Polyols take lead role in sugar reduction efforts

by Jeff Gelski
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KANSAS CITY — “Quiet reduction” will become a trend that impacts several ingredients used in consumer packaged goods in 2011, according to Mintel. Polyols, also known as sugar alcohols, may have an impact on that trend, especially when it comes to sugar reduction.

“Sodium, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are three well-known ingredients that appear to be experiencing covert reductions in product formulations,” Mintel said. “While sodium reduction has long been the focus of ‘quiet reduction,’ sugar and HFCS are jumping on board.”

Polyols may help formulators take advantage of the reduced-sugar category.

“With approximately half of the calories of traditional full-calorie sweeteners, polyols can be used to completely or partially replace sucrose and other liquid and dry sweeteners as a reduced-calorie, reduced-sugar alternative,” said Andrea McBride, business development, dry polyols, for Roquette, which has a U.S. office in Keokuk, Iowa.

Polyols long have found use in reduced-sugar applications for gums and candies, and they may see more frequent use in other categories.

“There are a plethora of options in the area of sugar-free gums, mints and beverages,” Ms. McBride said. “However, we need to look beyond these traditional categories to the everyday consumables and our favorite foods, including condiments, sauces, confections, cereals and sweet treats. We need to focus on reduced calories and sugar in all meals and snacks.”

Danisco, Copenhagen, Denmark, is promoting xylitol as a polyol for use in many applications, and not just confectionery and sugar-free chewing gum.

“With a 1:1 sweetness relative to sucrose, xylitol can be used in dairy, baked goods, ice cream and beverages (in some regions) to provide sweetness, improve nutrition and flavor profiles and provide a natural cooling profile,” said James Dedman, senior business director — Polyols SBU for Danisco’s Sweeteners Division in Redhill, United Kingdom.

He added, “Xylitol also works well in combination with high-intensity sweeteners, which are often used in reduced-sugar yogurts and can add back some natural sweetness that is often missing in these formulations.”

Cargill’s cocoa and chocolate business this year turned to its zero-calorie Zerose erythritol, a polyol, to create a chocolate in Europe that qualifies for a consumer claim of “reduced calorie” approved by the European Union. The chocolate has 30% fewer calories.

Isomalt, another polyol, plays a role in developing sugar-free confectionery in a Candy Innovation Matrix from Beneo, Inc., which has a U.S. office in Morris Plains, N.J.

“The matrix is a kind of virtual room, enabling the blending of various combinations of different characteristics regarding shape, taste, functionality, packaging, texture and appearance,” said Joseph O’Neill, executive vice-president of sales and marketing for Beneo, Inc.

Besides the “quiet reduction” trend, polyols may find a place in formulation plans targeted at another trend that Mintel predicts for 2011 — “Sustainability stays focused on the basics.”

“There will be a greater focus on reduced packaging that promotes environmental responsibility in combination with uniqueness, such as box-less cereal bars or more cereals without the inner bag,” Mintel said.

Mr. O’Neill said, “Isomalt can enable the use of less packaging/wrapping in product manufacture because, due to low hygroscopicity of Isomalt, the finished candies tend not to be sticky.”

Danisco this year launched Xivia, a new brand name for sustainable xylitol. Danisco creates Xivia through a wood-based integrated concept that produces as little as 1% to 16% of the environmental impact associated with a biomass hydrolysis process that uses corn cobs as raw material, according to the company.

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