Special Edition - Beyond sugar: Hitting the sweet spot

Hard and sweet: The elusive candy promise

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

“It’s very difficult to get an intense sweetener from a natural source; while the need exists. That explains the success of stevia leaf extract,” says Cargill sugar confectionery specialist
“It’s very difficult to get an intense sweetener from a natural source; while the need exists. That explains the success of stevia leaf extract,” says Cargill sugar confectionery specialist

Related tags Sweeteners Sugar substitute

Between laxative effects, clean labeling and GM, ConfectioneryNews takes a walk through the different sweetener options for hard, soft and jelly candies and the associated pros and cons for each.  

Kim van der Vorst, communications manager at inulin supplier Sensus, told ConfectioneryNews that 'low sugar’ and ‘no added sugar’ claims had more potential in confectionery than any other food product as ongoing public health concerns around obesity prompted manufacturers to launch healthier confectionery products. Yet by taking sugar away, confectioners must not only match perceived sweetness but sugar's bulking function. 

Soft and jellies: Clean label and bloating

Jan de Lobel, senior application specialist of sugar confectionery at stevia supplier Cargill said that there was potential to replace aspartame and other high intensity sweeteners in soft candies and jellies

Haribo stevia (2)

with the naturally sourced stevia leaf extract.

One example of this is Haribo's stevia cough jelly beans launched in Germany earlier this year. The candy contains around 40% fewer calories than the sugar versions. 

De Lobel said that typically sugar-free soft candies used maltitol syrup, which provides the full bulking function and 70% of the sweetness compared to sugar. However, like many polyols, maltitol has a laxative effect​ when consumed in high amounts.

Many manufacturers use the artificial sweetener aspartame – which received a positive EFSA safety ruling​ this week - or sucralose to support maltitol syrup in soft candies and jellies to give additional sweetness, De Lobel said.

Netherlands-based inulin supplier Sensus, talked up using dietary fiber inulin instead. It said the fiber could serve both the sweetness and bulking function in various applications including gummy bears and chewable candies.

Kim van der Vorst, communications manager at the firm, told us that the company’s inulin and oligofructose (derived from inulin) “perfectly fit the clean label trend”​ since both come from chicory roots. Labeling options for inulin include oligofructose, polyfructose, fructo-oligosaccharide, chicory root fiber or chicory root extract.

She said that inulin itself had a neutral and, depending on inulin type, slightly sweet taste of up to 40-50% the sweetness of sugar. “In combination with high-intensity sweeteners there is a synergetic effect, so combining a high intensity sweetener with a bulking agent like Frutafit [inulin] and Frutalose [oligofructose] you create a perfect sugar substitute.”

She added that the company’s Frutafit and Frutalose ​did not induce laxative effects, however consuming high amounts of inulin can lead to flatulence and a bloated feeling. “Based on studies Sensus has done in the past recommendations are a daily intake of 15-20 grams, preferable in dosages of 5 gram per serving,”​ she said.

Hard candies: GM and tooth-friendly

Xylitol Canada told us that its namesake sweetener served both the bulking and sweetening function in the hard candies and lollipops it produces. The products are marketable as completely sugar-free and without artificial sweeteners, but unlike xylitol

XYLA Lollipops Nulk 1000g Bag $19 99 (2)
XYLA Lollipops Nulk 1000g Bag $19.99

sweetened gums are unable to make dental health claims. 

Speaking with ConfectioneryNews, Julie Reid, vice president and director of sales at Xylitol Canada, said that adding xylitol to lollipops and hard candies had no impact on flavor color and texture.

However Reid warned that since the majority of the global market’s supply came from China, safety and traceability were risks manufacturers must take, particularly since xylitol from corn sources in China were 

Xyla candies (2)
Xyla candies

not guaranteed to be GMO-free.

Each lollipop contains 1 g of xylitol, nonetheless all products using xylitol must carry an on-pack warning that the sweetener causes a laxative effect when consumed in excess.

Reid claimed that xylitol - extracted from any woody fibrous plant material like corn cobs or trees – had a less powerful laxative effective than sorbitol or maltitol saying that this effect is mainly experienced by first time users and that the body adapts to the ingredient over time. 

Cargill’s de Lobel said that sugar-free hard candies are typically sweetened with isomalt or maltitol syrup. Isomalt performs the full bulking function but only 30-40% of the sweetness compared to sugar, meaning other sweeteners are needed in addition. In this use isomalt and maltitol syrup are commonly supported in sweetness by artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame-k, he said. 

“It’s very difficult to get an intense sweetener from a natural source; while the need exists. That explains the success of stevia leaf extract,”​ he said.

Bodeta_SteviaBalance (2)

De Lobel said that using stevia leaf extract in combination with isomalt offered the prospect of substituting aspartame, acesulfame-k or sucralose with a sweetener derived from natural sources, while keeping sugar-free and tooth-friendly properties. 

In conjunction with Belgian supplier Beneo, Bodeta released a functional hard candy in 2012 which combined oligofructose and stevia. The sugar-free candies contain about 90% isomalt in order to provide the necessary bulk.  

Related news

Show more

Related products

Almonds + Chocolate: A Wellness Favorite

Almonds + Chocolate: A Wellness Favorite

Content provided by Almond Board of California | 14-Apr-2023 | White Paper

See the key insights from consumer research that shows why almonds are an ideal ingredient in chocolate products.

Finding a sweet balance between health, indulgence

Finding a sweet balance between health, indulgence

Content provided by Cargill | 21-Mar-2023 | White Paper

The confectionery category has had a wild ride the past couple of years. Amid the pandemic, consumers sought comfort in indulgence; now, they're looking...

Related suppliers