudi Arabia 2016).
4. Ibid