But consumers still expect great-tasting products, and they really want it all. Reformulating foods and beverages to lower calorie and sugar levels without sacrificing taste, appearance, texture, nutritional properties or cost while maintaining clean labels is a challenge. As a matter of fact, sugar plays many roles in foods and beverages. These are important not only for textural properties (viscosity and mouthfeel), but also for taste properties (sweetness and flavor enhancement) and contribution to shelf-life stability. During the discussion with the customer, trade-offs between different needs and requirements should be addressed.
a more attractive solution
Manufacturers trying to meet this demand typically look to sweetener options, but not all sweeteners are created equal. Sweeteners aren’t left out of the “clean label” trend either, with consumers actively seeking natural solutions instead of his E-numbers and chemical-like ingredients. Naturally derived sweeteners such as honey, stevia, and stevia leaf extract tend to be perceived as healthier alternatives for those seeking to satisfy their sweet tooth.
At Cargill, innovation is at the heart of everything we do and is essential to creating value for our customers. We offer a broad portfolio of naturally derived sweeteners, including full and low calorie sweeteners (including glucose and fructose syrups, glucose and polyols) made or derived from corn and wheat, and non-caloric sweeteners such as erythritol and stevia sweeteners, to meet the diverse sweetening expectations of customers and consumers.
Stevia is a natural fit for consumers looking for a natural alternative to sugar. Since he was approved by the EU in 2011, stevia-based sweeteners have quickly become popular high-intensity sweeteners. Our current range of stevia products in Europe includes Truvia and ViaTech stevia leaf extracts, which are versatile, easy-to-use, heat-stable, zero-calorie options.
Sustainable sourcing is also being integrated into the purchasing decisions of an increasing number of food and beverage manufacturers. It’s also a top priority for us. Cargill’s Stevia Sustainability Agriculture Standard was the industry’s first stevia standard, and we believe it is still the most comprehensive. With traceability built into the system, every lot of Truvia and ViaTech Stevia can be traced back to the farmer or cooperative that planted the crop. This industry-leading standard has been externally validated and benchmarked as a Silver Level program by the SAI Platform’s Farm Sustainability Rating 3.0.
sugar limit tool
As confectioners consider sugar reduction, it is worthwhile to summarize the role of sugar in these formulations. Sugar is often associated with sweetness, but it also has important nutritional, sensory, physical and preservative properties. Because of this, successful sugar reduction in confectionery often requires a longer ingredient list. Further complicating the formulation landscape is that no single solution works for all confectionery applications, and in the European Union there are different tools available depending on brands’ sugar and calorie reduction goals.
If the goal is simply declarative carbohydrate reduction (without corresponding calorie reduction), formulators may choose a low DE glucose syrup. Cargill’s portfolio also includes options as low as 12% declared sugar. Replacing low-DE glucose syrups with similar functionality to full sugars is the first step in a sugar reduction journey, allowing consumers to become accustomed to less sweet products.
High-intensity sweeteners such as polyols and stevia come into play when developers aim for reduced-calorie or sugar-free confections. In particular, polyols, also known as sugar alcohols, are widely used in this field. Maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and isomalt are mostly considered low-calorie sweeteners (4 kcal/g compared to 2.4 kcal/g for sucrose). They are metabolized differently than carbohydrates such as sugar, glucose and starch and have a lower caloric value than other sugars. The only exception is erythritol, a zero-calorie sweetener.
Available in powders and liquid syrups, polyols have a pleasant, clean taste with a body, mouthfeel and taste profile similar to sucrose. However, it is less sweet than sugar, so it is often used in combination with high-intensity sweeteners such as stevia.
Each polyol has different relative sweetness, solubility, heat of solution, and unique functional properties. Mannitol is often used in chewing gum coatings, but maltitol, with its high relative sweetness, comes closest to the sweetness of sugar. Depending on the application and the amount of sugar substitute required, formulators may use blends of different polyols to achieve their product development goals.
For example, Cargill offers a blend of isomalt and maltitol that can improve the processability and texture of hard-boiled candies. Next is erythritol, an up-and-coming confectionery field. Erythritol, produced by a fermentation process with yeast, has excellent oral care properties and a strong cooling effect, especially suitable for the field of “refreshing” mint candies and chewing gum. A clean sweet taste that delivers his 70% of the sweetness of sucrose is another key benefit, as is its synergy with stevia. Additionally, zero-calorie sweeteners are more digestible than other polyols, an important consideration for luxury products such as candy.
As mentioned earlier, stevia is a common polyol partner due to its sweet taste. Its sweetness varies between 150-300 times hers than sucrose, helping to enhance sweetness. Consumers are increasingly interested in stevia due to its “natural origin” compared to artificial high-potency sweeteners and the improved taste performance of the latest generation of stevia extracts. Additionally, while some high-intensity sweeteners are sensitive to heat, pH, and humidity, stevia performs well in a wide range of processing conditions.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to reducing sugar and the future looks bright. At Cargill, we are setting new standards in innovation and collaboration, anticipating future trends and investing in research, innovation and reformulation. All this to help us co-create more effectively with our customers and accelerate their growth.
- Arzu Kerim is a Senior Applications Specialist at Cargill.