The decrease of sugar used by the food industry resulted in a heated discussion all over the world, giving more space to alternative markets.
We are witnessing the growth of consumer’s power before the market. On July 2017, PepsiCo announced that, until 2025, at least two thirds of their beverages will have maximum 100 calories of added sugar. This decision came shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested the creation of a sugary drink tax over sweetened beverages as an effort to decrease obesity.
Indeed, many countries have adopted this strategy. Portugal adopted this tax since 2018, following the example of other countries, such as France, Mexico, Hungary, Finland, Norway, UK and South Africa.
With this inevitable change, we are witnessing the emergence of new product lines to follow the consumer’s demands. The market research and analysis agency Markets and Markets forecast that the sugar replacements market will hit U$ 16,53 billion until 2020, annual growth of 5,5%. Suppliers are looking at this switch and searching for alternatives. Due to the negative appeal of the common sweeteners, the search for new sources perceived as healthier is a trend.
SWEET TASTE OF TOMORROW
Coconut sugar is between the healthy alternatives to table sugar, especially due to the significant amount of minerals and vitamins. Nevertheless, fructose is present in coconut sugar, which is considered a “bad sugar” for being responsible to the metabolic syndrome of “insulin resistance”. For industrial applications, other sweeteners are on the hype, such as agave and rice syrup, characterized by their distinctive flavor and easy solubility in water. Agave syrup has low glycemic index, besides being sweeter that the common sugar. However, it is composed mainly by fructose, main reason why rice syrup is considered a better alternative. Despite of its lower sweetness compared to sucrose, rice syrup is fructose free and has high proportion of long chain sugar, which delays the increase of blood sugar levels.
There are also natural sweeteners such as stevia and xylitol, increasingly sought by the industry. Both are non-cariogenic and ideal for diabetic use, whereby stevia doesn’t have caloric value and sweetness 300 times more than sucrose. Xylitol, different than stevia, has neutral flavor, therefore it can be used on several applications. Its sweetness is similar to sucrose, facilitating the replacement without the need of adapting the formulation.
WHAT ABOUT BRAZIL?
To tell the truth, the excessive use of any sweetener, being common or alternative, can be harmful. Euromonitor shows Brazil as the 9th biggest consumer of sugar in the world, with a consumption per capita of 126.3 gram per day, value five times higher than recommended. Companies and governamental institutions are already taking action to reduce this intake evidenced by the growth of alternative ingredients replacing sucrose and glucose.
However, the replacements are still seen as niche products, to healthiness claims or to the reduction of sugars on nutritional labels. Ingredient suppliers are battling to avoid the biggest barrier faced by the industry: high prices. Even so, consumers are increasingly seeking value over price of the product.