Chocolate and hazelnut spreads are popular with a wide range of consumers, but they're widely perceived as decadent, sugary and unhealthy.
That's where Jim Schulok comes in.
Schulok, the vice president for applications in North America for Israel-based sugar reduction company DouxMatok, said these sweet spreads could use an infusion of nutrition. And by using them as the vehicle for the first U.S. product containing DouxMatok's Incredo Sugar, the company can do just that, he said.
Incredo Sugar is derived from conventional sugar, but about 40% less of it is needed to make a product just as sweet. Because manufacturers using the sweetener need to add something to make up for the bulking properties in sugar, it gives them the opportunity to increase the fiber content.
The result is Incredo Spreads, which are now available for purchase online. The spreads, which come in Hazelnut Cocoa and Dark Cocoa Salted Caramel flavors, have about half of the sugar and eight times the protein as traditional varieties, according to the company. Schulok said the healthier spreads are a way for DouxMatok to showcase to the world — especially CPG manufacturers — what Incredo Sugar can do.
"It allowed us to take a spread that, maybe it's not the healthiest thing when you start to look at it, and really made it a wellness solution for a product that people can be proud to eat. And it tastes great," Schulok said.
"Products with less sugar are [considered] less tasty. We want to raise awareness and [get people] to associate Incredo with great taste and better nutritional profile."
VP for business development, DouxMatok
Incredo Spreads are DouxMatok's first foray into CPG in the United States — and there probably won't be many more. Liat Cinamon, vice president for business development, said the launch is mainly to build awareness for DouxMatok's sugar-based reduction ingredient. The company plans to primarily do business as an ingredient producer for manufacturers.
"Products with less sugar are [considered] less tasty," Cinamon said. "We want to raise awareness and [get people] to associate Incredo with great taste and a better nutritional profile. And on the other hand, we want customers to experience that."
DouxMatok is currently talking with several manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada about making products with Incredo Sugar, Schulok said. He couldn't reveal who the company is talking to, but he said it is concentrating on bakery, confections, fillings and spreads. If all happens according to plan, some of these products are likely to be introduced onto the market at the end of 2021 or early 2022, he said.
The Israel-based sugar reduction company had been eyeing a move into North America for years. It became official when its manufacturing agreement with Lantic, which is owned by Canadian sugar refining company Rogers Sugar, was announced in October.
A few products containing Incredo Sugar are on the market in Israel, but these are all in the baked goods segment. Cinamon said Incredo Spreads are making their international debut in the United States.
Getting 'Real Happy'
While consumers are familiar with the reduced sugar claims on product labels, they might not be as familiar with the different ingredients and processes behind them. The same "less sugar" label claim could be used on products that use aspartame, acesulfame potassium or erythritol, or are packaged in new, smaller sizes.
This is why it's important for DouxMatok to get out in front of Incredo Sugar from the beginning, Cinamon said. It wants consumers to know what Incredo Sugar is and why they should look for it on product labels. The company has branded Incredo as "Real Happy Sugar," which appears prominently on the label of both of the spreads.
Cinamon explained that this moniker tells the consumer that the sweetener actually is sugar. To create Incredo Sugar, DouxMatok adds a carrier compound to ordinary sugar, which creates a cluster of the sweetener. The sugar clusters linger on the tongue, optimizing flavor — and ensuring the consumer tastes all of the sugar they eat, according to the company.
It is also important to communicate that actual sugar is the sweetener in the product, Cinamon and Schulok said. Alternatives including stevia and allulose are natural, but sometimes are criticized for having an off taste or causing digestive discomfort.
Cinamon said that a "happy" sugar is also one that can impart some health benefits. Because sugar has structural qualities that are important to finished products, many items that use Incredo Sugar have fiber added to make up that difference. Schulok referred to this as "opening up the wellness benefits" that could be added to products not often associated with health. Chicory root inulin — a common fiber supplement — is the third ingredient on both Incredo Spread varieties. A two-tablespoon serving of Incredo Spread has seven to eight grams of dietary fiber, depending on the flavor, and the front of the jar has the label claim "Excellent source of fiber."
The jars' labels also have a small orange Incredo Sugar star logo and a short explainer about the ingredient on the back. It says that consumers should not have to decide between healthy and tasty. "We made real sugar incredibly more efficient in hitting our sweet spot," the label says.
And even though the product could have a low sugar label claim, Cinamon and Schulok said DouxMatok consciously avoided that.
"In my experience, when you label sugar reduction, you put the consumer in a certain mind frame of what they should expect, and that expect is that they should be compromised on taste," Schulok said. "We feel that there is no compromise on taste, so there's no reason to put anything associated with sugar reduction. I think organically, our customer will look at our product versus the competitive set and really feel that, 'Wow, this is a better wellness solution,' and feel really good about using this product."