When we tell you sugar has caused big waves in the food and drink industry you won’t be surprised. Consumer attitudes are driving manufacturers to make big changes. Why? Because consuming sugary products has been linked to obesity, diabetes, tooth decay and erosion. Around the world, many countries have introduced a sugar tax on sugar sweetened products to overcome health related issues. Approximately a third of consumers say they are addicted to sugar or are concerned about sugar addiction.

That’s a big addiction on a global scale!

In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight and out of these 600 million were obese. So you won’t be surprised to learn health and weight concerns have driven consumer purchase behaviour to change.

Thanks to Directus, we’ve written this blog as a guide to help you create your food or drink product with less sugar and to provide you with some insights into what alternatives the industry is using.

How is the food & drink industry stepping up to this challenge?

The biggest challenge for the industry is to find new and innovative ways to reduce sugar all the while not affecting the taste and texture of their products. Not an easy task given how long they’ve been using the stuff but we’ve outlined some of their strategies to combat the issues:

  1. Less sugar:   By adding less sugars than other brands or by using less sugar than the regular variety.
  2. No added sugar:  By avoiding the addition of sugar altogether. Del Monte does this by adding it’s Northwest Sliced Bartlett Pears in artificially sweetened water.
  3. Sweetness from fruits:  By using other “natural” sweetening sources.  Wholeberry Folk has created its range of healthier cupcake and cookie mix by using fruits.  
  4. Silent reduction: Bringing down the sugar level gradually without telling the consumer.  Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes has used this strategy in the US to bring down the sugar level of its breakfast cereal.
  5. Sugar replacement:  Replacing Sugar by using natural or artificial sweeteners.  The Coca Cola Company launched Coca Cola Life which is a lower calorie version of Coca Cola using sugar and stevia. It contains only 60% of the calories of regular coke.  Although Coca Cola Life has been deleted from Australian supermarket shelves, it is still available in many other countries worldwide.

The use of artificial sweeteners or stevia instead of sugar are commonplace. In many countries, finding “regular” carbonated soft drinks is becoming more difficult.

In the last 5 years, there’s been an 18% growth in natural sweeteners and 12% for artificial sweeteners, worldwide.

What are some of the new natural alternatives to sugar?

  1. Agave: It’s made from the Agave plant, primarily found in Mexico. Agave is 40% sweeter than sugar. One of the benefits of Agave is, that it has a glycemic index of 30 compared to that of sugar, which is 65. (Glycemic index or GI ranks carbohydrates according to their effect on blood glucose levels. The lower the GI, the slower the rise in blood glucose levels will be when food is consumed).
  2. Flavours with taste modifying properties: These are flavours that can be used in products that will make the product taste more sweet or juicy. These flavours can be used to reduce sugar by up to 30% in some products. It also provides a mouthfeel enhancement in sugar related products.
  3. Low brix juices: Beverage products can be formulated using fruits that have lower sugar content such as berries, coconut water or vegetable juices.

The biggest players in the food industry have a lot of work to do to combat the sugar issue.  As such, The Coca Cola Company is offering $1 million for a new sugar substitute. PepsiCo has also set a global target for sugar reduction in at least two thirds of its drinks by 2025 so that they have 100 calories or less per serving.

So what’s your take on sugar alternatives?