Could dates become the next trendy sweetener?
Date nectar products made by Los Angeles-based startup D'vash Organics are being sold in Whole Foods, Sprouts, Wegmans and Jewel-Osco. It should be in about 4,000 locations by the end of this year, Food Business News reported.
D'vash — the Hebrew word for "honey" — markets its date nectar as a lower-calorie alternative to sugar and with about 25% less of the sweetener than honey. The products can be used as a marinade, a base for salad dressing, a sweetener for hot drinks such as tea or coffee, and on baked foods such as waffles and pancakes, according to Food Business News.
CEO Brian Finkel told the publication the nectar doesn't necessarily taste like dates. "It definitely has notes of fruit in the taste. It’s subtle, but it’s not an entirely neutral flavor," he said. "I would say the texture is not quite as runny as maple syrup. It’s thicker than maple syrup, but it’s not as thick as honey."
Dates have been featured in Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries. Even though they're grown in Arizona, California and Florida, they've typically been used more in the U.S. as a sweet treat and an ingredient in muffins, cakes and cookies than as an alternative to sugar and honey.
That could soon change. D'vash CEO Brian Finkel told Food Business News the company's products fit into several current trends because they are vegan, paleo-friendly and low-glycemic.
For these and other reasons, this could be the right time to emphasize date products as an alternative to sugar, honey, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. Many consumers say they want to limit their sugar consumption and are making moves to do so. Per-capita consumption of sugar and other caloric sweeteners declined in 2017 for the third straight year. As consumers trend away from these sweeteners and sugary soft drinks, the use of refined sugar also is dropping.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, Americans typically consume more than 13% of their total daily calories from added sugars, potentially leading to obesity, cavities, diabetes and heart problems. As a result, some manufacturers have been limiting the amount of sugar in their products, while others have started using sugar substitutes.
As consumers become more interested in natural sweeteners such as honey, stevia and monk fruit, manufacturers are responding by using them more often in product formulations. Unilever recently debuted a honey-sweetened version of its Hellmann's and Best Foods' brand of ketchup. Kellogg uses date paste in its Special K Nourish Chewy Nut Bars and Bear Naked bars.
Even though natural sweeteners may be more expensive — particularly stevia and monk fruit, as well as honey — consumers often prefer them to other substances. Honey was the top choice in natural sweeteners for 64% of respondents in a Kerry survey released last summer, while 59% said they favored sugar and 31% preferred maple syrup.
Whether date nectar will step up and replace some of these natural sweeteners in baked goods and other products isn't yet clear, but U.S. consumption of the dried fruit is increasing. According to data from ReportLinker, it's been steadily climbing for the past few years. It is projected to increase by 7.7% in 2019.
If date nectar becomes more popular with consumers — D'vash's founders said they're receiving inquiries from food manufacturers, hotels, restaurants and coffee shops about using it — it's possible more companies will start including it in their products.
- Food Business News Sweetening with dates comes to the states