Healthy Sweets Special Feature
Beneo’s Rudy Wouters talks healthy gum, sugar-free confectionery and COVID-19 energy boosters
Beneo’s Isomalt is one of the most popular sugar replacers used in sugar-free hard candies worldwide. It is derived from a natural source, 100% sugar-free and the only one of its kind made from pure beet sugar.
Due to the lockdown, the chewing gum industry, like many others, has suffered. This is because it relies predominantly on impulse purchasing and use while out socialising.
Despite these uncertain times, companies such as natural ingredient producer Beneo says it is seeing an ever-growing interest in naturalness and more healthy options in the gum sector.
“Not only in terms of ingredients but also regarding the look, appeal, and packaging of chewing gum,” Rudy Wouters, vice president of Beneo-Technology, told ConfectioneryNews.
Examples of this can be seen in cube-shaped gums that give the impression of being hand-made. He said Beneo’s natural sweetener has the potential to be used as a sanding coating, providing a natural looking powder that also allows for packaging in a paper bag or similar.
Healthy confectionery is well placed, as it can meet both consumer desire for health promotion and indulgence
One upside for the gum industry is that during the social distancing regulations, the refreshing benefits of chewing gum offers new opportunities when wearing masks, which has become the new normality in almost all countries across the globe.
“Moreover, the pandemic is inspiring new ideas for innovation, such as a tasty, well-flavoured candy for consumers wearing a mask to help counteract bad and dry mouthfeel,” said Wouters.
Beneo’s sugar-free confectionery was launched at ISM in Cologne earlier this year and Wouters said it received “very positive feedback from key industry players on our sweets collection”.
Despite the global slowdown caused by COVID-19, Wouters is upbeat about the future. “We are confident that new product development for candies will re-start shortly and with 70% of consumers saying that they will make greater attempts to eat healthier due to the pandemic, good-for-you confectionery will be more popular than ever."
He also told ConfectioneryNews that although Beneo’s focus is on the functional ingredients and not the flavours, it is expecting exciting developments to come from its discussions at ISM.
Given the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic, topics such as immunity and staying fit and healthy have all been brought even further to the front of consumers’ minds.
While the pandemic has raised interest in healthier eating to support overall health, this has also been mirrored by a growth in interest in indulgence.
“Although over half of consumers want to eat less sugar, six out of 10 European consumers have been buying more foods such as ice cream and chocolate to treat themselves,” said Wouters.
“Healthy confectionery is well placed, as it can meet both consumer desire for health promotion and indulgence. For example, more than half of European consumers associate prebiotics with helping boost immune health.
“Application-wise, these are ideal for including in treats such as chocolate or candies. At the same time, scientific studies have shown that Beneo’s prebiotic chicory root fibres promote a better inner defence system.”
Another trend in 2020 is the appeal for certain foods that improve or increase energy levels, a trend that is likely to accelerate post-COVID-19.
“Additionally, the past months have shown that people with diabetes or a badly controlled blood sugar level suffer more from COVID-19,” said Wouters.
Beneo’s alternative sugar, Palatinose, is a unique glucose-fructose binding the energy so it is released slower and not all at once. Its low glycaemic and provides balanced and sustained energy.
“As a result, it is a perfect match to the current consumer needs. Derived from sugar beet is has a sugar-like sweetening profile and can be applied into candies and chewing gum,” Wouters added.