Danish ingredients firm Chr. Hansen introduced a culture solution that unlocks lactose, dairy's natural sugar, to make fermented products sweeter — and reduce added sugars.
The company said its new product, Sweety Y-1, uses Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus cultures to convert more of the existing sugars in milk to glucose, which gives products a more intense sweetness.
"Dairy manufacturers often add sugar to their products to compensate for the taste of post acidification, finding the right balance between sweet and sour. With our new patented culture, post acidification is very low, which reduces the need for added sugar," Jessica Bentley, Chr. Hansen's commercial development manager for fresh dairy, said in a release.
Chr. Hansen expects great interest from dairy manufacturers in its new Y-1 ingredient. Bentley said in the release that her company is the first and only one with this kind of solution. That expectation may not be misplaced since yogurt makers in particular are looking to reduce sugar in their products to meet increasing demand from consumers who want healthier and more natural foods.
If they perform as advertised, the new product's cultures might allow dairy producers to convert existing lactose in milk to boost sweetness, keep that flavor through the product's shelf life, and result in clean-label items without artificial sweeteners. Today's consumers are increasingly concerned about the amount of sugar in foods and beverages. According to studies published in The Lancet, 74% of packaged foods and beverages in the U.S. contain a sugar or low-calorie sweetener.
Fewer added sugars could be beneficial to sales, since the Food and Drug Administration is requiring them to be specifically labeled on the revamped Nutrition Facts panel as soon as next year. According to a recent modeling study published by the American Heart Association's Circulation journal, FDA's requirement could prevent thousands of diabetes and cardiovascular disease cases and save billions of dollars between 2018 and 2037. The numbers increase if products are reformulated.
In a 2018 survey from Ingredion, 72% of consumers said having added sugars listed on the Nutrition Facts panel would negatively impact their purchase of yogurt, which is often sugary. To get ahead of the curve, Stonyfield, the U.S.’s largest organic yogurt maker, pledged in 2017 to reduce added sugars by as much as 40% in some products. Stonyfield reduced acidity in its yogurt by emphasizing two cultures that make less lactic acid.
This new ingredient could work well in products other than yogurt. Those could include cheese, sour cream and kefir — or drinkable yogurt. With less sugar on product labels, dairy-based yogurt, kefir and other fermented products may see a boost in sales following a recent slump.
Chobani posted dollar and volume sales increases this year after launching coconut-based and lower-sugar options, and Danone has produced low-sugar Greek yogurts under its Two Good line. It's possible those yogurt giants could take advantage of this innovation to push the lower-sugar advantage even more.