Mother Nature's sweeteners

by Donna Berry
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Corn muffins with honey
Corn muffins benefit from honey's ability to round out flavors and soften texture.

CHICAGO — The way labels reveal a food’s carbohydrate contents changed this year — and so did the way formulators must address sweetener choices. That’s because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released mandatory revisions to the content and format of the Nutrition Facts Panel required on food labels. One of the biggest shifts occurred in the lines describing carbohydrates.

For the first time, every label must declare the amount of added sugars, and labeling language has changed. “Sugars” now will be declared as “Total Sugars” with added sugars noted in a gram amount by “Includes ‘X’ g Added Sugars.” The value for total sugars will include all naturally occurring sugars, such as fructose in orange juice and maltose in flour, plus the amount of sugar added to the food during manufacturing. No Daily Value was set for total sugars; however, for added sugars, the F.D.A. advised consumers to limit them to no more than 10% of daily calories or 50 grams for adults and children over four years of age.

A different situation applies to fermented foods like yeast-raised baked goods. The sugar added to fuel yeast is usually fully consumed before baking, and little remains in the finished product to be labeled. The F.D.A. acknowledged this by allowing companies making fermented foods to petition for alternative compliance.

Added sugars label on Nutrition Facts panel
“Sugars” now will be declared as “Total Sugars” with added sugars noted in a gram amount by “Includes ‘X’ g Added Sugars.”

Sugar source matters

This label declaration suggests that an added sugar is just that, an added sugar. Consumers need to reduce intake. How they get to less than 50 grams per day is their own choice. And for many consumers, it is very personal, which is why an increasing number of consumers scrutinize ingredient legends. For some, sugar source matters, with a growing number of Americans preferring minimally processed sweeteners made by Mother Nature.

“Intense focus on added sugars consumption and links to obesity, diabetes and heart disease are motivating consumers to not only reduce total sweetener consumption but also switch to sweeteners perceived as more healthful,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

Sugar from honey was perceived as the most appealing sweetener in the United States because of its natural attributes.

According to research conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Beneo, people are gaining a better understanding that not all sugars are alike. The study of 1,000 U.S. consumers indicated that along with looking for foods that are natural, clean label and nutritious without empty calories, they also pay close attention to the levels of sugar contained in their food choices.

Respondents indicated they are aware that the amount and type of sugars play a major role in coping with health issues. While the survey reflected an ambivalent relationship with sugar, respondents indicated that there is awareness that some sugars are better for their health than others. Sugar from honey, for example, was perceived as the most appealing sweetener in the United States because of its natural attributes. Furthermore, about two out of three agreed that naturally derived sugars from fruits, vegetables and plants are healthier (64%). A similar number also said they preferred natural sugars to low-calorie sweeteners (65%). Finally, 60% of those polled indicated their ideal sweetener would not lead to a “sugar boost and crash effect.”

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