Reasons for reducing sugars add up

by Jeff Gelski
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Taking out added sugars in beverages may require a customized approach.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends an added sugar upper limit of 10% of total daily caloric intake. A proposed rule from the Food and Drug Administration includes a requirement to list the amount of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel.

So companies have good reason to remove added sugars from their products, particularly beverages. High-intensity sweeteners are options, and some new ones are entering the market.

Currently, added sugars account for more than 13% of calories per day in the U.S. population, according to the Dietary Guidelines. Beverages account for 47% of the added sugars in the U.S. population age 2 and over, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The beverages are soft drinks (25%), fruit drinks (11%), coffee and tea (7%), sports and energy drinks (3%), and alcoholic beverages (1%).

“As you move through these different products, the uniqueness today or challenge for formulators is that they cannot easily pivot from one sweetener that works in one application to others,” said Scott Fabro, global business development manager for Cargill, Minneapolis.

Carbonated soft drinks in the United States typically are about 10 brix versus 8 brix for other beverages, said Faith Son, vice-president of global marketing and innovation for PureCircle. The company in December launched the Zeta family of stevia sweeteners that work well in soft drinks, she said. The Zeta sweeteners contain more Rebaudioside M and Rebaudioside D, which have more of a sugar-like taste than other steviol glycosides found in the stevia leaf.

Within carbonated soft drinks, sweetness levels vary.

“If you are say (formulating) a root beer, you might be at a 12 on a sweetness equivalence value,” Mr. Fabro said. “It’s a pretty sweet product, and it’s got a certain amount of body, a certain amount of mouthfeel that all comes from that sugar.”

Lemon lime might have a sweetness equivalence value of 8, and cola might be an 11, he said.

“When you use products like stevia, one of the things that will occur is you can achieve only certain levels of sweetness equivalents of sugar,” Mr. Fabro said. “So when you’re making beverages, it’s difficult to make say a root beer at a 12 (sweetness equivalent) using just stevia alone because you can’t get quite as sweet.”

The evolution of stevia-based sweeteners led Cargill to develop ViaTech sweeteners. Beverage formulators, when using ViaTech, possibly may get down to zero calories without using artificial sweeteners in such applications as flavored water products and sports drinks, Mr. Fabro said.

Last October Cargill introduced its EverSweet line at SupplySide West in Las Vegas. The sweeteners are created through the fermentation of yeast and contain higher levels of Rebaudioside M and Rebaudioside D, just not from the stevia plant.

“We are actively sampling and engaged with customers and have been well in advance of the market release, or introduction I should say, last fall,” Mr. Fabro said. “Some customers have been working with (EverSweet) for well over a year.”

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