According to BENEO’s latest research, 58% of respondents say weight management is their biggest driver in wanting to eat less sugar.
“This has led to more and more consumers searching for guilt-free indulgence. However, market research has shown that, for many, sourcing guilt-free treats still remains a challenge, with one third (34%) of UK consumers stating they feel guilty when they are snacking. It is no surprise therefore that half of German consumers and nearly two thirds of consumers in Spain, Poland and France agree that there aren’t enough healthy sweets available,” said Schmidt.
BENEO is a division of the Südzucker Group that employs more than 1,000 people and has production units in Belgium, Chile, Germany and Italy. It offers functional ingredients derived from chicory roots, beet sugar, rice and wheat and offers key technological benefits that focus on taste and texture improvements.
He said that moves from governments across Europe to introduce voluntary food nutrition labels such as ‘traffic light labelling’ in the UK, and Nutri-Score in France and Belgium, have triggered an increased interest in developing improved nutritional profiles in many areas. However, at the same time, the limited success of sugar reduction in some categories, such as biscuits and puddings, shows the challenges faced in product reformulation.
“As sugar is crucial for taste, texture and mouthfeel, there are a range of technical and sensorial challenges that must be resolved to effectively reduce sugar and meet high consumer expectations at the same time. Despite this, sugar reduced products have begun to make their presence felt in the healthy indulgence market, thanks to the use of functional ingredients,” he explained.
As with any product reformulation that involves cutting out sugar or fat, the main challenge is to maintain the same sweetness, mouthfeel and texture that is given by the original ingredient, while reducing its use.
All confectioners agree that consumers want a better nutritional profile, but they still don’t want to make sacrifices when it comes to the overall indulgent experience conveyed by a good texture and great taste.
So what are the solutions?
Schmidt said BENEO has carried out a lot of work developing recipe reformulations that meet these technical challenges using its range of ingredients.
“For example, BENEO’s prebiotic chicory root fibres are now being widely used across the industry as, on one hand, they help to naturally bridge the fibre gap, but then they can also help to reduce sugar and calories,” he said.
Chicory root fibres
BENEO’s chicory root fibres, inulin and oligofructose, are natural, non-GMO, clean label and clinically proven plant-based prebiotic fibres that are naturally derived from chicory root. Being prebiotic, they improve digestive health and inner well-being by supporting normal bowel regularity and a healthy gut microbiota by increasing beneficial bacteria.
Trials using BENEO’s inulin and oligofructose chicory root fibres have shown that it is possible to reduce the sugar in chocolate chip cookies by 30%.
“Sensorial analysis proved that sweetness, taste and crunchiness were the same as the full sugar variant, yet the cookies were higher in fibre and, clean label and depending on the BENEO ingredient used, were able to display the EU health claims: ‘promotes digestive health’ and ‘reduced blood glucose response’ on pack,” said Schmidt.
Isomalt is the number one sugar replacer worldwide in hard candies and is also a preferred solution for gum coatings.
Being the only sugar replacer derived from sugarbeet, it has a sweetening profile almost equal to sucrose – but with only half the calories, a very low glycaemic response and tooth-friendly characteristics.
Its unique technical property to crystallise translucently makes it the ingredient of choice for those producers looking to create shiny candies or gum coatings with innovative visual effects. For example, this technology allows multi-coloured gum centres to be coated in a crunchy and translucent way.
Schmidt said that, in BENEO’S own trials, its Isomalt inclusion in milk chocolate means the sugar content could be reduced by more than two thirds, while conveying the same indulgent taste as the full-sugar equivalent. In addition, the processing of the healthier chocolate variant showed minimal difference during refining, conching and tempering.
Sugar reduction is now a key mindset for consumers across the globe, however, sugar replacement is not a straightforward process and companies such as BENEO remain at the forefront of the process.