The difficult art of sugar reduction

Consumers are demanding food and beverage with less added sugar, and authorities are also pushing for it. But reducing sugar is not as easy as it sounds. Sugar gives volume, texture and sweetness. If you remove sugar, something else must take its place and provide the same taste. But what to choose? Food and beverage companies that want to reduce sugar are facing a challenge. In this article, we look at the alternatives.

18 March 2020 •

The aver­age Swede eats about 37 kilos of added sug­ar a year. That’s 100 ml of sug­ar – a day! Way too much says the World Health Organization (WHO), and rec­om­mend less than 30 ml of added sug­ar per day. Preferably even less.

Carrot and stick

Too much sug­ar increas­es the risk of over­weight and obe­si­ty, which are known risk fac­tors when it comes to insulin resis­tance, dia­betes, high blood pres­sure, high lev­els of cho­les­terol, triglyc­erides and oth­er blood fats, and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. Added sug­ar is sim­ply not good for health. Therefore, there is both con­sumer demand and reg­u­la­to­ry pres­sure on food and bev­er­age pro­duc­ers to reduce added sugar.

Consumers are aware of the dan­ger of sug­ar and are increas­ing­ly demand­ing foods with less sugar.

Governments and author­i­ties around the world require the same. The United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Hungary, Norway and more than twen­ty oth­er coun­tries, and many of the US states, have there­fore intro­duced a sug­ar tax.

So with both car­rot and stick, in the form of demand and reg­u­la­tions, one might think that the food and bev­er­age indus­try should be moti­vat­ed to reduce added sug­ar in foods. But it’s not that sim­ple. (Of course.)

The challenge

Sugar tastes good. It also pro­vides vol­ume and tex­ture. So you can’t just remove sug­ar. It must be replaced by some­thing else. This is the chal­lenge that holds back the food and bev­er­age indus­try despite both car­rot and stick.

At Bayn, we have tak­en on that chal­lenge. We have researched and devel­oped a solu­tion that we call sweet­ened fibres. And that’s pre­cise­ly what it is. Dietary fibres coat­ed with sweet­en­ers. They have few­er calo­ries than reg­u­lar sug­ar, or no calo­ries at all, depend­ing on the application.

But before we go into how sweet­ened fibres can be used to reduce added sug­ar and emp­ty calo­ries, let’s make a ‘sweet­en­ing jour­ney’ and explore what oth­er alter­na­tives are available.

Sweet ingredients

honung och musli

At the first stop of the sweet­en­ing jour­ney, we inves­ti­gate the pos­si­bil­i­ty of replac­ing added sug­ar with ‘nat­ur­al sugars’.

The sim­plest trick in the school book is, of course, to replace the added reg­u­lar sug­ar, glu­cose syrup, or the like, with ingre­di­ents that have a nat­ur­al con­tent of grape sug­ar and fruit sug­ar, for instance, fruit, hon­ey and juices). If all the added sug­ar is removed in this way, the prod­uct is ‘with­out added sug­ar’. Problem solved.

Or?

No! It is not the sug­ar itself that is harm­ful, but the unnec­es­sary calo­ries that sug­ar adds. If the sug­ar replace­ment does not con­tain a sig­nif­i­cant­ly small­er amount of calo­ries, noth­ing is gained.

Despite this, there are food and bev­er­age pro­duc­ers who use this trick. Therefore, the EU con­sid­ered it nec­es­sary to explic­it­ly pro­hib­it mar­ket­ing with terms such as ‘with­out added sug­ar’ and the like when non-sug­ar ingre­di­ents are used main­ly to give sweetness.

The first stop on the sweet­en­ing trip was a dis­ap­point­ment. Let’s continue.

Sugar alcohols

At the next stop, we meet names that are famil­iar to most: sor­bitol, xyl­i­tol, malti­tol and a hand­ful of oth­ers who whose names end with –ol. These are com­mon­ly called sug­ar alco­hols. Despite the name, one doesn’t become drunk of them. But they do taste sweet.

