While consumers still seek grain-based food products that have less sugar, they also show interest in subcategories such as "no sugar added" and "low in calories." Polyols, also called sugar alcohols, and high-intensity sweeteners are valuable tools when formulating in these categories. Fruits such as raisins and blueberries, meanwhile, work not only as sweeteners but also as fiber additions to products and as ingredients for all-natural items.
CONSUMER SWEET TALK. The "2008 Food & Health Survey" from Washington, DC-based International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation shone a light on consumer perceptions of sugar and sweeteners. In 2008, 69% of Americans were somewhat or extremely concerned with the amount of sugar they consumed, compared with 70% in 2007 and 62% in 2006. Seventyfour percent in 2008 said they were trying to consume less sugar while 25% indicated they were neither trying to consume more nor less sugar.
In the IFIC study, 64% of respondents said they were changing the number of calories they consume in an effort to lose weight while 16% said they were increasing their use of low-calorie/artificial sweeteners or products that contain low-calorie/artificial sweeteners. The study revealed 44% of Americans agree low-calorie sweeteners may play a role in weight loss or weight management.
Research for the survey was conducted by Cogent Research, Cambridge, MA, in partnership with the IFIC Foundation. All data were collected from Feb. 21 to March 11 via a Web-based survey.
Statistics recently released by The Nielsen Co., New York, NY, show the bread category ranks as an option for reduced-sugar promotions. US sales of fresh bread promoted as having no-sugar-added reached $58.6 million for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 9, an 87% increase from sales of $31.2 million for the previous 52-week period. Statistics covered US food/drug/mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Sales of sugar-free fresh bread were $34.1 million for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 9, up from $33.9 million for the previous 52-week period. Sales of fresh bread promoted as having less sugar were $28.3 million, up from $23.7 million in the previous 52-week period.
Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) offers more proof consumers want less sugar in grain-based foods. "According to Mintel’s GNPD, approximately 300 new bakery products, including breakfast cereals, were introduced in the US in the past year with ‘low/no/reduced-calories,’ ‘low/no/reduced-sugar’ and/ or ‘weight control’ positioning," said Katherine M. Gage, marketing director for Corn Products Specialty Ingredients, Newark, DE. Approximately 40% of those new products were sweet biscuits/cookies, followed by cakes/pastries/sweet goods (17%), cold cereals (11%), crackers (9%), bread and bread products (8%), baking ingredients (8%) and hot cereals (7%).
POLYOLS POSSIBILITIES. This year, Corn Products Specialty Ingredients added Erysta-brand erythritol to its polyols products portfolio. Erysta erythritol is 70% as sweet as sucrose with a clean, sweet taste similar to sucrose, according to Corn Products Specialty Ingredients, part of Corn Products US, a business unit of Corn Products International, Inc. At 0.2 Cal per g, erythritol has about 5% the calories of sucrose. "Erythritol provides certain benefits to products — most notably lower calories and better gastrointestinal tolerance — than other polyols," Ms. Gage said. "However, erythritol is less soluble than other polyols and, as a small monomer, interacts differently with starch, protein and water than sucrose would.
"We can work with customers to provide a system that best meets their needs for quality, claims and cost," she continued. "We like to say that, while it’s not rocket science, there is some bakery science involved whenever you replace ingredients that have always been the bakery standard."
The Erysta line includes erythritol and erythritolcontaining sweetening systems. The sweeteners may be used alone or in combination with other polyols and/or sweeteners. "We can work with other customers to develop an Erysta Performance System that is right for them, whether it is an all-in-one sweetener system or individual ingredients," Ms. Gage said.
Corn Products Specialty Ingredients also offers other polyols such as maltitol, sorbitol, mannitol powder, polyglycitol syrups and powders, xylitol and other specialty polyols.
Roquette America, Keokuk, IA, offers Maltisorb maltitol, a polyol, for use in sugar-free and low-calorie products. In most applications maltitol can replace sucrose directly without any modifications to processing or formula, according to the company.
HIGH-INTENSITY AWARENESS. Polyols may be used in tandem with high-intensity sweeteners to create low-sugar products. According to the IFIC Foundation study, 63% of consumers had heard of aspartame, which placed the high-intensity sweetener ahead of sucralose (33%), stevia (18%) and acesulfame potassium, or ace-K, (7%). The study found 11% of respondents were trying to consume more ace-K, which ranked it ahead of aspartame (8%) and sucralose (8%). For the percentages of people trying to consume less of the sweeteners, sucralose was at 44% while asparatame was at 43% and ace-K was at 29%.
