Sugar has bypassed fats and carbs as the new no-no on ingredient lists. Still, consumers want a sweet taste and manufacturers are looking for other sweeteners to meet this demand, according to an article in IFT's journal.
Some of these alternatives include less refined sources such as turbinado cane sugar, sugar brown rice syrup, maple syrup, coconut sugar, date paste and sweet potato puree.
Stevia continues to be the forerunner in sweeteners, since consumers perceive it to be all natural. However, this depends on how the stevia is processed and what other ingredients — natural or artificial — are added to the mix.
As consumers look for ways to cut their sugar intakes, manufacturers search for acceptable alternatives. The Food and Drug Administration’s revisions to the Nutrition Facts Panel will explicitly list all sugars, including those that are naturally occurring as well as those that are added. Manufacturers are working to deal with this challenge: How to reduce the amount of sugar, retain sweet tastes, and deliver a healthier product.
Fruit ingredients remain a popular choice, but other sweeteners are up and coming. These include thaumatin, a plant extract that enhances flavor; monk fruit and coconut sugar, both perceived by consumers as healthy; and stevia. There are also processed sweeteners, including aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose. Two new kids on the block include erythritol and xylitol, sugar alcohols found naturally in plants. Right now, they are primarily found in natural food stores, but new technologies to make them easier and more cost-effective to produce are helping them to move into the mainstream market.
When sugar is replaced with alternative sweeteners, manufacturers need to understand everything about the ingredient they are adding. Each offers positive and negative qualities, and today’s consumers are increasingly demanding about their choices.