Typical for most sug­ar alco­hols is that they con­tain 40 per cent few­er calo­ries than sug­ar. On the oth­er hand, most of them are not as sweet either. So to get the same sweet­ness with only sug­ar alco­hol, more is need­ed, and then not much is won.

In addi­tion, all sug­ar alco­hols cause flat­u­lence. And at an exces­sive amount, they have a lax­a­tive effect. Therefore, foods con­tain­ing 10 per cent or more of sug­ar alco­hols must have a warn­ing text. Not too fun to read as a consumer.

Despite these faux pas, sug­ar alco­hols are use­ful in reduc­ing sug­ar. However, they can rarely replace sug­ar straight up and down. It would cause all the above prob­lems. But they can be part of the solu­tion – which we will see later.

We leave the sug­ar alco­hols behind us and con­tin­ue the sweet­en­ing journey.

Artificial sweeteners

Sugar has a rel­a­tive­ly low sweet­ness in rela­tion to its calo­ries. The same goes for sweet ingre­di­ents, sug­ar alco­hols and oth­er so-called bulk sweet­en­ers.

Bulk sweet­en­ers are named so because they pro­vide both sweet­ness and bulk (fill a vol­ume). This is where their prob­lems lie. To get the desired sweet­ness, a large amount of bulk sweet­en­er is need­ed, and with large amount fol­lows many calories.

The obvi­ous solu­tion is to find sub­stances that are sig­nif­i­cant­ly sweet­er than sug­ar in rela­tion to the amount of calo­ries. One such sub­stance is aspar­tame.

One hun­dred grams of sug­ar con­tains 400 kcal. Aspartame con­tains as many calo­ries. But since it is 200 times sweet­er than reg­u­lar sug­ar, it is enough with only 0.5 grams of aspar­tame to achieve the same sweet­ness. This means that aspar­tame is need­ed in such small quan­ti­ties that in prac­tice, the amount of calo­ries is negligible.

Aspartame does not taste like sug­ar. Neither does Acesulfame K, which is 130–200 times sweet­er than reg­u­lar sug­ar. But togeth­er the taste becomes quite sugary.

Another chem­i­cal with a sug­ar-like taste is sucralose. It’s made from ordi­nary sug­ar by replac­ing three oxy­gen-hydro­gen pairs with chlo­rine atoms. The result is 500–600 times sweet­er than reg­u­lar sugar.

However, there is a big crux with arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers: Consumers dis­like them.

To para­phrase Mowgli and Baloo in the Jungle Book: ‘You eat chem­i­cals?! You bet­ter believe it. And you’re gonna love the way they tick­le.’ Most con­sumers don’t. Let’s con­tin­ue our sweet­en­ing journey.

Plant-based sweeteners

The path mapped out is right. To get sweet­ness and lose calo­ries, we must have a high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er. But to get the consumer’s approval, we must leave the chem­i­cal­ly pro­duced sub­stances and inves­ti­gate what is in nature. There are a lot, it turns out.

A high-inten­si­ty sweet sub­stance found in nature is osla­dine. It is 500 times sweet­er than reg­u­lar sug­ar. If you have spent some time in the for­est, you have sure­ly seen the plant that pro­duces the sub­stance. Maybe you’ve tast­ed it too. The sub­stance is in the root­stalk of the wall fern (com­mon polypody).

But osla­dine is not allowed in food and bev­er­age. Not because it is dan­ger­ous, but because there are no finan­cial inter­ests that have fund­ed the exten­sive stud­ies that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) requires to approve nov­el food.

There is only one sweet­en­er of nat­ur­al ori­gin approved in the EU for gen­er­al use in food and bev­er­age – ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides found in the plant stevia.

That’s good! Steviol gly­co­sides pro­vide sweet­ness as nat­u­ral­ly as sug­ar but with­out calo­ries. We must have reached the goal of the sweet­en­ing journey?

Sorry…

Trouble in paradise

The prob­lem with high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­ers is pre­cise that they are high-inten­si­ty sweet. For exam­ple, a mere three grams of ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides give the same sweet­ness as one kilo­gram of reg­u­lar sug­ar. But what should the oth­er 997 grams be replaced with?

