Yogurt parfaits
Natural sweet fruit syrups may partner with fruit-flavored yogurts to provide desirable mouthfeel.

Insights into sweetener innovations

To assist with producing a rounded sweet taste and desirable texture in dairy products, along with a compelling Nutrition Facts and ingredient statement, ingredient suppliers have been pursuing new sweetener options. This includes improvements in refining naturally derived sweeteners, as well as identifying synergistic blends with optimal performance in a specific application.

For example, it is known that stevia and monk fruit have a later onset of sweetness than fructose. Customized blends may assist with reducing sugars without any sensory defects. This is particularly useful in flavored milk.

Steviva is in the process of introducing ultra-purified monk fruit extract. It is available in blends with stevia, or stevia and erythritol.

“PureCircle has developed a specific steviol glycoside blend tailored to dairy applications,” Mr. Martin said. “It leverages a combination of different glycosides to deliver clean, upfront sugar-like sweetness without any bitter aftertaste. It enables formulators to get to mid- and deep sugar reduction levels while maintaining the necessary texture and mouthfeel.”

Chocolate ice cream in a cone
Advantame sweetener and flavor enhancer may be used in ice cream.

Ingredion Inc., Westchester, Ill., has partnered with SweeGen, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., to market the company’s stevia sweetener. It is based on rebaudioside M of the steviol glycoside, which is described as being highly pure with reduced bitterness.

Advantame is a new sweetener and flavor enhancer recently approved for use in the United States. Applications include flavored milks, yogurt and ice cream.

“Advantame can partially replace sugar and other sweeteners because of its clean taste,” said Ihab Bishay, senior director — sweeteners, Ajinomoto North America Inc., Itasca, Ill. “It can also improve the character of cocoa powder and chocolate flavor, allowing formulators to use less expensive flavors or reduce their use levels. It has also been used to mask the off tastes of added vitamin, amino acids and other functional ingredients in fortified milks and protein shakes.”

Isomaltulose is a low-glycemic sweetener made from beet sugar and occurs naturally in honey. It is fully digestible; thus, it provides full carbohydrate energy in a balanced and sustained way, eliminating the undesired “boost and crash effect” generally associated with other sugars, said Jon Peters, president of Beneo.

Allulose is an almost no-calorie sugar monosaccharide that exists in nature.

The latest sweetener to enter the marketplace is allulose, an almost no-calorie sugar monosaccharide that exists in nature. The ingredient provides the mouthfeel and taste of table sugar, along with about 70% of its sweetness.

Adding inulin or fructooligosaccharides may assist with taste and texture, as some ingredients contribute sweetness and also mimic fat in dairy foods. The bonus here is the addition of prebiotic fiber for digestive health.

“As with any product reformulation that involves cutting out sugar, the main challenges are to obtain the sweetness and body that is given by sugar,” Mr. Peters said. “We have found that chicory root fiber provides a sugar-like sweetness and taste when used in dairy products.”

Scott Turowski, technical sales manager, Sensus America Inc., Lawrenceville, N.J., concurred.

Chicory root fiber
Chicory root fiber ingredients function as low-calorie, natural sweeteners.

“Chicory root fiber ingredients function as low-calorie, natural sweeteners,” he said. “The sweetness of these products can be as high as 65% that of sugar. In addition, chicory root fiber can help mask the off tastes associated with high-intensity sweeteners and is particularly effective when combined with stevia in dairy applications.”

Freezing point depression must be considered in reduced-sugar ice creams.

“Erythritol can be used to effectively replace sugar’s freezing point depression functionality without adding calories,” Mr. Schmelzer said. “Since overall sweetness intensity is an integral part of consumers’ taste expectations, it is frequently coupled with stevia leaf extracts. Adjustments to the texturant system may also be necessary to deliver the desired sensory experience. Using this approach, added sugars may be reduced up to 25%.”

Other natural sweetening options include plant nectars and syrups, as well as fruit and vegetable ingredients. These ingredients often come with extra functionalities.

