Home > Industry News > Evolving sugar strategies: Three in five US consumers prefer sugar reduction over artificial sweeteners, says Innova Market Insights
Evolving sugar strategies: Three in five US consumers prefer sugar reduction over artificial sweeteners, says Innova Market Insights
Sugar reduction is a popular option for the three in five US consumers who would rather cut back on sugar than consume artificial sweeteners, according to an Innova Market Insights survey. Sugar-related claims continue to grow and increasingly take on more prominent on-pack positionings. In a new report, the market researcher outlines that opportunities for reducing sugar intake are taking a number of directions as companies address evolving concerns and demands.
“Most consumers are more interested in reducing sugar than replacing sugar. Many are choosing savory snacks instead of sweet snacks, for example, as well as reduced sugar beverages. I think we will see a gradual shift over time to much more acceptance of less sweet foods. Look at what is happening with beverages like kombucha or even Aperol Spritz – the drink of the past two summers. Both are quite bitter but they are very popular,” says Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights.
Strategies for reducing sugar intake feature a combination of sugar reduction, sugar substitution and moving beyond sweetness to alternative tastes. These methods are often supported by a combination of functional formulations and blends, next generation sweeteners and other technological developments, notes the market researcher.
An Innova Consumer Lifestyle and Attitudes Survey (2018) found that nearly seven out of ten consumers across the countries surveyed (US, UK, France, Germany, China and Brazil) have reduced their sugar intake. This is particularly so among the over 55 age group, with consumers in France and Brazil the most likely to be reducing sugar in their diet. Consumers are also cutting back on sweet snacks more than savory.
In the US, 8 percent of all new food and beverage launches tracked by the market researcher in 2018 featured a sugar reduction claim.
Claims of no added sugar were most prominent, accounting for 42 percent of all sugar-related claims, ahead of sugar-free (36 percent) and low sugar (27 percent). Although the low sugar claim is smallest in terms of its share of launches, it is also the fastest growing with a CAGR of 17 percent in new product development (NPD) over the 2014 to 2018 period.
Sugar reduction can be achieved in a number of ways, including removing or reducing the amount of added sugar, replacing part of the sugar formulation with non-nutritive sweeteners or using innovative processing technologies. These include aeration to increase perceived sweetness, slowly straining milk to remove sugar prior to yogurt making, or using enzymes to convert simple sugars to fibers in juices. Interest in sugar substitution has also driven the rising use of sweeteners, particularly non-nutritive ones derived from nature, such as stevia, monk fruit and thaumatin, Innova Market Insights further notes. Allulose, which also occurs naturally in small quantities in a variety of sweet foods such as figs, can also be manufactured synthetically.
The April 2019 announcement by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that allulose did not have to be included in total and added sugar counts in US nutritional labeling has also cleared the way for much higher levels of use and a potential move mainstream. Innova Market Insights research outlines that levels of patent activity indicate current interest in the use of allulose, rising 42 percent in 2018 over 2017, while global NPD in food and beverages featuring the ingredient had an average annual growth of 45 percent over the 2014 to 2018 period, although from a low base.
Companies are also looking at alternative ingredients such as coffee cherries as a potential stealthy reducer of sugar in foods containing chocolate. Upcycled coffee cherries can be used to reduce the amount of sugar in finished products by emulating flavor in highlighting the cocoa notes, so that less cocoa powder is needed.
Another approach to sugar reduction is to use alternative flavor notes, such as bitter, sour or spicy, exploiting interest in novel and unconventional flavors to reduce the demand for sweetness overall. Interest in botanicals and their health benefits is also rising and may likewise encourage consumers to move away from more sugar-laden foods. The use of botanical flavors for food and drinks NPD is expanding and can be seen across a whole range of different categories.
“Speaking for myself, having moved to Europe as a young adult, I find many American beverages that I previously enjoyed entirely too sweet now. So preferences can shift and I think that we will see this happen with consumers over time,” concludes Williams.
Sugar reduction strategies
Aligning with consumer demand for low- and no-sugar versions of products, solutions in sugar reduction continue to drive NPD across industry this year. Sugar reduction remains high on the agenda for brands and suppliers, with sugar taxes that came into force in different countries spurring industry to reformulate below specified brix levels. As such, manufacturers are encouraged to reformulate products using less sugar, while still meeting high expectations regarding naturalness, indulgence and sensory attributes.
In this space, Nestlé has created a unique new chocolate made entirely from the cocoa fruit, using only the beans and pulp as ingredients. The new chocolate was developed using a “natural approach” and patented technique which does not require adding any refined sugar.
Nestlé also debuted a chocolate bar that contains 30 percent less sugar in the UK and Ireland. The product utilizes a unique sugar reduction technique that was hailed as a breakthrough due to the way it “restructures” sugar. Researchers from the Swiss giant pioneered the“Milkybar Wowsomes” range, describing this as the first chocolate bar in the world to use Nestlé’s innovative sugar reduction technique.
In June, Israeli food-tech company DouxMatok secured US$22 million in a series B funding round for its sugar reduction solution that enables a reduction of “sugar with sugar.” By increasing the efficiency of sugar delivery to the tongue’s sweet taste receptors, the technology allows food products to be made with 40 percent less sugar without compromising taste, mouthfeel or texture.
Last April, Layn, a producer of plant-based sweeteners, flavors and botanicals, launched Lovia, a solution that integrates monk fruit mogrosides with specific steviol glycosides to enable more profound sugar reduction with a sugar-like taste.
Earlier this year, Israel-based Gat Foods also unveiled Fruitlift– an innovative fruit-based formulation containing natural plant fibers that is available in a wide range of flavors. The base additive can be used as a natural fruity flavoring or blended neutrally into a cereal brand’s signature flavor.
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