- German startup Savanna Ingredients claims to have found a way to produce allulose, a naturally occurring and low-calorie sugar, according to an article in Food Ingredients First.
- Because allulose occurs in such small quantities — it's found in figs, raisins, molasses and maple syrup — it is currently found in very few food products. According to Innova Market Insights data cited by Food Ingredients First, allulose is most commonly found in cereals — which make up 36% of the products with the ingredient — and sweeteners — which also make up 36% of products containing it.
- There are only a few other allulose producers out there today. They include Tate & Lyle and Japanese modified starch and dietary fiber company Matsutani Chemical Industry Co.
Even though consumers are looking for healthier options, it's unlikely that they will stop wanting food and beverages with some sweetness. However, sugar content is a big concern for shoppers. According to a survey by Label Insight, 22% of consumers in the U.S. want to cut back on how much sugar they eat. And more than half of consumers in eight countries check the sugar content of foods before buying them, according to a global survey by DSM.
Allulose is a natural sweetener that seems like it could easily substitute for sugar in food and beverage products. Unlike stevia, monk fruit and erythritol, allulose is an actual sugar that is chemically similar to table sugar. It has a similar taste and texture, as well as the same browning properties as sugar. It's about 70% as sweet as sugar, meaning that a little more would be needed to substitute for sugar in a recipe.
There are also health reasons that consumers may look for a product with allulose. The sweetener has a tenth of the calories of sugar, and has anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it may prevent obesity and reduce the risk of chronic disease. It's safe for diabetics, and may actually reduce blood sugar. It's been classified as a good sweetener for those on the keto diet.
But allulose isn't perfect. Because so much of it cannot be digested and passes out of the body, it has been reported to cause severe bloating, pain and gas. Much of the allulose available today is made from corn, which raises concerns among people who want to avoid GMO ingredients. It's unclear what Savanna Ingredients' new allulose is made from, though Tate & Lyle has said theirs is made from a non-GMO crop.
Allulose also is classified by the Food and Drug Administration as a sugar — meaning that it will be classified as an "added sugar" on the new Nutrition Facts label. Even though the calories are far less, label-checking consumers will only see the amount of the sweetener added to a product. Since allulose is not as sweet as sugar, a product using it will appear to be sugar-heavy — and most likely turn off a careful consumer. Tate & Lyle has petitioned the FDA to exempt allulose from being classified as a sugar, but the docket is still open.
New ways to manufacture allulose could definitely help manufacturers increase the health profile of their products, but the negative aspects of the ingredient mean they need to tread carefully. Savanna Ingredients and others who want to market allulose to consumers could benefit through a comprehensive educational campaign, touting allulose's strengths — and telling consumers to check more than the "added sugars" column on the Nutrition Facts label in order to eat healthier.