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Zero compromises: delivering on the zero-cal sweet spot

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Zero-calorie, zero-sugar, zero-fat – the three zeros are big trends driving growth in the beverage industry.

For the beverage market in APAC, consumer awareness around health and weight is one of the key drivers behind the success of sweeteners. According to the report by a reputed institute, two in five adults are overweight or obese, a factor which not only seriously threatens the health of populations but is said to undermine the region’s prosperity.1 

In recent years, some governments have responded by implementing Sugar Tax and/or Front of Pack (FOP) labelling schemes in an attempt to moderate sugar consumption. In Indonesia, the excise duty on Sugar Sweetened Beverage (SSB) are proposed to be included in this year’s State Revenue and Expenditure Budget Draft (RAPBN 2023).2

Meanwhile in Thailand, the delayed third phase of a sugar tax hike on sweetened drinks will come into force at the end of March 2023. And in Singapore, December 2022 saw the mandatory implementation of ‘Nutri-Grade’, a color-coded graded system on labels to denote sugar levels on prepacked beverages.

These government-led initiatives, along with messaging from health organizations on the high risk of non-communicable disease (NCD) association with high sugar intake, have resonated with consumers who aim to lead healthier lifestyles.

In pursuit of healthier lifestyles

Thanks to such initiatives, data has shown significant and positive dietary habits and lifestyle changes across APAC regions. Mintel found that 65% of consumers now check for nutritional information on food/drinks prior to purchase, 62% pay attention to sugar content, and over half of consumers (51%) pay attention to calories.3​ Furthermore, a 2021 FMCG Gurus Survey showed that almost half (49%) of APAC consumers track how many calories they consume.4 ​And according to Innova, the growth in ‘zero-calorie’ claims in new beverage launches in APAC resulted in 169% CAGR between 2018-2021.5​ This shift in consumer behaviour is being reflected and catered for throughout the wider food and drink industry – in food service and retail – with a wider availability of zero-calorie options and brands.

Challenges around sugar-free formulations

Research by Mintel shows over two thirds (69%) of consumers are receptive to lower sugar beverage formulations, as long as they maintain their original sweetness profile.3​ The sugar level in regular sweet beverages is normally high, at 8-10%, and eliminating it successfully, even by way of sweeteners, is tricky.

For manufacturers, the challenge is that sweeteners have limitations that give rise to technical challenges when formulating new products, and reducing or eliminating sugar successfully is not a simple one-to-one replacement. This is because some sweeteners can introduce off notes. Reduction of sugar may also cause an unbalanced flavour release and a reduction in mouthfeel, body and texture. The challenge therefore is to formulate sweet beverages without sugar, without compromising on flavour, body/mouthfeel and other desired attributes.

Stevia

Full spectrum of sweeteners

Cargill offers a range of sweetener ingredients that can help beverage formulators to achieve zero-calorie beverage formulation*. These include:

  • A full range of natural-derived High Intensity Sweeteners (stevia) starting from stevia leaf extracts (TruviaTM​) to the new improved version Reb M from fermentation (EverSweetTM​).6​ EverSweetTM​ works well to replace high sugar content in acidified products.
  • Bulking agents which are commonly used in beverages to improve overall mouthfeel/texture and taste.
  • Texturizers, to adjust rheology and mouthfeel after sugar reduction.

Armed with technical expertise and experience of working with the above ingredients, Cargill can create a customized solution for individual customers according to their base.

Scientists

Customising for zero-calorie solutions

Brands typically use high intensity sweeteners (HIS) but these only solve loss of sweetness levels in formulations. New innovations in sweeteners are now also delivering the full attributes of sugar with a calorie-free tag.

Cargill is proud of its technical expertise when it comes to creating customized sweetener solutions. Using ingredients such as stevia and texturizers, Cargill has the ability to formulate sweeteners that not only provide a zero-calorie option for consumers, but also cater to specific taste and texture preferences.

Cargill understands that every business and product is unique, which is why taking a personalized approach with clients is the best way to create the perfect sweetener solution. Whether it's a ready-to-drink tea or a sparkling flavored waters, Cargill’s team has the technical know-how to create a sweetener that meets the needs of your business and your customers.

A range of zero-calorie sweetener solutions that can be customized to each brand is the latest innovation. Cargill's C*SweetmixTM​ (customized sweetener solutions) was made to reduce sugar in drinks like tea and flavored water to match the growing demand for zero-calorie options. It provides a sugar-like taste profile by enhancing body and mouthfeel, as well as masking bitter off-notes and lingering aftertaste. This portfolio is designed to pair together different types of zero-calorie sweeteners to create a customised base that’s similar to sugar and works perfectly in zero-calorie beverages, according to each individual brand’s requirements.

For more information visit Cargill Sugar Reduction Solutions.

References

1. Asian Development Bank Research 2020​.
2. ​Minutes of AmCham Indonesia F&A Committee Meeting.
3.​ FIA Mintel Flagship Study.
4. ​FMCG Gurus Survey 2021.
5. ​Innova Market Research.
6. Fighting stevia’s bitter aftertaste with a sustainable sweetener, produced through fermentation​ (August 2022).

Disclaimer:​ *Each country/jurisdiction has different regulations for labelling of zero-calorie beverage products. The labelling, substantiation and decision relating to the regulatory approval status of the labelling and claims for your products is your responsibility. We recommend you consult regulatory and legal advisors familiar with the applicable laws, rules and regulations in your jurisdiction prior to making any regulatory, labelling or claims related decisions for your products. The information, statements, recommendations, and suggestions contained herein are subject to change without notice.** EverSweet™ is licensed trademark of Avansya V.O.F