Sugar reduction remains a central topic in the media and among consumers and opportunities for reducing sugar intake are taking several directions as companies address evolving concerns and demands. In an Innova Market Insights survey, sugar reduction is a popular option for the three in five U.S. consumers who would rather cut back on sugar than consume artificial sweeteners. Sugar-related claims continue to grow and increasingly take on more prominent on-pack positionings.
In the United States, for example, 8% of all new food and beverage launches tracked by Innova Market Insights in 2018 featured a sugar reduction claim. Claims of no added sugar were most prominent, accounting for 42% of all sugar-related claims, ahead of sugar-free (36%) and low sugar (27%). Although the low sugar claim is smallest in terms of its share of launches, it is also the fastest growing with a growth rate of 17% over 2014–2018.
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, and/or using innovative processing technologies, such as “aeration” to increase perceived sweetness, slow 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. 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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that allulose did not have to be included in total and added sugar counts in U.S. nutritional labeling has also cleared the way for much higher levels of use and a potential move mainstream. Levels of patent activity indicate current interest in the use of allulose, rising 42% in 2018 over 2017, while global new product development in food and beverages featuring the ingredient had an average annual growth of 45% over 2014–2018, although from a low base.
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.
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