Fruit syrup
Other natural sweetening options include plant nectars and syrups, as well as fruit and vegetable ingredients.

“Consumers love fruit in their yogurt and perceive fruit to be another real, clean label food,” Mr. Buck said. “Natural sweet fruit syrups and extracts can partner with fruit-flavored yogurts to provide good mouthfeel and a well-rounded overall flavor.”

In ice cream, the ingredients may help balance freezing and textural properties, while maintaining a clean label.

“They provide the lower molecular weight required to get the texture needed, while maintaining sugar reduction in some cases,” Mr. Buck said.

John Kimber, chief operating officer, Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients, Nashville, N.C., said, “Sweet potato juice concentrate brings the health halo and natural sweetness of the sweet potato to all types of dairy applications. Ingredients are available in 10 Brix and 60 Brix concentrations to add natural sweetness, vegetable servings, and, if desired, color to dairy products requiring a clean label as well as sensory appeal.”

Sweet potato juice concentrate
Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients soon will be rolling out a 75 Brix sweet potato juice concentrate.

The company soon will be rolling out a 75 Brix sweet potato juice concentrate. It functions as a clean label replacement for syrup-style sweeteners.

“In yogurt, honey plays a starring role in flavor, functionality and marketability,” said Catherine Barry, director of marketing, National Honey Board, Firestone, Colo. “Honey’s unique depth of flavor and positive perception as a clean label flavor and sweetener make it a flavor variety in most yogurt lines today.”

Honey’s marketing advantage is significant compared to other sweeteners because of its positive perception with consumers, Ms. Barry said.

“We often use fruit purees in our ice cream and sorbet mixes,” said Kyle Stuart, culinary scientist, Parker Products, Fort Worth, Texas. “This adds an additional natural element to the product, and they serve as both sweeteners and solids, which contributes to the density of the frozen treat.”

Nectevia stevia-infused agave syrup
Nectevia stevia-infused agave nectar is four-times sweeter than traditional agave.

Mr. King said, “We are having success with a stevia-infused agave nectar. It is four-times sweeter than traditional agave, and we have this in a variety of flavors, including New England maple, Madagascar vanilla, Marrakesh spice, sweet Provencal anise and masala chai spice.”

Barley malt extract is being discovered as a highly functional natural sweetener with nutritional benefits. The sprouting and malting process used in its manufacture unlocks the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids contained in whole grain barley, making them more bio-available, said Jim Kappas, vice-president of sales and marketing, Malt Products Corp., Saddle Brook, N.J.

“Two tablespoons of malt extract equals one-third cup of fresh blueberries’ antioxidant power,” he said. “Consider variegates that are more nutritious, while help saving cost of fruit inclusions.”

Manipulating natural sweetness is another approach to reducing added sugars. This may be accomplished with enzymes.

Barley malt extract
Barley malt extract is being discovered as a highly functional natural sweetener with nutritional benefits.

“Milk’s inherent sugar lactose is not a sweet sugar,” Mr. Hopkinson said. “It is only 20% as sweet as sugar. But it can be split into glucose and galactose using enzymes. Glucose has 80% the sweetness of sugar and galactose has 30%. Combined the result is about 65% as sweet as sugar.”

Depending on the application and marketplace positioning, if you fortify the product using nonfat dry milk, further reduction in sugar may be possible with the addition of lactase.

“Since fortification with milk is not considered added sugar under the new rules, the amount of added sugar could be reduced even more,” Mr. Hopkinson said. “The added protein in the milk is a bonus. It is possible to reduce this even further using a sweeter than sugar option. If fructose (170% as sweet as sugar) is substituted for sucrose in this formula, the amount of added sugar would be even further reduced to about 3.5% or more than a 50% reduction in added sugar.”

Mr. Peters concluded, “U.S. consumers are becoming increasingly aware that not all sugars are alike. Sweeten wisely.”