Sweetener suppliers are exploring naturally derived options. Steviva Ingredients is using resins column technology to remove undesirable flavor notes from its stevia, monk fruit and erythritol blends. Senomyx Inc. has isolated a sweetener it calls siratose from monk fruit, which makes up about 1% of the fruit.
Tate & Lyle has also developed a sweetener blend containing allulose — which contains about 90% fewer calories than sugar — and zero-calorie artificial sweetener sucralose. When combined with fructose, the sweeteners have a synergistic effect and their sweet taste is heightened, the company claims.
Natural sources of sweetness, such as honey and agave, are other choices. These are also high calorie options that can lead to obesity in the same way as sugar.
By July 2018, manufacturers will have to include “added sugars” on the Nutrition Facts panel, providing added motivation to cut sweeteners like sugar, honey, fructose and fruit juice concentrates. Solutions like Tate & Lyle’s blend of allulose, sucralose and fructose may come into their own, allowing food companies to find a compromise with a smaller amount of added sugars, and added sweetness from low- and zero-calorie sweeteners.
It remains to be seen whether consumers will be willing to make trade-offs. Will they continue to consume added sugars in the same way, or will the new nutritional information labels lead some consumers to avoid certain products.
What is clear is that many manufacturers and ingredient suppliers are preparing for change. But when it comes to sweeteners, change comes at a cost.
Despite rapid growth in the naturally derived sweeteners market, stevia and monk fruit still account for a small proportion of total sweetener use. They are limited by price, as they are still more expensive than synthetically produced high intensity sweeteners, as well as ongoing problems with aftertaste.
Blends of sugar and stevia have become increasingly popular, particularly within the beverage industry. In Europe, the Coca-Cola Company has even reformulated its regular Sprite with 30% less sugar and added stevia, without positioning it as a mid-calorie option.