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The pandemic has certainly accelerated consumer interest in health and well-being in general, and the way we eat has dominated the trend. The food and drink category is an easy place for people to start changing habits in hopes of improving their health as well sugar was one of the ways that consumers are adjusting their diets.
“As part of this broader health trend, the sugar reduction trend now claims the top spot as a leading trend in the food and beverage industry,” he said. Casey McCormick, vice president of global innovation at sugar reduction product developer Sweegen.
A Cargill survey also found this to be true, with more than half of respondents reporting paying attention to the total and added sugar content of the products, as well as the types of sweeteners.
“We asked consumers what ways you are trying to manage your health and wellness and found that cutting down on sugar is the # 1 way consumers think processed foods and beverages could be better.” , Carla Saunders, senior manager of the high-intensity sweeteners market at Cargill, told a Food navigator.
However, a reduction in sugar intake does not mean that consumers are giving up on sweet tasting foods and drinks. Many of the classic dessert categories are ripe for innovation with the addition of alternative sweeteners.
“The main categories for cutting sugar are soft drinks, hard seltzer, alcohol-based drinks and sports nutrition products,” McCormick said. “We also see a lot of activity in dairy, snacks and baked goods. The sugars hidden in saltier applications like condiments and marinades are also becoming important. “
Stevia leads the category
One of the best known sugar substitutes is stevia. McCormick shared that Sweegen sees the ingredient as a great innovation tool for the entire food and beverage industry, and data from Innova Market Insights found that there has been a 27% increase in the release of new products using stevia. .
“Consumers have explored and accepted plant-based foods, which have further fueled interest in zero-calorie plant-based sweeteners like stevia and sweet fruit-based proteins like brazzein and thaumatin,” he said.
Other plant-based sweeteners such as monk fruit have become popular and are being included in the products of major CPG brands such as Capri Sun drinks And Chobani yogurt. However, the sweetener is still relatively new compared to traditional stevia, which is used in all categories and is recognized by consumers for both its nutritional benefits and sustainability, according to McCormick.
“The pressure is on brands to produce great tasting and better foods and drinks for you with less or zero grams of sugar,” he added. “Influential consumers like millennials, in particular, are asking for these changes more. To be successful with this cohort, consumer brands recognize that they must reformulate or lose quotas for new products that deliver on the promise of zero sugar from a plant-based and natural source. “
Focus on taste
“The real learning of the past two decades of reducing sugar has been that no sweetener solution will solve every problem,” McCormick said. “Each product must be approached in a holistic way to create a customized solution that meets all the parameters required by the brand: taste, cost, availability and acceptance by the consumer”.
One of the main challenges for any brand when reducing sugar content is the task of masking bitterness or other unpleasant tastes. Sweegen has developed a line of bitter-blockers for this problem, and McCormick says brands shouldn’t completely lower the sugar content of products right away. A staggered approach is often recommended to refine the taste of new ingredient formulations.
“Brands have many opportunities to grow in this space, but the products need to taste great for repeat purchases and meet consumer priorities like reducing sugar,” he said.
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