Cargill, Minneapolis, MN, includes both polyols and high-intensity sweeteners in its SweetDesign sweetener system. The polyols include erythritol, isomalt, polydextrose and sorbitol while the high-intensity sweeteners are ace-K and neotame. Cargill has used the SweetDesign sweetener system to develop no-sugar-added prototype products such as blueberry muffins, mocha cheesecake and white cake. In the blueberry muffins, the SweetDesign sweetener system was able to reduce sugar by 92% and calories by 56%.
The high-intensity sweetener neotame offers benefits in reducing calories and saving on costs, said Craig Petray, c.e.o. of The NutraSweet Co., Chicago, IL. Because neotame is 8,000 times sweeter than sugar, food and beverage manufacturers may use a small amount of neotame to replace large quantities of other sweeteners, thus reducing costs, Mr. Petray said.
"Recently, neotame has been used as a blend with other sugars in baked foods such as the new 100-Cal Hostess snack cakes and in the new sugar/neotame blend Domino Pure D’Lite," he said. "Using sugar substitutions and blends has helped companies like these to reduce their production costs and calorie counts while maintaining the same taste."
Use of neotame worldwide is growing at a 5-year annual rate of more than 50%, according to NutraSweet. The high-intensity sweetener may be used not only in baked foods but also in beverages, dairy products, frozen desserts and gum.
ADDING FIBER. Other sweeteners offer the benefit of fiber content. Danisco, New Century, KS, promotes Litesse polydextrose as a low-calorie, sugar-free, low-glycemic specialty carbohydrate that is a prebiotic fiber because it is not digested in the upper gastrointestinal tract and is only partially fermented in the lower gastrointestinal tract.
Tate & Lyle, Decatur, IL, while known for its highintensity sweetener Splenda sucralose, invested in polydextrose in September. The company plans to create a new polydextrose production line at its Koog plant in The Netherlands. "Polydextrose is low calorie with versatile bulking properties to maintain taste and texture when full-calorie carbohydrates are removed from a food," Tate & Lyle said. "It has a high fiber content, giving manufacturers opportunity to add fiber functionality to ‘no added sugar’ and ‘reduced calorie’ food and drinks."
"The fact that we will be building a new production line in Europe demonstrates our determination to not only maintain and improve our current position in the fiber market but to also intensify our focus on health and wellness solutions," said Caroline Sanders, marketing director, Food & Industrial Ingredients Europe for Tate & Lyle.
Blueberries and raisins are other sweeteners that contain fiber. Besides fructose, blueberries contribute fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, according to the US Highbush Blueberry Council, Folsom, CA. One cup, or 3.6 g, of blueberries contains 14% of the Daily Value of fiber. "Manufacturers have discovered that using blueberries and blueberry formats to provide sweetness offers the dual advantage of sweetening and enriching the product naturally plus the ability to tout the nutritional benefits of their products, thanks to the inclusion of natural blueberries," the council said. "With consumers reading labels before they buy a product, blueberries in the ingredient statement say ‘wholesome’ and ‘natural’ in a way that consumers understand."
Dried blueberries are an option in granola and trail mixes, according to the council, while frozen and individually quick frozen berries may be added into mixes. They may add effects like blue swirls and patterns. Blueberry concentrate may sweeten and color granola bars, bagels and cookies. Other potential applications for blueberries include pie fillings, pastry fillings, croissants, puff pastry, strudel, toaster pastries and filled donuts.
Raisins are another sweetener option. They may be substituted for a portion of the sugars in breads, granola bars and snacks, according to the California Raisin Marketing Board, Fresno, CA. "In addition to being an excellent source of simple carbohydrates that are rapidly and easily transformed into energy, California raisins are a source of reducing sugars, precursors of the Maillard reaction, which occurs during the browning of sugars," the board said. "California raisins provide energy in sports and confectionery bars and can serve as a browning agent and flavor potentiator."
The natural sugars and fibers in raisins help retain moisture in baked foods, which provides humectancy and serves to slow staling and maintain product freshness, according to the raisin board. Both raisin paste and raisin juice concentrate provide sweetness to products. Raisin paste may provide natural brown color in breads and contribute to texture and flavor. "The addition of raisin paste to bakery products decreases the need for other sweetening agents, making it an ideal ingredient for all-natural products with a reduced, refined sugar content," the board said.
Whether using naturally derived sources, blending polyols and high-intensity sweeteners or capitalizing on the fiber addition fruit provides, sweetener options abound.