Could fibre and next-gen stevia replace sugar?
Market intelligence agency Mintel has predicted that fibre and next-generation stevia will shake up the alternative sugar market as health-conscious consumers move towards sugar-reduced products.
How the pandemic influenced sugar reduction
According to Mintel’s latest consumer research, ‘no added sugar’ claims are growing in Europe.
The company found that the UK is leading the charge with the highest proportion (15%) of European food and drink launches carrying this claim in the past five years, followed by Germany (13%) and France (10%). In Poland, ‘no added sugar’ claims have doubled since 2016, reaching 9% of food and drink launches in 2021.
Neha Srivastava, Food and Drink Patent Analyst at Mintel, said the pandemic has amplified the need for indulgence, influencing consumers’ choice of food and drink.
“At the same time, the pandemic has seen people place a higher priority on their health by, for example, reducing their sugar intake — but they don’t want to compromise on taste. Food and drink companies are starting to pay more attention to cutting sugar from their products.”
Functional fibre could appeal as a natural alternative
Mintel said functional fibres in low and reduced sugar food and drink launches are on the rise, increasing globally from 11% in 2015 to 19% in 2020. Inulin is the most common functional fibre in low- and reduced-sugar products, with product launches containing inulin having tripled in the past five years, rising to 9% in 2020 from 3% in 2015.
According to Srivastava, consumers are aware of the importance of fibres in maintaining gut health.
“Brands can leverage this awareness by repositioning them as a multifunctional health ingredient that helps reduce sugar content in food and drink whilst improving gut health.”
The development of next-gen stevia
Alternatively, stevia as a plant-based sweetener has the potential to gain traction in food and drink launches because of its naturalness and zero calorific value, but its bitter and lingering aftertaste remains a significant barrier.
Srivastava said recent patent innovations to improve taste issues and physicochemical properties, like purity and solubility, to produce next-generation stevia may help overcome the challenge.
“Innovators are looking for alternative approaches, such as the use of sweet flavouring agents and aromas as a promising option to reduce sugar content in new food and drink products — especially in dairy desserts. This can be a promising option to reduce sugar content by providing sweet perception in brain cells.”
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