It is rarely pos­si­ble to sim­ply remove sug­ar and add ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides. Something more needs to be added to com­pen­sate for the vol­ume and tex­ture of the sug­ar. The sug­ar also has oth­er prop­er­ties that may need to be com­pen­sat­ed. And of course, we have the taste of sug­ar, which is much more than just sweet­ness. Everything has to be replaced.

And that would not be enough: Steviol gly­co­sides and oth­er high-inten­si­ty sweet sub­stances have their taste that we are not used to. We also need to take that into account.

Therefore, it is far from easy to replace sug­ar with ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides (or for that mat­ter some oth­er high-inten­si­ty sweet sub­stances). Each appli­ca­tion requires exten­sive and thor­ough test­ing of dif­fer­ent solu­tions to not change the sweet­ness, taste and tex­ture. It requires exper­tise and equip­ment that many com­pa­nies lack, and it takes a long time and costs much money.

Sigh!

Is there no sim­ple solu­tion? Well, there is. Sweetened fibres.

Sweetened fibres

Our sweet­en­ing jour­ney ends where we began – with the chal­lenge of the food and bev­er­age indus­try to replace sug­ar with­out chang­ing its vol­ume, tex­ture or taste. This is a chal­lenge that we at Bayn have tak­en on. And we have found a solu­tion we call sweet­ened fibres.

We have devel­oped a man­u­fac­tur­ing method that makes it pos­si­ble to cre­ate sug­ar-like par­ti­cles of dietary fibres, high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er (for exam­ple, from ste­via) and oth­er raw mate­ri­als that togeth­er pro­vide the desired properties.

This is where the sug­ar alco­hols return. They often play an essen­tial role in get­ting the right prop­er­ties of sweet­ened fibres.

Our man­u­fac­tur­ing method, for which we have applied for a patent, allows us to pro­duce pow­ders and gran­ules that not only replace sug­ar one-to-one with vir­tu­al­ly unchanged taste and tex­ture but also can be trans­port­ed, stored and han­dled as reg­u­lar sug­ar. This is what we call sweet­ened fibres.

We have devel­oped sweet­ened fibres for a vari­ety of appli­ca­tions, such as bak­ery, choco­late, con­fec­tionery, dairy, soups and sauces, and mar­ket them under the trade­mark EUREBA®.

What looks like boul­ders sur­round­ed by cob­webs are sweet­ened fibres seen with a scan­ning elec­tron micro­scope at 40x mag­ni­fi­ca­tion. The” boul­ders” are fibres, and the” cob­web” is a high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er and oth­er ingre­di­ents. The pic­ture shows EUREBA® D‑01, which replace sug­ar in ice cream and fruit prepa­ra­tions for dairy prod­ucts and frozen desserts.

Turnkey solution

Eureba is a ‘turnkey solu­tion’ for those who want to reduce the risk and time it takes to devel­op a sug­ar-reduced prod­uct. You can start from an exist­ing recipe, or cre­ate a new one with reg­u­lar sug­ar, and then replace the sug­ar, glu­cose syrup or what­ev­er you are using, with a Eureba made for the appli­ca­tion in question.

Of course, we can also help you cus­tomize sweet­ened fibres for your par­tic­u­lar application.

Download e‑book

For those who want to relive the sweet­en­ing jour­ney and learn more about the dif­fer­ent alter­na­tives, we have writ­ten a small book that, in six chap­ters, dis­trib­uted on 46 pages, takes you on a jour­ney through the sweet­en­ing land­scape. You get acquaint­ed with var­i­ous solu­tions: sug­ars, sug­ar alco­hol, bulk sweet­en­ers, arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, sweet­en­ers of nat­ur­al ori­gin and final­ly sweet­ened fibres.

You can down­load it here: https://​www​.bayn​so​lu​tions​.com/​e​n​/​s​w​e​e​t​e​n​i​n​g​-​j​o​u​r​ney.

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