Sweet and Healthy – a Winning Combination

a cup of sweetening Stevia
© fotolia

It’s a “yes” to sweetness, but a “no” to sugar wherever possible – the drinks industry has responded to this trend, which is seeing many consumers turn their backs on sugar as a sweetener because they perceive it as unhealthy, by coming up with an increasing number of new sweetener concepts.

The EU’s approval of Stevia for use as a sweetener in drinks was cause for celebration in the industry at the end of 2011. Stevia has its roots in Paraguay. There, the plant (full name: Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni) has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years already. Consumers have been reluctant to accept it, however, even though it is calorie-free. Students at the University of Hohenheim in Germany are currently conducting an in-depth survey to find out why.

Low Values on the Glycemic Index

Stevia is just one example of the many developments on the market, however. Another is ‘Palatinose’, Beneo’s new beet-sugar-based carbohydrate, which provides energy in the form of glucose over a longer period of time. It should take up to two hours for the energy to be absorbed in full by the body, meaning that the product has a low rating on the glycemic index. According to information from the manufacturer, this has a positive effect on blood sugar and insulin levels.

drinktec exhibitor Taiyo, meanwhile, has a fiber product named “Sweet-Sunfiber” in its range, which contains the ingredient Isomalto-oligosaccharide. According to information from the company, this compound lowers the finished product’s rating on the glycemic index, but is also low in calories, tooth-friendly, and good for the intestinal tract.

Sweetness from Nature Comes in Many Different Forms

Working together in the “DOLCE” partnership, three companies – BRAIN, AnalytiCon, and Roquette – are currently developing new sugar- and sweetener-related concepts. They have so far isolated and worked out the properties of 60 naturally sweet products, one of which is the plant peptide brazzein, which is allegedly 1,200 times more potent than sugar as a sweetener.

Döhler, another drinktec exhibitor, will be showcasing further ingredient solutions that reduce sugar, in addition to traditional sweeteners. Among these will be fruit and vegetable juices with a low Brix value, i.e. a lower sugar percentage by mass. Fermented juices and natural aromas also form part of the company’s range. According to the company’s own data, this means that it is managing to reduce the amount of sugar by up to 30 percent, without even using sweeteners.

SVZ International, meanwhile, offer customers a natural way of reducing sugar in the form of vegetable purees, and concentrates: inclusion of ingredients such as clear carrot juice can reduce fructose as well as the calories in a drink. This also improves aspects of the product from a health perspective, without having too much of an impact on the product’s color and consistency.

The natural sweetness of fruit and sweeteners adjusted for the respective application as sugar substitutes are two of the areas to be covered by drinktec exhibitor Wild. “Resolver technology” also comes into play here, which helps to reduce the amount of undesirable flavors affecting the product as a result of adding sweeteners, vitamins, minerals or other ingredients, and improves the taste.

Talk shop at drinktec

Research conducted by Dr Toni Meier et al. at the University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany backs up the notion that there is major potential for these new approaches. They have worked out that fat-, salt-, and sugar-related diet deficiencies cost society EUR 16.8 billion per year in Germany alone. Of these, sugar, costing EUR 8.6 billion, has the largest share.

Anyone with an interest in innovative sweetener concepts will benefit from visiting drinktec. Visitors should head for the “Ingredients, Additives and Treatment Agents” area of the exhibition, as well as the Special Area New Beverage Concepts section located therein, where companies will be presenting their new sweetener concepts. The drinktec Forum will also be spending some time discussing the hot topics for the future of this area. Visitors can also head for the Innovation Flow Lounge, where marketing experts will be discussing new kinds of drink concepts and marketing strategies.

Friederike Arndt

As a freelance trade journalist, Friederike Arndt is regarded as an expert in the area of beverages. She spent a long time writing for, inter alia, the trade magazines Getränkeindustrie (beverage industry) and Getränkefachgroßhandel (beverage wholesale trade). On the blog, she reports on the latest trends and innovations in the field of non-alcoholic beverages.