Blends just might be the secret to creating successful products in the sugar-free and reducedsugar category. Supporting this approach is knowledge about polyols, also known as sugar alcohols, and high-intensity sweeteners and how they work together.
Each kind of polyol has advantages and disadvantages in applications, said Peter Jamieson, manager of applications research for SPI Polyols, Inc., New Castle, DE. Some may be nearly as sweet as sucrose (sugar) while others have a high laxation threshold.
Fortunately, blending polyols can create foods that are lower in sugar with good taste and a high laxation threshold. Including high-intensity sweeteners, many of them hundreds of times sweeter than sucrose, can give a new product an edge in flavor. Just like polyols, high-intensity sweeteners often work well together. Blending high-intensity sweeteners is even allowing ingredient suppliers to offer alternatives to sucralose, a high-intensity sweetener now in high demand.
A GROWING MARKET
The demand for sugar-free and reduced-sugar products has grown recently. Sales of diet candy more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2004, reaching $495 million in 2004, according to "Market Trends: Diet Candy," a report from Packaged Facts, New York, NY.
Likewise, the 2004 NMI Health & Wellness Trends Database from the Natural Marketing Institute showed more consumer concern over sugar. It reported that 44% of the general population agreed with the statement, "I usually check the package label for forms of sugar/sugar content before I purchase," compared with 41% in 2002. The statement "I prefer foods with no sugar added" drew 38% agreement in 2004, compared with 34% in 2002.
Diabetics, another population group interested in reduced-sugar products, is growing, too. This group has more than doubled in the United States from 1980 to 2003 to number 13.8 million individuals, according to a "Times & Trends" report from Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, IL. In addition, many food manufacturers are aiming for the children’s market when they seek alternative sweeteners for products low in sugar, according to Mr. Jamieson.
The strategy makes sense considering the percentage of young people who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980, according to the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA. Among children and teens aged six to 19 years, 16%, or 9 million, are considered overweight.
"I think this topic will continue to grow in importance as diabetes and obesity continue to rise globally," Donna Brooks, product manager for Danisco Sweeteners, Ardsley, NY, said of alternative sweeteners. "One large benefit of the low-carb market is that now consumers are much more aware of sugar and carbohydrate consumption and how this relates to health."
Food companies may market products in various ways, Mr. Jamieson said. Besides sugar-free items, they can point out the reduced sugar content in other items. A popular claim right now is "50% less sugar."
Also, "no sugar added" claims can apply to such items as baked foods with fruit fillings. Fruit naturally contains fructose, a form of sugar, but the food marketer can say it added no other sugars.
In creating such items, food companies may use both polyols, which take on the textural properties of the replaced sugar, and high-intensity sweeteners, which add sugar-like flavor.
SUCCESS OF SUCRALOSE
Demand for the high-intensity sweetener sucralose forced its manufacturer to make plans to increase supply.
London, England-based Tate & Lyle PLC has stopped taking new customer requests for the sweetener until a $75 million plant expansion in McIntosh, AL, is finished. The expansion will be completed in two phases, one in January 2006 and one in April 2006, according to Ferne Hudson, head of media and public relations for Tate & Lyle.
Tate & Lyle also is building a $175 million sucralose manufacturing plant in Singapore, which should be completed in January 2007, Ms. Hudson said. In total, the expansions will more than triple the capacity Tate & Lyle had for manufacturing sucralose in April 2004.
For now, sucralose alternatives are available.
Sweetener Solutions, LLC, Savan- nah, GA, has seen good demand for its SucraSweet HIS 600, said Mike Coffield, vice-president of technical sales and operations. The patent-pending blend of two high-intensity sweeteners (acesulfame potassium and neotame) and a polyol (maltitol) can serve as a 1: 1 replacement for sucralose and, like sucralose, is 600 times sweeter than sugar.
Gaio tagatose is another high-intensity sweetener that works well with sucralose. When less than 1% Gaio tagatose, manufactured by SweetGredients KG in Braunschweig, Germany, is blended with sucralose, it reduces the required dosage of sucralose by 25 to 35%.
Recent research by Nutrinova, Inc., Somerset, NJ, has focused on blending its Sunett (acesulfame potassium) with sucralose in rice cakes and popcorn. The combination provided a more sugar-like taste than sucralose alone. Blends where both sweeteners contributed 50% of sweetness provided the best overall taste, according to the studies. Combining the two sweeteners might lead to costs savings because of sucralose’s short supplies.
Sunett is about 200 times sweeter than sugar, and the potency is higher when it is used in combination with other sweeteners.
Danisco Sweeteners promotes xylitol, a polyol, as a replacement for sucralose in certain applications since xylitol is as sweet as sucrose, Ms. Brooks said.
FUNCTION LIKE SUGAR
Before deciding on a high-intensity sweetener, food companies usually make certain they have the right polyol or blend of polyols for their product, advised Mr. Jamieson of SPI Polyols. "Sweetness is not as much of an issue as we thought," he said. "Manufacturers want something that functions like sugar."
Maltitol and maltitol syrups, both polyols, see the most action in baked foods, he said. Maltitol is the polyol that most closely resembles sucrose. It is 90% as sweet as sucrose and has a heat of solution of -5.5 Cal per g, which compares to -4.3 Cal per g for sucrose. Heat of solution determines how much of a cooling effect a polyol has on a finished food product. While cooling effects may work in mints and chewing gum, it’s not as desirable in such items as chocolate cake, Mr. Jamieson observed.
Erythritol, at -42.9 Cal per g, has the highest cooling effect of all polyols. Yet its laxation threshold of a very tolerant 125 g per day makes it a desirable element in baked foods. Erythritol, therefore, is often blended with maltitol in reduced-sugar baked foods, according to Mr. Jamieson.
Sorbitol, another polyol, can add moisture and shelf life to baked foods, he said. Other characteristics, such as its laxation threshold of 50 g per day and heat of solution of -26.5 Cal per g, make it necessary to blend in other polyols when working with sorbitol in baked foods.
"Most food companies are looking at polyols to replace many of the functional properties of sugar, which include sweetness, bulk, texture, taste and so forth," Ms. Brooks said. "Since there is not one ideal polyol that can exactly replace sugar, often times a blend of several polyols are selected to make up the many attributes that sugars provide."
Polyols and high-intensity sweeteners work well in blends, too. To replace bulk when sugar is substituted with Equal, maltodextrin, potato starch or polydextrose should be considered, according to Merisant Co., Chicago, IL.