LAS VEGAS — Take a guess which sweetener had the highest compound annual growth rate globally from July 2016 to June 2021, according to Innova Market Insights. Stevia, a reasonable guess, registered a CAGR of 13%, but that high-intensity sweetener finished a distant second to erythritol at 32%.
Erythritol, a polyol that is about 70% as sweet as sugar, acts as a bulking agent in sugar reduction systems. It pairs well with the high-intensity sweeteners stevia and monk fruit — so well that erythritol supply has dwindled.
Food and beverage companies are relying heavily on erythritol, sometimes using over 10 grams per serving, said Chris Noonan, founder and managing partner for HG Formulations LLC, a company that specializes in beverage creation and optimization. He makes the companies aware of other tactics, like using other sweeteners and dialing down erythritol to 4 or 5 grams per serving.
“My preference, I just try to help people, especially with the cost, work with other ingredients to simulate it so it’s not such a large part of the formula,” he said in an Oct. 28 session at SupplySide West in Las Vegas.
Erythritol shows up in keto-friendly items as well. Lu Ann Williams, global insights director for Innova Market Insights, Arnhem, The Netherlands, cited a fudge brownies keto baking mix from Keto and Co., Boston, that contains erythritol along with other ingredients like soluble corn fiber, inulin and monk fruit.
Mr. Noonan also spoke well of steviol glycosides, which may be obtained through the extraction of stevia leaves or through fermentation processes. Rebaudioside M comes with fewer flavor challenges than other steviol glycosides.
“They are amazing with a wonderful upfront profile,” Mr. Noonan said, adding Reb M better mimics the experience of sugar. “You do not need to apologize for licorice notes or other off-notes.”
Allulose, known as a “rare sugar” because it is found in scarce quantities in nature, works with stevia as well. Allulose rose in demand once the US Food and Drug Administration in 2019 said the sweetener no longer counted as either sugar or added sugar in the Nutrition Facts Label. Manufacturers will need to educate consumers on allulose, Ms. Williams said.
“It will require some time before consumers start to learn about (allulose),” she said.
An Innova global health and nutrition survey in 2020 asked consumers what attributes fit specific sweeteners. The percentages for stevia were 30% healthy, 24% natural and 21% sustainable. The percentages for allulose were 15% healthy, 10% natural and 14% sustainable.
Making consumers aware of allulose has increased marketing expenses, said Sam Stroot, co-founder and chief operating officer of GoodSam Foods, Greenwich, Conn. More companies incorporating allulose into their products should increase awareness, he added.
Allulose aids in freeze-point depression in ice cream, said Josh Field, chief innovation officer for Killer Creamery, Boise, Idaho. The company incorporates allulose up to its maximum usage rate set by the FDA.
“If it were up to me, I’d probably use more in our formulation,” Mr. Field said.